Peabody Fine Art Gallery
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Matt  Lively

  Growing up in the seventies in Louisville, Kentucky, Matt Lively realized at an early age that he was more likely to become a professional artist than a professional baseball player: the odds were in his favor. Matt Lively got the idea for becoming an artist when he was about seven years old. His parents let him stay up late one night because they thought that he was old enough to appreciate and understand the late night TV show that he had heard so much about: Saturday Night Live. Father Guido Sarducci came on with one of those fake commercials (at the time, Matt couldn't tell what was and wasn't fake), and the theme of the ad was to encourage people to "be an artist..."-just drop the job you have now and be an artist .All Matt needed was a good role model and an opportunity to hone his craft.

That role model was a high school art teacher, who didn't just critique Matt's work~he also coached Matt on his career path and encouraged Matt to diversify his skills. Through after school sessions with his mentor, occasional workshops with local artists, and individual experimentation, Matt developed his skills in film, sculpture, & drawing. As a sculpture major at Virginia Commonwealth University, Matt developed a critical eye and his own technique by working in a variety of mediums. His process is deliberate; every brush stroke intentional. "The painting becomes smarter than I am; it tells me what to do next," says Matt.

Lively creates in many non-traditional materials and in oil and says his style is determined by the material he is using at the time. "My subjects are simple and the objects are everyday, but the effect is otherworldly," says Lively. Inspired by household objects like clothing, furniture and kitchen appliances, Matt draws the objects on paper, canvas, or wood (he prefers canvas and wood), then layers in a unique combination of materials in nondescript colors with subtle patterns. Each composition is unique; each item has its own personality. He likes to work on two or three pieces at any given time. He likes to take those simple everyday subjects and make them more interesting-looking than the original subject they represent. He tries to keep the subjects simple, or even silly, in order for them to be dismissed and for the real subject of the painting-the paint itself-to take on the task of captivating a viewer.

Matt received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Virginia Commonwealth University. Matt's work has consistently been seen in shows and galleries across the South from the time he was in college to the present.His track record may be due in part to the unique nature of his work - what he calls "construction" paintings and wood collages.

What separates Lively's work from that of the crowd may also be his guiding influence - suburbia. His ideas spring from the "exaggerated suburban scene that I have seen pop up." He believes that the suburbs are underrated as an art location and that there are many exciting things happening away from the city. "There's always been some 'voice of the inner city,' but there's never been someone who wanted to be the voice of the picket fence neighborhoods. I want to be that person."

He has returned to the Richmond area and lives there with his wife and two children.He credits his wife as a major influence on his work. "She makes me want to impress her with what I do - to make new, bigger, better things all the time."Today Matt Lively is indeed a professional artist, who credits the advice of his mentor and his decision to make his art his "real job" the keys to his success. And through his workshops and a recent teaching stint at VCU, Matt doesn't teach young talent about technique, but that their goal to be professional artists is within their reach.

The Meanings Within

"The following is a brief description of some of the elements and icons in my paintings. The descriptions are not exact definitions of what is meant each time an element appears but rather a guide to what I was thinking as I painted it."

"The paintings all depict a suggestion of implied movement. Not necessarily objects in motion but rather subtle hints of things that have been displaced. The movement represented could be as obvious as fluttering Beecycles but most of the motion depicted is represented by the remnants of what was left by who was there before. An empty chair suggests that someone has gone away. The paintings playfully represent a less hectic time where the minutes go by so slow that normally stagnant objects seem to be moving."
                                                                                            - Matt Lively

Chairs:   The chairs are the main characters in the paintings. They possess distinct personalities and even seem to have gender roles. The chairs replace the need of the actual depiction of people (which I believe is a painters cheap trick to cause a viewers immediate emotional response - I try to get the same emotional response without the use of human figures) in the paintings because of the personalities. Some of the chairs are rigid and seem proud, some are sexy, some pompous and some sad. The subtle depiction of movement in this case would be the fact that the chairs are always empty which suggests that the person who may have been sitting in it has gone and therefore, is in motion.

*** My Mom's forbidden living room was full of antique furniture. When I was young I would sneak in and hide under the chairs. The legs were smooth and pleasantly shaped and for a boy my age - very exciting for reasons I didn't (and still don't) understand.

Window:   The ever present window is the portal to which all can escape or enter. It can be the cause of the activity inside the room by way of wind or objects using it as a means by which to come and go. The window is also a backstage for other parallel stories.

*** I grew up in a house that had windows screwed and painted shut. They would not open and I always worried that I would not be able to get out in a fire.

Bird Cage:   The empty bird cage represents the imagined motion of the bird that is long gone. The cages have no doors because they are painted in such a way as to communicate only the minimum of what a bird cage looks like without getting to illustrationally technical. Letting the cages be only the minimum allows for them to exist on the same whimsical plain as the chair and the other characters. (the reason I explain this here is because I am describing a "cage" and cages are inherently scary - I do not want for the paintings to be scary and I go to great lengths to make them not so).

*** I had a pet bird that didn't like anyone but me. She would fly to my hand and she even took showers with me.

Beecycles:   The fan favorite Beecycles actually came about initially in a sculpture that I made in college. The reason I put them in the paintings is because of their ability to instantly charge a painting with life. The Beecycles one-wheeled frantically flapping movement breathe life into the slow-paced setting of the paintings.

Rooms:   The rooms are the main staging area for the characters. The rooms represent not only the basic structure of a room in a house but also serve to invite the viewer to relax in a familiar place to witness the subtle absurdities.

Tables:   The tables are a focal point and gathering area for the chairs. The purpose of a table is to rest something that is not in motion or a place for an object to be addressed or observed. The chairs are doing the observing.

Sky:   The skies consist of heavy, oppressive clouds that seem to mound just above the horizon. The mountain of cloud stacks make a great backdrop and contrast for the sprightly activity in the foreground. The clouds are not ominous or sinister, just heavy by nature.

Dirigible:   Lumbering and slow - a nice contrast to the Beecycles.

*** My uncle owned a dirigible. He tied it to it's mast at an airport before hurricane Opal. During the storm the lines snapped and the blimp flew pilotless for dozens of miles before it landed in an empty field. No one was hurt by it and my uncle was convinced that the safe landing was due to the "Helium Ghost".

Telephones:   Sound movement, communication, the changing of moods as calls are received or not received. They also provide me the opportunity to paint the coil-ly wires attached to the receiver.

*** I am a fan of old phones and phone tables. I know someone is really listening to me if they are talking to me on one. I wish everyone had an old phone and a phone table.

Fans:   The rotation of the blades, oscillation of the head and subsequent movement of the air all add to the perceived motion. Although industrial, utilitarian and borderline dangerous the fans mirror the shapes and feel of sunflowers and daisies in the same room.

Electrical Cords:   The cords serve the purpose of providing a sense of physical movement on the floor of the setting. The path of the cord shows the history of where the equipment was moved. Electrical cords - while ignored in the real world-seem exaggerated in the paintings (because appliances in a painting do not require electricity) and remind us that energy is flowing through the room and is generated from another place.

Irons and Ironing Boards:   Someone is getting ready to leave or has just left. An important event is looming.

Dresses:   The empty dresses are a perfect person replacement. This is the closest to a human form as I'll go in these paintings. Although empty of a body they still possess a character and personality.

Houses:   The houses are characters similar to the chairs. They take on personalities and are apparently void of people. The specific style of house are those that could have been built fifty or so years ago. The relative oldness of the houses further the idea of progress or movement in time.

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