By Isabelle Davis.
We sat down with LA-based artist Matt McCormick to discuss his education, inspiration, and, of course, his art. From San Francisco, CA, McCormick has pursued a career that covers a multitude of artistic disciplines. Beyond the surface, his Americana-inspired work creates imagery and experiences one can fully divulge themselves into.
Where does your education in creating art come from?
I grew up in a very art driven household with both parents making a living off their respective art careers. So from a young age, I was inundated with a respect for the arts and everything that came with it. Weekends at museums and galleries, at home “art class” with dad etc. When it came time for further education on the college level I put in about a year before realizing that I was wasting my money due to lack of focus, so I moved to New York enrolled in classes at the Art Students League and immersed myself in the creative scene downtown.
What do you think is the difference between the New York art scene and the Los Angeles art scene?
Well, there is obviously a lot of crossover and people going back and forth, but having worked in both I’ve gotten the more laid back experience in Los Angeles. As someone who really enjoys isolating in the studio and seeing art alone (rather than at a packed opening) I find LA to be far more conducive. In NY you don’t really have a choice unless you’re pulling down seven figures, and even then it might be a stretch.I feel like Los Angeles was always looked at like the “annoying younger brother” to New York, but it feels as though that has been changing rapidly over the last decade. You see a lot more galleries and institutions opening up shop. Its exciting and encouraging, working here feels like being on the ground floor of some kind of movement.
What inspires you the most?
Most of my work starts at its core as a loose autobiographical narrative. So at the moment, I get most inspired off what I have the most confidence exploring, my personal experience; friends, music I was raised with, trips I’ve taken, other Artist, the highs and lows of life; the list goes on.
What inspires cigarettes used in your works?
The body of work (The Last Cigarette) that has culminated in the show in Hong Kong has been a slow building process over the last three to four years when I started including images of cigarettes throughout my work. About two years ago I completed the first three paintings that lead to the current incarnation of the series as it stands now. Coincidentally within that time, I have quit smoking after a long relationship with cigarettes starting briefly around the age of six, and then evolving into a full fledged smoking habit during my twenties until about four months ago.
For me the cigarettes in their painting and sculptural form allude to moments of introspective thought, loneliness, heartache, despair, joy, uncomfortability, a need to fit in, desire to separate, the general mental trials and tribulation of an anxiety filled young man.
Throughout the many series of my work I have continued a consistent biographical narrative from the obviously titled “Story Paintings”, the “Remnants of the Rodeo”, to the landscape paintings I have been exploring for the past couple years; but as the themes and images evolved in the other series, the cigarettes works, like the physical act of smoking, remained a constant; a continuing series that has finally come to end like my smoking habit, which I never thought, or had any desire to stop until the moment I smoked my last cigarette.
What are some of the projects you are working on now?
At the moment I’m in the planning stages of a show in London with a curator friend of mine. One of the subjects I’ve been really driven to recently is making paintings that express human emotion but remain void of the human figure. Images that have a very cinematic feel that can express everything from sadness to pure joy. The curator owns a large country estate that would make the perfect reference to dive deeper into the interiors that I have been focused on more specifically on as of late. Other than that there are always a few commercial projects in works that give me a chance to approach creating in a totally different way.
If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would you want it to be?
Like many figurative painters, I’ve always had a healthy obsession with abstract painting in its many forms and have been on a pursuit to understand what goes into making that work and how one gets from point A to B. Because of this I have become enamored with the Abstract Expressionist as many young painters do. One thing that really excites and interest me is how they all, for the most part, started as figurative painters and pushed their way through the work, deconstructing and simplifying the paintings until they reached the end results. So to answer the question it would be quite the experience to pull up a stool at the Cedar Tavern with de Kooning, Rothko, Guston, and Klein and shoot the shit.
What about musicians? Favorite song or quote?
As with how I listen to music it constantly changes with my mood, so I may start the day off with Chet Baker for breakfast, then move on to some Buffalo Springfield when I get to the studio, Depeche Mode after lunch and maybe some Dean Martin at home to end the day, but its constantly changing, I suffer from sever music ADHD. Anyone who dives deeper into my painting titles or quotes that I’ve used in work would definitely see a lot of Grateful Dead and Neil Young reference. Growing up in Northern California and actually being born at a Grateful Dead show lead to an obsession with their message and way of telling stories.
What are three words you would use to describe yourself?
Motivated, Tough (on myself), and Grateful.
What is a piece of advice you would give to your 15-year old self?
I would give the same advice my dad gave me: find a job or career that you love, so it doesn’t feel like a job. This doesn’t feel like work to me, I love it. I remember my dad stressing that point, and I agree with it. Why do something you don’t love and are not passionate about? It was and still is, pretty good advice.