Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Blue

Been a while for a number of reasons, the most significant being that its summer and who really wants to be stuck in a cave in the summer. But I'm back now, motivated by confirmation of a solo show in March 2015 and a very lean inventory. 

Its also worth mentioning that the FMFTS project will most likely not conclude like I claimed several times in the past. The Meadowlands calls and I'm way too obsessed with the place to stop now. And the LA River dream project is just not feasible since I live in New Jersey and traveling out there puts too big of a strain on my budget.

You may also want to check out me on my podcast interview from the artblog. It was recorded in January after I stalled due to a sore throat, and has taken until recently to be made public. Enjoy...


Friday, April 25, 2014

The Sky Is Falling


It came as no surprise to me that the Pulaski Skyway was becoming a serious risk to public safety. NJ DOT decided that the time has come for the 82-year old, iconic commuter viaduct to be repaired before it falls into the Hackensack River. The two-year project will require each direction of the span to close for a year at a time, causing traffic nightmares on the local roads below.

This bridge, which cuts across the horizon between Newark and Jersey City like a dark serpent, was graded a "D-minus and about to become an F" by engineers. They consider it worse than the bridge in Minneapolis which collapsed in 2007, killing 13 people.

When officials use the word "crumbling" and "structurally deficient" to describe a structure that carries 74,000 cars a day, it should send a chill up the spine of anyone who has ever used it. Drivers should think back to the last time he or she drove over such a crossing and consider whether or not it was a good idea. By the time projects like this begin, they are already well past the danger zone and into reckless endangerment territory.

I had my own white-knuckle moment on the Pulaski Skyway last spring, but it had nothing to do with infrastructure issues. I was in South Kearney taking photos of the bridge, and I used one of the center on-ramps to re-enter the bridge. The Skyway was built in the 20's and 30's, and was not meant for 21st century driving. There was no acceleration lane on this particular ramp, and I had to really put the hammer down to get up to speed before the oncoming traffic ended up in my back seat.

This renovation project will start on the northbound side of the bridge. In the meantime, it will remain open for motorists heading south. What dangers lie ahead for them as they travel over the 82-year old span? When it was opened, it was hailed as an engineering marvel, the first limited access expressway designed to reduce travel times between the two cities it connected. Less than a century later, its not only an eyesore, but a rusting, crumbling hulk of steel and concrete and a shell of its former self. I guess time is the enemy of progress.


Matthew Green, Skyway, oil on canvas, 2008


Sunday, March 30, 2014

This Is The End

I'll be starting a painting this week which will be the last one for this project. Five Miles From Times Square was a minor artistic odyssey lasting over 5 years, conceived sometime in the Fall of 2008, officially begun in January 2009 with my first field trip to Snake Hill and the surrounding areas. It involved an unsuccessful campaign for grant money, was caught up in the UPS incident, and produced 18, soon to be 19 paintings in the series.

This blog will take on a new direction, aimlessly wandering across the murky depths of my next artistic journey. If asked whether or not FMFTS was successful, I would have to say yes. My initial goal was 10-12 canvases, and I not only surpassed that, I created a body of work that I can hang my hat on, most of which have been sold.

The next and final image has been selected for the new painting, and work will begin tomorrow evening. I'm not ready to share the subject (it won't be the photo posted below). Maybe I'll do another photo series like Xanadu. My next project is chosen but not planned, but again, I'm not sharing that yet.

Thanks to anyone who has ever read this blog, and especially to anyone who followed the project from start to finish. It hurts to set you free, but you'll never follow me...


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

My Heart Of Darkness

This river is becoming to me what the Congo River was to Joseph Conrad. The story of this painting, when finished, will center mainly on a play between light and shadow, between seeing and not seeing. Its about how reality is born from patterns of contrasts, what we see, what we feel, what we believe. Love and hate. Good and evil. Life and death.

The Hackensack River snakes through the heart of the New Jersey Meadowlands and highlights the contradictions of human existence. An urban wilderness such as the Meadowlands feels the push and pull of the tides, but also the struggle between Man's needs and wants, between civilization and nature, each rushing headlong into the other, the former turned barbaric, pre-occupied with a savage desire to turn a pristine wetlands into wealth.

I have 3 weeks to finish this painting and start a new one. "The horror..."


Monday, February 24, 2014

Polarity

When you break down the sense of sight to its most basic function, you find that it only works because of contrasts. Simple creatures with simple eyes see only extreme areas of light and dark. More developed eyes see contrasts in color as well, and can break down light and dark into more complex gradations, creating a deeper understanding of the environment outside of the body.

Whats beginning to emerge on this canvas is a study in light and dark. Simple contrasts that form a perception of reality. I'm studying the light as well as the shade here. The two together will weave a tapestry of highs and lows like interlocking fingers in two joined hands.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Tell Me Your Muddy Little Secrets


In May 2010 I was paddling a canoe upstream in a marsh near Lyndhurst, NJ. I was accompanied by my brother who, like me, was physically exhausted from fighting an extremely brutal outgoing tide in the New Jersey Meadowlands. I suddenly realized two important things. One, it is one step below impossible to paddle against outgoing tides in the Meadowlands. Those tides mean business. The other is marshes that are filled in with garbage to make new land will be disgusting forever.

I've been accused of being negative and a pessimist. My art focuses on things that are not exactly pleasant. They are things regular folks would rather not be reminded of, but I can't help it. I am not denying this. But I also can't deny that things like this are my passion, and passion is what one needs to make art, whether that passion is for unicorns and rainbows, or degradation and filth.

The Muddy Little Secrets series I did in 2011 was conceived in that moment on that canoe trip in 2010. I saw first hand what becomes of garbage in a landfill, and what becomes of garbage in a landfill when the people who put it there try and pretend that it isn't there. The people who created the garbage also pretend it isn't there, or at the very least, don't know its there or where it goes once it leaves their home, other than that it goes into trash cans and gets placed curbside, is picked up by sanitation workers, and disappears forever into a truck.




Sunday, February 9, 2014

Rite Of Passage


Yesterday afternoon I was in a movie theater with my family watching Frozen when an idea came to me. There was a scene in the movie where the young queen of a fictitious city state had come of age and the people of the kingdom were celebrating her coronation. I decided at that moment what the title of my newest painting, which was one night's work from completion would be.

The title has many meanings and many layers, the simplest of which is that I was about to complete a new work, which had come of age, and was ready to celebrate it coming officially into being as my latest work. But there's more.

The painting is adapted from a photograph I took in 2009 in the marshes behind the Vince Lombardi rest area on the New Jersey Turnpike. It shows a view of the Hackensack River, and on the horizon you can see a few buildings in the Meadowlands Sports Complex, including the Xanadu building. Not visible but adjacent is Met Life Stadium, which one week ago was the sight of the NFL Superbowl.

The Superbowl, aside from being one of the biggest sporting events of the year, is where the champions of American Football are awarded the Vince Lombardi trophy for their achievement. In our society, which is devoid of official monarchs, professional athletics are widely celebrated, and their champions are considered heroes. Thus, championship ceremonies such as the awarding of a trophy on the field of play for the winners has many of the hallmarks and pomp and circumstance as royal coronation ceremonies.

The title, The Coronation, is appropriate, and in this case pokes fun at the very idea of such a ceremony, especially since it is a painting of a sublime natural landscape instead of being an image of the ceremony itself. Our culture hails the rather ordinary and unimportant accomplishments of athletes instead of other achievements that could benefit humanity, so in this case the title is sarcastic.

I can go even further with this if I look at the rituals that human civilizations regard as important, and ask the viewers to consider how insignificant any of these celebrations really are, whether they are to crown a monarch or sports champion, in the larger universe.

Our culture, lives, societies, and histories on the Earth are only a tiny fraction of the history of our home planet. What happens on our home planet is only a tiny fraction of the events that occur in the universe as a whole. Therefore, anything we regard as important or worthy of a celebration is merely provincial, and won't matter at all in a million years.

Consider also how big these celebrations seem to those who are there. Big events such as the Superbowl seem larger than life if viewed from the right point of view. But if you were anywhere else on Earth except Met Life Stadium or at home watching on TV, you would never have known that the Seattle Seahawks had just been crowned champions of the NFL. Even in a spot where you could see the stadium, such as a location with a view of the the Meadowlands Sports Complex on which The Coronation is based, there would be no information that would tell someone that something great had just happened.

Getting back to the movie, Frozen, and the afternoon I was spending with my family, watching a movie and enjoying their company. It was a wonderful time, one that I'll remember for years to come. It was my daughter's first movie, and I insisted that we go see it for that reason. I thought of my painting, the one that was almost finished, and I thought about how important an event it was in their lives when I completed it. It meant one more for the inventory, another potential little chunk of cash to keep our family going. It was an event that served as a continued reminder of why I do what I do, and what's at stake at the end of the day.

Matthew Green, The Coronation, 44" x 48", oil on canvas, 2014