Intro

Photo by Pernille Loof

We recently caught up with artist, and longtime freind of the gallery, Matthew Solomon. Here is what he had to say:

 

You were a lawyer in a "previous life" as the saying goes. Tell us about how you made the transition from law to becoming a full ­time ceramicist? We're inspired and a tad jealous.

 

I can’t remember exactly when the transition started. Probably before 9/11 but looking back I think that’s what pushed me over the edge. I was a trial lawyer working out of Manhattan living in Connecticut. 2 hour Metro North commute each way. Really really stressed. You had to have your game face on all the time. All of the sins known to man. Despite having killed every houseplant I’d ever owned I started to garden to relax. Vegetables and flowers from seed. I fell in love with good dirt. And I started to have this overwhelming urge to make things inspired by these things I was growing.  I bought a bag of overpriced clay in a local art supply store and began making flowers in my basement. My wife would have guests over and they would ask for me but I would only come up from the basement to say hello. I was working my ass off all week and I only had Saturdays to do what I wanted. Later they would say “Ah, now we understand what you were doing,” but at the time it was a bit awkward. No kiln. I never fired anything I made then. I remember coffee cups with Clematis blossoms and ginger jars. A line of tableware inspired by the various stops on the Lexington Avenue Line ­ Grand Central, Borough Hall, Fulton Street. Not sure if they’re still there but there were some great tiles in those stations. The Fulton Street Station “F” surrounded by a flourish on a blue background was a great inspiration. My wife was running a group home for abused kids in Bridgeport so she was pretty stressed out too. Sometime around 2002 we decided to sell the house and find a cheap place somewhere to live, garden and build a studio. Wasn’t sure exactly what I would do but was pretty sure I would figure something out. Moved to Sullivan County in January 2004. Spent a year reading clay books and developing glazes. Had a daughter. Bought a kiln. Started making and firing things. Soon after I met a designer, Lou Moratta, who had seen a vase I’d made for my mother in law.  He offered me a booth at the 2006 NY Design Fair at the Armory and I’ve been going ever since.

Photos (studio studio up close

Photo by Pernille Loof

Photos (studio studio up close

Just text

Who or what are your muses?

 

Nature has always been my greatest muse. It all started in my garden. Now, whenever I need some inspiration I just go for a walk. My yard is filled with Goldenrod and Queen Anne’s Lace. I have wild blueberries and blackberries and there’s always a gnarled branch or leaf or fungi in the woods that catches my eye. Otherwise, I love Van Gogh; Dutch still life; anything Delft; Lalique; Tiffany and Japanese prints. I grew up in NYC and the Jean Dubuffet sculpture at Chase Plaza down by Wall street has always been a big inspiration. That and 80’s subway graffiti. I like the planes and space. That’s what I channel when I’m making a box. And I throw in an odalisque hidden in the branches.

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What are you reading right now? Binge­watching on Netflix?

 

I’m mostly a non-­fiction reader. History, physics, gardening. Right now I am reading a series of essays called Biology under the Influence by Richard Lewontin and Richard Levins, two evolutionary biologists. They examine a variety of systems and ways of looking at them through the lenses of evolution and genetics. 10 pages at a time, then I have to rest. I was just on vacation in Maine so I read some Rudy Rucker sci fi.

 

The only thing I binge watch is C­Span. Not the Congressional coverage as that’s pretty useless. I know it’s hard to believe but they have some pretty interesting programming. I like to listen to presentations by both right leaning and left leaning think tanks on a particular subject and then form my own opinion. Book TV is great. I also listen to the Supreme Court oral arguments. Once a lawyer always a lawyer. I can stream it in the studio so that’s what’s usually on in the background.

 

You are installing some large site specific installations these days, what's that like creating and working in someone else's space?

 

It’s both challenging and rewarding. I enjoy getting themes and inspirations from others. I also like knowing where the piece is going and the dimensions of the space. It’s comforting having some fixed limitations and then problem solving how to express myself within them. My studio is about 20 by 40 feet and it’s filled with stuff. So when I make something very large I need to make it in pieces and can’t really see the whole thing until it’s installed. 

 

 

anex

Photo by Pernille Loof

Installations (Two photos)

At the studio -- installation in progress

Installations (Two photos)

At the studio -- installation in progress

Installations (one photo and text)

At the studio -- installation in progress

The nice thing is that nature, wild as it sometimes seems, actually follows rules pretty strictly. And it’s infinitely scalable. So, as long as I follow whatever rules I’ve set, I don’t need to see the whole thing while I’m making it. It kind of “grows” itself.

Dream project?

 

I have two dream projects at the moment. One is to recreate a baroque or renaissance cathedral ceiling in abstracted floral images instead of figures. The other is to make ceramic versions of all of the flowers in the background of Matisse’s many Odalisques.

Dream Project (photos)

Ceiling Painting of the Marble Hall

Dream Project (photos)

Henri Mattise 

Odalisque in a Yellow Robe, 1937

Law & Order or LA Law?

 

I have a hard time watching any legal shows as I tend to yell at the TV during the court scenes. Never worked out for me that way. Probably Law & Order. I like LA but I’m an East Coast guy.

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