Friday, February 13, 2015

Joanne Mattera

"I refer to my painting as lush minimalism."

Installation grid of 18 paintings from the Silk Road series, each encaustic on panel, 12 x 12 inches

About the Work

My painting is materially succulent and compositionally reductive. I refer to it only partly tongue-in-cheek as “lush minimalism.” Each painting in the ongoing Silk Road series is a small color field achieved by layers of translucent wax paint applied at right angles, which I may allow to form ridges and slubs in the final layers. The series, which I began in 2005, was inspired by the  shimmery quality of iridescent silk, hence the title, but quickly evolved into a more broadly ranging exploration of color and light—a sweet irony in that I’m using the most material of paints to express the most transcendent of phenomena. The artist and essayist Chris Ashley has described my work this way: “While the light is a thing that draws us in, it’s the way this light is held in the wax, and the way we look below the surface and into the depth of this light-filled wax, that slows down our looking just a beat to a more present presence, one that is slow enough for us to see light passing.”

Silk Road 243, 2015

Silk Road 241, 2015
Paintings courtesy of Schoolhouse Gallery, Provincetown

Reflecting on Cape Cod

I’ve been a visitor to the Cape for as long as I can remember, first as a child in the summer with my family, and then as an adult when it has beckoned year round. When I came out as a lesbian at 21, I made a beeline for Provincetown. Oh, the joy to see others like me! What sweet freedom to walk arm and arm with a girlfriend, to flirt, to go swimming, to be me without judgment or fear of being outed. The memories from that time are almost dreamlike, not just because they are wrapped in the lightness of youth, but because the great burden of secrecy one carried then was left behind, if only for a week or two. 

After 9/11, when from my rooftop on West 21st Street I saw the Twin Towers fall, it was solace to round the bend of 6A and see the Pilgrim Monument rising up where it had always been and to realign with the primordial rhythms of ebb and flow. 

Even as things have changed, largely now for the better, painting has been a constant in my life—40 years and counting. Five years ago I brought the International Encaustic Conference, which I founded and direct, to Provincetown, in co-production with Cherie Mittenthal and Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill. The event attracts 250 painters, printmakers and sculptors from as far away as New Zealand, Scandinavia and South America, and they are as smitten with that almost 360-degree meeting of sky and ocean, and the incredible clear light, as I have been all these years. I am back over the bridge regularly, a drive I never tire of making. And you'd think I'd be jaded by now, but I still experience a little heart flutter when I round the bend on 6A and see the Monument and the tip of the Cape stretching out around that magnificent Bay.

Silk Road 221, 2014

Silk Road 222, 2014

Silk Road 244, 2015
Courtesy of Schoolhouse Gallery, Provincetown

Silk Road 188, 2014
Courtesy of Arden Gallery, Boston