Monday, October 4, 2010

The Questionnaire: Joanne Mattera

The Questionnaire is meant to be a lighter version of a bio, a little more revealing in some respects and personal without all the facts bogging it down. I supply the questions and the respondents supply the answers. Either one or both of us supply the images. 

For this interview, Joanne supplied the images and the captions for the images.

           J o a n n e  M a t t e r a          

What is your favorite color?

Red, from orange red to blue red. I like that you can have those complements in one hue. Also, do you know I have a paint named after me? Joanne Loves This Red (from Evans Encaustics).

Uttar 286 in the window of Arden Gallery, Boston, in December 2008, for my show, Contemplating the Horizontal. JM photo

Hue Again, a 2008 installation view of my solo show at an academic gallery north of Boston, with a view of Ciel Rouge, a four-panel painting, 48 x 57 inches. JM photo

I like red that works its way into orange. This is Soie 5, part of a series I did this summer, in gouache. It's 22 x 30 inches, Arches 140 lb hot press paper. Much as I love encaustic, I love and work in other mediums, too. My middle name, as you may know, is I-Am-Not-An-Encaustic-Artist. JM photo.

This red-with-orange-undertones paint is named after me, Joanne Loves This Red, by Evans Encaustics. I had a cow named after me once, too. Photo: Evans Encaustics.

What is your favorite word?


An impromptu picture taken in the studio a couple of years ago. Photo: Claudia Saimbert.

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Creatively: going into the studio and allowing my brain to click into that place where “it” happens; spiritually: centeredness; emotionally: humor, wit, beauty

You asked what turns me on creatively. It's going into the studio. Entering the space I have set up for artmaking allows my brain to switch to a different channel. For almost 20 years I had a 9-5 job, and when I got into the studio in the evening, there was no time to futz. I had four good hours before hunger and tiredness sent me home. When the key clicked in the lock, something clicked in my brain. I've been able to retain that "switch" even now that I'm painting full time. This shot was one of several taken for a postcard of a 2006 show in Atlanta, so the studio is cleaner than usual--but it's typically organized. That's how I like to work. JM photo.

An installation shot from Luxe, Calme et Volupte: A Meditation on Visual Pleasure, which I curated for the Marcia Wood Gallery in Atlanta in 2007. You can view the online catalog, which has an essay by me here. In this photo: Heather Hutchison in the far gallery, Frances Barth, Tim McFarlane. JM photo.

Peeking into the back gallery, there's Tim McDowell, left, and a closer view of Hutchison's painting. These were the only two works in encaustic in the show. Luminosity is the reason they were installed near one another, just as geometric composition is the reason the paintings below were installed together. JM photo.

In a third gallery--this was a big show with 14 artists that stayed up for two months--you see two paintings by Julie Gross, left, and two by Julie Karabenick. On the floor is a marble sculpture by Julia Venske and Gregor Spanle. JM photo.

What turns you off?

Incompetence, deviousness, lateness

What profession other than artist would you most like to be?

I usually say “Curator” because I plan to return as a curator in my next life, but my fantasy is to be a conga drummer

But what I really want to be is a conga drummer. This is me in 1996 in my Union Square studio in Manhattan. Dig that platinum hair!

What is your favorite book or movie?

This may be very un-lesbian of me but I loved Marcello Mastroianni, so any movie with him. And there were many wonderful ones in which he played gay men, or old men; he wasn’t just the stereotypical “latin lover.” Also, movies with him usually included Sophia Loren, Claudia Cardinale, Stefania Sandrelli, Catherine Deneuve and were directed by Fellini or Vittorio De Sica or Vittorio Gasman, and had music by Nino Rota. Notice the thread here?

Here's how much I love Marcello: When my publishing job ended in 1998, I spent two weeks at the Marcello Mastroianni Film Festival at the Walter Reade Theatre at Lincoln Center. I knew I'd never have that kind of time again, so I went every day to see one, sometimes two, Marcello movies. Image via the Internet.

Of course I also got to see Sophia Loren, Anita Ekberg, Catherine Deneuve and other actors. This is the young Sophia, when she was still acting only in Italian. Image via the Internet.

Who is your favorite musician, musical group or style of music?

Latin music, from traditional Cuban singers like Celina Gonzalez to contemporary traditional like Albita and Celia Cruz (her rendition of “I Will Survive” in Spanish surpasses even Gloria Gaynor’s classic); to latin jazz via Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Chico O’Farrill, Bobby Sanabria and Canadian flutist Jane Bunnett. I just wish there more women in the percussion section. Conga drumming women are heartstopping.

Latin music is my passion, from traditional Cuban to jazz. For several years in New York I went to every concert of Celia Cruz and Tito Puente--sometimes they performed together--because they were getting older and I wanted to see as much of them as possible before they passed. They were great performers as well as musicians. Image via the Internet.

What do you most value in your friends?

Honesty, generosity, responsibility, reliability, which I am more than happy to reciprocate

Name three artists whose work has influenced your own or whose work you most relate to.

Artists I relate to: Agnes Martin for her visual purity; the Siennese painters of the Renaissance for the gloriousness of their color; Martin Puryear for the materiality and mystery of his sculptures.

There was a wonderful Agnes Martin retrospective at the Whitney about a decade ago. You could see the work get purer and more breathlike as she got older. I admire her monasticism, but I want to be more out in the world as an artist. Photo: Charles R. Rushton, via the Internet.

Giovanni di Paolo's Creation of the World and Expulsion from Paradise, about 1445, is an abstraction of a dimensional universe. This is before Columbus sailed across the ocean, when most people though the earth was on a plate. You can see this image in the Lehman Wing at the Met. Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art, via the Internet.

My favorite painter is known only as the Master of the Osservanza--a monk named for a church in Sienna where one of his works is placed. His paintings have a kind of abstraction that's contemporary. Look at that sky; it's like a Clyfford Still painting! This is St. Anthony Tempted by a Heap of Gold, about 1435. The heap is missing--maybe someone else was tempted and scraped off the gold--but a pentimento is visible between the hare in the left corner and the figure of St. Anthony. Image via the Internet.

I saw the Martin Puryear retrospective at MoMA in 2007 and wrote about it here. Puryear taps into a collective idea of culture, of what it means to be a human who dreams, who works, who makes things. JM photo.

I have to give you one more name: Eve Hesse, who combined minimalism and materiality in a way that has been a beacon for me.

Eva Hesse has been my hero since art school. I respond to her use of materiality in the service of a minimalist vision, something I have been similarly involved with. I wrote about her 2006 show, Eva Hesse: Sculpture, at the Jewish Museum here and more recently on Eva Hesse: Test Pieces at Hauser & Wirth here. Image via the internet.

Name an artist whose work you admire but which may be unlike yours.

I’m giving you three: a painter, Joan Mitchell; a sculptor, Jackie Winsor; and that force of nature, Louise Bourgeois.

Joan Mitchell did something with gesture and color that moves me. Her pastels, in particular, have an immediacy that pulls me in. Her fingerprints are all over the work, a kind of living reminder of the artist making the work. Photo: Cheim and Read Gallery, via the Internet.

I am hugely enamored of Jackie Winsor's cubes from the Seventies. A recent show at the Paula Cooper gallery brought together a good deal of her early work, including this one. JM photo.

Louise Bourgeois is the original "material girl," having worked in all kinds of mediums from plaster to cloth to marble to wood, without allowing herself to be pigeonholed by medium. I wrote about her 2008 retrospective at the Guggenheim here. JM photo.

What is your idea of earthly happiness?

Sitting on a beach in summer in the late afernoon looking out at the horizon as the sun shines on the water and the sand retains its warmth. On another day I might tell you it’s snorkeling in the Caribbean after a couple of tokes, or being anywhere in Italy.

This is not me sitting at the water's edge--I pulled the image from the Internet--but it could have been. I like to put my chair in the water and look out at the meeting of heaven and earth. This image might even be of Herring Cove, the beach in Provincetown where I spend part of every summer. The light there is extraordinary.

Another bit of earthly happiness in Italy. This happens to be Napoli, home of yin and yang Italian style, where beauty coexists with traffic and trash.

What I did this summer: a series of gouache-on-paper paintings called Soie, silk. The series came from the print I did in June at Connecticut College, part of a printmaking project I wrote about here. JM photo.

The cover of The Art of Encaustic Painting, published in 2001 and now in its seventh printing. (A note from NN--still The best of all the books on encaustic.)

For more of Joanne Mattera's work and writing:


Hylla Evans said...

This is comprehensive yet well edited, true Joanne. Remarkable breadth coexists with humor.
The platinum hair is fabulous!

Elena De La Ville said...

Thanks, Nancy...What a treat to wake up to all these insights, J: you better pack those dancing shoes for Miami, there is bound to be some good salsa going round!

Karen Gimbel said...

Love it. In a future interview, I'll be naming Joanne Mattera as one of the artists who most influenced my work. And what a great collection of thoughts, ideas, creativity. Thank you Nancy and Joanne. Much obliged.

anne mcgovern said...

A terrific interview! I follow Joanne's blog religiously but now I feel I know the person behind the blog.

Tamar Zinn said...

Wonderful interview! So I'm not the only painter dancing around to salsa in the studio....... Thank you Nancy and Joanne.

Terry Jarrard-Dimond said...

She is a wonderful artists and a powerful human being. I vote to bring back the platnium hair by the way.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Nancy and Joanne. I loved learning more about Joanne the artist... and that she loves Latin music! what a nice surprise. I love you both!

Debu Barve said...

Very nice interview, thanks!
Joanne is a wonderful artist.

Kay Hartung said...

Thanks for this concise interview of an artist who is a great inspiration to many of us.