June 01, 2018
The Calm Is The StormA Conversation With Matt McCormick
Artist Matt McCormick paints fever dreams of bygone eras brought momentarily into the light, memories gingerly glanced and depicted before disintegrating into the windswept canvas of the mind.
The artist’s collage-like work riffs on the standards of the idyllic Old West — harsh and immutable landscapes populated by tough and incommunicable types. But the motif is happily complicated with the seductive iconography of western capitalism, and punctuated with the comforting sadness of childhoods remembered. Similarly, the artist’s figure-less landscapes are packed with sensation, lush sunset vistas emoting a sense of longing and opportunity, communal destinies never delivered and family fortunes never foretold.
Collectively, these are paintings that not only wonder how time flies, but on whose wings? Using the hardened landscapes and rugged loners of lore as a platform for personal and cultural scrutiny, McCormick’s paintings seek an uninhibited path to beauty, the heightened visceral acknowledgement of the unknowable meaning of our fleeting lives.
JMM: What is it about the American West and its iconography that you find so engaging?
Matt McCormick: For starters, it's my home, so it's what I am inundated with every time I walk out the door to some extent, which makes it very obtainable and easy to interact with and find inspiration. Then on a very basic level (and not to sound unbelievable generic), it carries such an air of freedom and more specifically "going at it alone”, which could be a heavy underlying theme in a lot of the work. Beyond that it encompasses so many worlds within that category that there are endless roads you can travel.
JMM: How would you describe the role nostalgia plays in your artwork and/or art-making process?
Matt McCormick: It definitely anchors the work. For a long time (and still from time to time, if I’m being completely honest) I’d find myself questioning if the work needed to have more underlying motives other than story telling, but what I always return to is the confidence in working from what I know best to make work that I can stand by. I have a rule of never forcing anything, and so far the nostalgia has proven to be the most fluid starting point for most of the work.
JMM: Describe your longest standing obsession.
Matt McCormick: The ocean. It’s the one thing that can almost always calm me down if I am alone with it.
JMM: What is your favorite erotic image?
Matt McCormick: Such a hard question because it could go so many ways: painting, photo, etc. But there’s a photo that Linda McCartney took of the model Twiggy from her book Sixties that I used to read all the time when I was a kid and I always found myself so attracted to it.
JMM: Where do you go, what do you do, to be alone?
Matt McCormick: Well being completely alone is next to impossible with my two dogs, but I spend a lot of time alone, maybe too much sometimes. That usually looks like me in the studio at night painting listening to loud music, or at home with all the lights/candles/music set exactly the way I like on the couch.
JMM: Which do you find most (real and/or metaphoric) value in: a window, a mirror, or a prism?
Matt McCormick: I enjoy a window; I love to watch. To connect it to the previous question, sometimes I can find myself feeling perfectly alone sitting in the window of a restaurant or cafe staring out and just observing reality and creating my own narratives.
JMM: If you had to eat a human organ, which would it be?
Matt McCormick: Well from what I hear the heart is the best tasting and the coolest sounding. So if I “had” to eat one I would go with that.
JMM: Would you rather be entombed alive or instantly vaporized?
Matt McCormick: Instantly vaporized, not even a debate there.
JMM: Sunrises or sunsets?
Matt McCormick: Sunsets, much more relaxing.