What exactly are you building and why?
am building a small, freestanding structure within my studio to create a
unique and cohesive body of work, specific to the structure. I am
calling this structure the Burnt Water Cabin. In the
same way that a radio antenna receives its signals, the Cabin will act
as a receiver for each idea that goes into the work. I may still paint
and work outside of the Cabin, but what happens in the cabin is special
to this project alone. When the project is over, I will dismantle the
Cabin, closing the loop and ending the reception.
What does this Cabin look like and what’s it made out of?
Cabin itself will measure 12’ x 8’ x 8’H. The frame will be built of
reclaimed lumber as will the “skin” or outer walls. The inside will be
lined with new plywood panels, canvas, and sheets of paper. The floors
will be plywood, wrapped in canvas. The ceiling will be one large canvas
tarp. This Cabin is designed to resemble what I remember of the
pre-WWII cabin that my Dad grew up in on the Navajo reservation.
How does the Cabin Work?
Inside the Cabin I will be painting on the materials that line the walls. As the works develop I will move the panels around, reorienting them on other walls next to other works - letting them travel and get to know each other. My goal is
to let the Cabin grow and “shed” its skin. Eventually as a wall piece
is finished and removed from the space a newer raw piece will take its
place. I also like to work on the floor and, at times, I will be
painting flat on the floor. Over the course of the project, the floor
will collect the paint and ink drippings, the foot prints, and the chalk
dust. And as the floors
become primed, they may move up and take a place on the wall. Then a
new piece of floor will be installed where the old one resided. I will
make and fill space. This process will repeat over and over during the
course of the project, allowing the Cabin to grow without
becoming physically larger. The new growth will add life to the Cabin
and the work created within its walls. Each and every piece that leaves
the Cabin will be photographed and catalogued to create a complete
visual history of the project.
Who is working in this Cabin? What have they done?
name is Matthew Kirk and I have been painting and making my work for at
least the past 15 years. I moved to New York 7 years ago, started a
family and have been continually busting my ass to get things done
since. In December 2008 I was part of this show at Exit Art Gallery
and then in April 2010 I took part in this group show which
led to my first solo show
in NYC at Louis B. James Gallery. I noticed you have a son in your video. Will he have a role in this project?
My work took a decidedly mature turn once my son was born. I bring him
to the studio with me once in a while because I like to have him around
while I work. He reminds me of the evolution of my work over the past
five years. He asks questions about what I am
painting and I find that explaining the painting to him is calming for
me. His presence and the painting work well together. That being said,
my son will definitely
be present at the Cabin all the time. Instead, he will
be a recurring character that pops in every once in a while to shake
things up! It's an important thing to me to share something that makes
me so happy and centered with my son. I think
when I am painting I am communicating to him that “this is who your old
man is and this is why he is the man he is”.
Nice, so how do I follow the progress you are making?
will have a blog running concurrently with the project inviting you
into the space to see what is going on. You may not be able to be there
physically - but the next best thing will be right on your computer
screen! I will update the blog after every session in the Cabin and I
will frequently webcast live Cabin events so you can watch what is happening while I am creating. Ask me questions, leave comments, and watch the magic unfold! I want you to be in the Cabin with me – so, unless you come for the open studio tour, this will have to suffice.
Do you have an artist statement you would like to share?
I sure do! I
feel a responsibility as an artist to explore larger, more significant
human issues through my work. I am concerned about racial and political
conflicts, environmental and geographic issues, and the depletion of
natural resources through inappropriate land use and land rights. I
contemplate what will happen to this earth when I am gone? What world
will my son inherit? What responsibilities do I have to create a better
future for him and for all future generations? How as an artist can I
achieve my ambition to create that better future through my paintings? I
paint symbolic maps full of details and symbols to document and
preserve my ideas, feelings, and experiences. Each work is designed to
illustrate my concerns of the moment within the
context of my past, and I believe the recurring themes within my work
are consistently evolving to reflect my hopes for the better future I
dream of. Each painting presents the most elementary information to the
viewer but the unique details of each creation remain open for
individual interpretation. Through my paintings, I am attempting to gain
new insights into my understanding of the larger human issues that are
most significant to me.
I noticed you mention your Navajo heritage quite often, what's that all about?
Mom moved from Wisconsin to work on the Navajo Reservation as a nurse.
She met my Dad and they had me. Then they split up when I was two years
old and she moved back to Wisconsin to raise me. The Navajo part of my
life was a mystery to me growing up and I believe that is where my
paintings come from. It is how I have been able to define a significant
part of my being and it has taken me a long time to be okay with owning
that. I don't know that I am exactly there yet, but it's like they say,
“life is a highway!”
So you're half Navajo?
Yes, let's move on.
Okay, that being said, can you explain what is going on in the work?
create my paintings through a process of filling and emptying space.
Each painting is full of faceless people, protective animals and masked
shaman traveling through natural and manmade landscapes. What starts as a
line on the surface, slowly transforms into fences and borders that
direct the flow of information and give the viewer a map to the bigger
story within the painting. I revisit each piece many times through the
creative process, adding layers of color, altering dimensions and
modifying the symbolic marks. Drops are circled again and again with
each subsequent circle marking a moment in time specific to the creation
of the piece. Mountains form and erode, giving way to shacks and then
skyscrapers. Celestial forms morph into
satellites and watchful eyes. A fish stocked stream gives way to an
industrial canal that empties into the sea. Totems fill the landscapes
and act as place markers. I bring areas of the painting that did not
previously exist into the finished piece and the whole painting begins
anew with each subsequent viewing. My ongoing modifications to the
original piece are based on my contemplation of the issue I am
exploring. I consider this a selective process in which the symbols find
their own direction and expression during the course of creating the
work. Some marks are left behind or covered up entirely but the earlier
input still exists within the history of the piece. Each piece evolves
throughout the creative process and my thematic exploration of these
larger human issues can best be experienced by viewing my body of work
over the past fifteen years.
Great! What are the funds used for?
The money raised will be used for
supplies and space. The supplies include the canvas, plywood and paper
to work on, as well as the paints, inks, chalks and stains used to
create the work. This will also include a portion of the rewards like
the painting suits, the deck blanks, the T shirts, print making, book
printing, etc... I aim for the bare essentials. The money used for space
will underwrite my studio lease. The rest is gravy that I will pour
back into the project. Sounds delicious right?
Alright, how much of the budget is used to construct the Cabin?
bulk of the Cabin will be built with reclaimed lumber, hopefully all of
it but I will settle for as much as possible. Any fasteners and or
hardware (screws, nails and hinges) will dip into the budget.
So you’re aiming for a “green building"?
I am trying to, yes. At the very least I am
aiming for 90-100% of the Cabin to
be constructed from recycled material. Call that what you want.
Finally, what about shipping the rewards and anything else I forgot to ask?
I am willing to work with you on shipping, no matter where you might be
located. Unless it is otherwise noted, you should contact me directly
about shipping. Rest assured, as a “professional art handler/packer”, I
have the skills needed to pack and ship the completed works to the four
corners of the world. Obviously some places will be more expensive to
ship to and I may need to negotiate with you based on the size of the
piece but let's cross that bridge when we get to it. I will ask you to
specify T-Shirt size and/or Deck shape (if you have a preference that
is) - otherwise I will make that decision for the both of us. And
please, feel free to contact me with ANY and ALL
questions, concerns or ideas you may have. I want us to be companions
throughout this process and I look forward to any communications with