“The series' build process feels almost theatrical; it's like designing a set where some undefined action is about to unfold.” - the artist
Q: We were impressed by your style of pairing a themed photograph with a hand--built diorama. What led you to develop this pairing?
A: My diorama-based work began with an interest in built environments (I have some training in architectural drafting, for example), so I think that, initially, Tableaux was about the idea of place. The series' build process feels almost theatrical; it's like designing a set where some undefined action is about to unfold. Including hints at possible character involvement just felt like a natural progression. I try to keep the work open-ended, though. I enjoy writing my own plot, but I find other people's stories every bit as fascinating as my own.
Q: What inspires your subject matter?
A: I wish I had a precise answer to this question, but, honestly, influences seem to flood in from a million different sources. Simultaneously. Sometimes a material or process leads to another idea; sometimes, I build off a specific memory or experience. There are perpetual influences in books, movies, television, pop-culture, and etcetera. If inspiration is a muse, it's often a messy one. It's a stream of consciousness thing, I guess. Quite frankly, I don't know how effectively I can define how I attempt to paddle through it.
Q: Can you describe the materials you use and your creative process?
A: One of the most challenging aspects of my practice is narrowing down my to-do list. I tend to over-plan; I've got sketches and notes everywhere. Most of these preliminary designs are extremely specific; fortunately, dioramas allow for incredible versatility. If I'm envisioning a nineteenth-century Parisian newspaper kiosk, I can't very easily grab a camera and walk right up to one. I might be able to hint at that experience with a small-scale build, however.
When I assemble a diorama, my materials list is long and varied; cardboard, foam board, plastics, fibers, sandpaper, polymer clay, beads, wood, paints, adhesives, joint compound, concrete patio pavers - in the case of a neon sign I might photograph an image on a phone screen (if a process or material yields the best results, I'm not too proud to cheat a bit). I tend to save and reuse packaging materials. It's incredibly flattering when someone tells you that you've made something from nothing. I take a perverse kind of pride in fashioning tiny wainscoting from a cereal box.
Q: We were impressed with your Best in Show piece, titled Pink Lemonade Semigloss, 2018. Tell us more about this piece/series.
A: Pink Lemonade Semigloss differs from most other Tableaux pieces in that its concept began with a character and moved toward the environment. As unimpressive as it sounds, it's accurate to say that aluminum can hair rollers strongly influenced the direction of the entire project. I mean; how often do you get the opportunity to include an element as unique and complex as that? To create the portrait, I taped some pink posterboard to a closet door. The large-scale faux wood paneling is my worktable turned on end (overlaid with a close-up photograph of my miniature paneling). I had envisioned the whole scene fairly early on in the process, but an attempt at unifying the miniature with all of the portrait's existing elements definitely influenced my result.
Q: What do you hope for viewers to take away from your art?
A: I think many people would like to be remembered for bettering the world in some monumentally significant way. Unfortunately, obtaining that level of artistic influence is a very tall order. Nevertheless, I continue to find motivation in attempting to produce work that is (hopefully) relatable. It's sincerely appreciated when someone infers exactly what I was thinking or feeling when I created art object x. In many ways, however, I find it much more gratifying to be told that a particular piece has reminded an individual of something important to them. I'm elated when it feels like someone has connected to the work in a personal way.
Q: How do you view your art career in five years?
A: I hesitate to call my art experience a career; it's more of an unmappable, impractical obsession. I'm relatively certain that I will never be delighted with anything that I create or any outlandish goal that I somehow manage to obtain. Nevertheless, an endless list of ideas and an attempt at improving technique keeps me going; that and some truly incredible opportunities that I am eternally grateful for (like this article, for example). It's kind of like they say about sharks. I can't help it. There's something in my DNA that demands I keep swimming for as long as I possibly can.
About the artist:
Robert Matejcek obtained his BA in Art from Fontbonne University in St. Louis, Missouri. Robert's work, a combination of traditional and new media, has been exhibited both nationally and internationally. Originally from North Dakota, Robert currently resides with his wife and their guinea pigs in Rocky Ford, Colorado.
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