Matthew McDole - Strawberry Mansion

Artist Interview: Conversation with Matt McDole, Artist of “Strawberry Mansion” on Exhibit at Revelry thru June 4, 2019


Interview by Rev Reporter, Stephanie Lindsay


Rev Reporter: Please tell me about childhood influences in your work.

Matt: I don’t start out making a show with an idea. I just make things and then I think about how it all fits together. This time I wanted to do a neighborhood or a place, and I settled on “Mansion” because I always loved that word. It was my password when I was fifteen.

Rev Reporter: It’s a cool word. What’s your fascination with it?

Matt: It’s the first time I was aware of something being spelled weird but knowing it’s the right way to spell it, and so I felt really smart as a little kid. I guess I have this picture of my childhood house on my desk, and I was thinking about it. 

Rev Reporter: I read that being raised in a religious family had a big influence on your work.

Matt: My mom is the sweetest, most Christian lady. I’ve always thought about dying in general, and I think it ties back to that...always hearing about dying from a young age in church. My first memories are being scared of dying but not really being dead. I had this terrible fear of going to sleep, them thinking I was dead, burying me, and then waking up in the coffin. I am extremely claustrophobic, and I cannot get on elevators.

The first time I realized I was claustrophobic--I was in a cabin (I grew up on a farm and most of my friends lived on farms nearby), and somebody closed this door on me and I realized that I couldn’t get out without them letting me out. After that, I remember becoming extremely scared of elevators. I still am.

 Rev Reporter: Are there certain images that you use as language or symbols in your work? 

Matt: I don’t start out with a big theme. I think,  “I want to do this one thing and I want to add more to it”. Then into it, I figure it out and then maybe the next thing I want to draw, I decide not to add because it doesn’t go with the story in my head.

Once I realize that I am leaning on something, then I naturally just stop using it. It’s kind of like when I am obsessed with a band, and it’s all I want to listen to. Whenever I realize that’s the only thing I want to listen to, then it’s kinda over. If I catch myself in the habit of something (snaps), I try not to lean into it. With that being said, sometimes I’ll feel like I’m being repetitive and then years later look back, and wish I’d have done more.

Rev Reporter: It comes across to me, for instance your use of the dagger, as there being storytelling language that you choose sometimes to use and other times not to use.

 Matt: I’ve looked back on my collages and thought, “Man, this is awesome. I wish I made more of them.” But back when I made it, I was trying to stop making the same thing.

Rev Reporter: What are your mediums?

Matt: I use acrylic paint and paint markers a lot. I think there is one thing in this show that is screen-printed.

Rev Reporter: Talk to me about your skater background and its influence on your work.

Matt: I definitely think skateboarding helped me become the person who I am by opening me up to all of these things I really love. Growing up on a farm in the middle of nowhere, I loved skateboarding and thought it was so cool. I had never seen a real skateboarder. So, I didn’t think it was real but something you just saw on TV. Same with comic books. I thought they looked so awesome but I thought they were a TV thing. Same with allowances, curfews….

Rev Reporter: When did you get your first comic book?

Matt: Not until I was at least 18.

Rev Reporter: When did you first start skating? 

Matt: I got my first skateboard right when I was going into 5th grade. There was no Internet then and I was in the middle of nowhere so I would ride my bike, ride my skateboard, play with my action figures, draw stuff.

Rev Reporter: When did you first start drawing?

Matt: I think I was drawing or coloring before I was making memories. I remember drawing a lot of Batman and Wolverine and underwater scenes with the blue sky at the top. Very 2D. I was like, “I want to draw. What can I draw?” It’s a lot how I do it now. I sit down and think, “What can I do?”

Rev Reporter: So, you are totally self-taught?

Matt: I went to a really small school, Trimble County High School, and I graduated with about 90 people in my class. In high school, we had Art I, II, III and IV. I didn’t take my first art class until I was a junior. It didn’t seem like the cool art that I liked. It was more boring oil paintings. I remember seeing the first Metallica album and thinking how cool it would be to do that. I remember thinking I want to paint, but I want to paint quicker and use thicker lines and have it be more solid.

I remember the first paint pens I used sucked. They were the kind of thing you would find in your parents’ garage. Then I first became obsessed with them four years ago when I discovered good ones. I still happen to have the first piece I made with them. It was a benchmark.

Rev Reporter: It’s interesting. My son is in the Visual Art program at Manual, and he recently had this revelation that his favorite materials are the cheaper ones, like paint markers. 

Matt: When I first started with paint markers, I never used pencil. I would just do it. Then I started using pencil, going over it with paint marker and erasing it. But now I have figured out how to make it good the first time. Getting tattooed and seeing how people do things really helped.

I first started painting only on boards, windows and things I found. I didn’t have money but even if I could, it was too much pressure to start (on something new). I could never go to the art store and buy a big wooden panel.

Rev Reporter: How about now? 

Matt: No. I still can’t. I’ll buy paper, but I always use frames that I bought at thrift stores, or I’ll paintings at thrift stores and paint over it.

Rev Reporter: How old were you when you consciously started making art?

 Matt: I always skated, and that was my thing that I really cared about. I was 14 when I made the decision this is what I do. They built a house nearby and there was all this wood, and so I built a ramp. I went there everyday. My friends didn’t want to, and I didn’t care. I had skateboard magazines. The Internet was just starting, and I’d search “what do skateboarders do?” Then I’d see they listen to punk music, and I’d search “punk music.” I decided that I didn’t care if what I like is cool or acceptable to people around me. Apparently there are other people who think it’s cool, even if no one here does.

 When I moved out at 18, all I wanted to do was skate. By 24, I was always falling and getting hurt. I’d have to take time off work because of it. I was working at Please & Thank You. I had all of this time of not being able to skate as much, and I started making art. Working there was the also first time that I was around people who I looked up to and their opinion on art. Amanda Bishop and Tony Bisig who were in the kitchen and of course, Brooke (Vaughn Pierce) and Jason (Pierce). I looked up to them. Their thinking “this is cool” led me to think maybe I need to do more of this. They were very motivating and let me do my first show there at Please & Thank You. 

Rev Reporter: I remember that show! From there, where did you start exhibiting your work?

Matt: I had my work in random places, like skateboard art shows. At first, it didn’t seem like I could make money from it. But then, other than skate, it’s what I wanted to do all the time. That, and work at Please & Thank You. All I wanted to do was make art at night. I got really comfortable being alone and making stuff. After a couple years, I found it selling more consistently and then people reaching out to me. Now, all I do is make art for a living. I work for Mperfect Design. It’s graphic design and design in general. I’m about to paint a mural on a garage. People reach out about an album cover or a show poster. I do a lot of skateboard graphics, like designs for Home Skate Shop and shirts for the new little skate park, Breslin Park.

Rev Reporter: I’ve seen your work applied in people’s homes.

Matt: Yes, I love painting on walls, in people’s homes or businesses. The bathroom at Lupo is one of my favorites. At the KMAC “Sing, Don’t Cry” exhibit I was allowed to paint on the walls. They had a few items they wanted to show, and I picked a couple of the other pieces from their storage. Then I painted on the walls all around it all.

Rev Reporter: I saw a cool screen-printed shower curtain of yours at a friend’s house. Do you think of ever doing a line of products?

Matt: I’ll have an idea to make a thing. I’ll make a couple and see how it sells, but I usually want to make it just once and be done with it. I made a bunch of big matchboxes for Revelry, and people love them and they sell like hot cakes, but I’d rather make something new.

I think being limited helps a lot. I once heard, “there is nothing more crippling than a blank page.” Any little bit of direction helps to start. Using found (materials) makes that easier too. You just pick something and do it.

Rev Reporter: Are your tattoos your own illustrations? 

Matt: With the exception of a couple, they are other people’s work.

Rev Reporter: How did tattoo work affect your personal work?

Matt: I think it’s the same way as with skateboarding or the movies I love. Not literal. I think most tattoo work is very shaded and mine is more solid, graphic style.

Rev Reporter: Is there any particular piece or group of work that has been really fulfilling for you to create?

Matt: Most of the time I am really excited about the last thing I’ve made. Or, the thing I am working on right now.

Rev Reporter: Are there any artists who influence your work?

Matt: My number one is Margaret Kilgallen. I love all the Beautiful Losers documentary people, like Ed Templeton, Barry McGee, Mike Mills and Stephen Powers. I like Andy Warhol’s early stuff, but I mainly find him inspiring as a person. David Lynch, I love to hear him talk. I get inspired by people who I think are genuinely themselves. Basquiat. Lou Reed.

Rev Reporter: It makes sense that you are drawn to storytellers. Have you found a community of people, or artists, who inspire or support your work?

Matt: It’s easy to think about famous people when you think of your favorite artist, but really it’s more about someone I know. Letitia Quesenberry is a favorite artist. She is one of the first people who made me realize that you can just make art—not for companies—but you making your own art and then selling it. Jason Pierce is one of my favorite artists, his mind! Megan Mraz is insane. My girlfriend is always taking photos. I just love those people.

Rev Reporter: What is it you do to break through and make the first mark?

Matt: There are two parts. On one hand, I have to be comfortable. Do I have coffee? What am I going to listen to? I like a podcast because it lasts a while. Music greatly affects my mood, so it’s harder to pick out. For instance, fast music makes me really excited but it doesn’t last long. Or sad music makes me sad. Mindless movies are good. I’ve gotten into a whole genre of bad stuff, like action movies in general--Men in Black or Die Hard. Or, old wrestling. That’s the comfortable part, which takes forever to get started. The other part is you just have to start because you can always come up with a million reasons not to start. On one hand, I need to be comfortable but then it’s just about starting and that’s hard.


May 23, 2019 — Mo McKnight Howe

Monica Pipia - Featured Win Place ART Show Artist

Artist Interview: A Conversation with Monica Pipia, Painter & Exhibitor in the Group Show “Win, Place, ART Show” at Revelry through May 6, 2019

By Rev Reporter, Stephanie Lindsay

Rev Reporter: I’m curious to hear about your background and how you got into painting.

Monica: I have a biology degree with a minor in chemistry from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. My dad and my sister painted, so at that time in my life, I didn’t want to paint. My mother was a music and drama double major, she sang opera, and she was in a lot of plays. So, art really is carried in my family. And in high school, I worked in an art gallery. My co-worker, now an artist himself who works for the Dedalus Foundation (Motherwell Foundation), inspired me through our conversations on painting. 

Rev Reporter: Did you grow up riding horses?

Monica: We are from Chicago originally and moved to Lake Forest, Illinois where there is a really big horse community. I rode extensively and took care of horses for other people. I worked for a breeder, and I trained foals. I was a high point open-jumper at age sixteen. I did everything from jumping to barrel racing. I campaigned my horse in college. After I graduated from college, I worked for Leonard Campbell who ran the stable where I used to ride, and I worked breaking and training horses for the track. When I moved to Kentucky, I did dressage and cross-country, and I purchased a retired racehorse.

Rev Reporter: What was your first experience in Kentucky?

Monica: In ’84, I wanted to move from Chicago to Kentucky and had an opportunity to transfer there with my job selling veterinary supplies. I never moved back. This was my first trip to Kentucky. I ended up in medical supply sales and later as a pharmaceutical representative for Wyeth Laboratories in the women’s healthcare division.

Rev Reporter: How long after moving to Kentucky did you start painting horses?

Monica: I was doing my own thing and loved Kentucky, and I loved to travel. I didn’t get inspired to paint, not to sound cliché, until I had a dream that I was painting. Then I asked myself, “Why am I doing this in my dream?” I started studying Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and then began to draw and paint. I drew for my biology and comparative anatomy classes when I was in college, but I never thought of myself as an artist or a painter. This was different. 

In 1995, I was downsized from a pharmaceutical company and so that set me free. I was really happy about that, and that’s when I made the decision to “follow my bliss.” I was exploring different options, and I put together a portfolio and sent it to Atlantic Center for the Arts, where I was accepted for an Andy Warhol Fellowship grant. This happened during a year when I really committed to applying myself to my art. I was completely self-taught. The fiber artist Nick Cave was the mentor for the artists-in-residence there. He said, “Monica, do what’s in your heart,” and that’s when I realized that the horse was in my heart and that’s when I made the commitment to being genuine and authentic. Those two things were pivotal to my whole art career. Being vulnerable is a really tough thing. I had previous successes in a different career. Then I decided to commit to my life work and hone that.

Rev Reporter: That’s inspiring. At what age did that happen?

Monica: I was thirty-seven. In a way, I am really starting just now because I have developed enough as a painter that now all of my life experience leads me to new work. I am really happy that I did a lot of groundwork. I did the work. I know who I am, and I know what I did. I don’t know necessarily what I am doing right now because it’s always a mystery, but it comes back to you.

Rev Reporter: Tell me a little more, when you made the leap to commit to your art, how did you first support yourself?

Monica: I am a self-supporting artist, and I have been working solely as a fulltime artist for over three years now.

I received a Kentucky Foundation for Women’s grant that provided me with the funds to convert my garage into an art studio. It was key for receiving recognition and support as well. The Lexington community was really great too.

Over the years, I had to do several jobs along with the art. Back at the economic downturn in ’06, I took a job selling Cadillacs. I would work all day and come home at 7 or 8 PM and then paint in my studio until 1 AM. I was totally committed. Leslie Phillips, who is football coach Joker Phillips’ wife, came into the Cadillac store and while chatting, I found out that she has a new house and collects folk art. She invited me to bring my work to her home, and she bought a piece. Then I introduced her to my friend who owns Kentucky Home & Garden, and they featured her house along with my artwork in the magazine. I think this is a story of connection. I am really grateful that I have connections that help with other connections, and I think artists really do struggle with this.

Rev Reporter: When was your first solo exhibition?

Monica: In 1999, I showed 20 pieces of mixed media work in the president’s room at University of Kentucky in an exhibit called “It’s Not About the Horse.”

Rev Reporter: What are some influences in your work, aside from riding and the horse itself?

Monica: There’s a little bit of an Americana thread in my work, and that’s because I am part Italian American, and being American was important to my family coming from Sicily. I also highly value freedom.

One of my collectors introduced me to the Folk Art Center at Morehead State University, which led to my being on the board there for ten years. I love primitive, self-taught and anything that has specifically to do with visions.

I was awarded an arts residency in Skagway, Alaska with the National Parks Service, and I studied the Northwest Coast Indian art, including the Dead Horse Trail. It was very influential and really became about baseline and space for me as well as texture. Also, these indigenous peoples knew the animals with fresh eyes. Painting is about feelings, emotion, and so with texture it is created through different techniques and layering. It’s a painting until I reach a heart connection, and then it is a work of art. Painting for me is about bringing spirit into matter.

Rev Reporter: Is there any exercise you use to open your heart before the painting process, or is it a moment that happens in the process of painting?

Monica: It’s not that my heart isn’t open. It’s basically about communicating that connection in the work. My heart is open. My mind is open. To convey that in matter is a different story. You are putting a life in there somehow. It depends upon the piece. I think certain pieces are created in time and space, and that’s as far as you can go. So, sometimes I’ve got to go farther because it’s not there. And if I write on it or paint over it, something else comes in too and maybe that ends up being the final piece. Then I have to go back and reconfigure, but basically the threads of my work will be there. For instance, the piece of the woman holding the horse with the garland for the Kentucky Derby-- I felt like it connected with the writing and the horse and the colors and everything that make the vignette my vision.

Rev Reporter: I’m curious. Do you paint largely from the imagination or do you do live sittings with horses?

Monica: For a couple years, I did a lot of photography work just to see how I saw. I think my power of observation is one of my greatest talents. Working with horses, you have to see how this happens. I didn’t want to make a painting of a horse from a photograph like a racehorse scene where they are all coming around the bend. It’s really about the organic. So basically, I use my knowledge of the horse’s anatomy, but I don’t want it to be the ruler of the piece. If I try to hard too make this happen then it will become stiff.

Rev Reporter: So it’s not necessarily a portrait of a specific horse?

Monica: It is its own reality. The painting is its own reality. I was wondering about this the other day. I’m represented by a gallery in Mackinac, and so I was in the portrait gallery of the Grand Hotel when I saw a portrait that looks Just like a close friend of mine. I was thinking about how I can see but I can’t control my process to where I can make people think it’s acceptable as exactly this horse or that horse. I want it to be more open, but it will look like something, yes.

I’ve done gobs of studies of horses. That’s about technical work versus poetry. When you are doing poetry, you have to take those sentences away and those periods away and listen to the music. It is more poetic than it is factual, but it still conveys a real meaningful horse or feeling. We don’t really see with one look but lots of looks to make up a horse in our mind.

Rev Reporter: What you’re saying reminds me of a Henry James short story called “The Real Thing” that addresses this question--having a model that you are using for form but that actual reality versus the actual painting’s poetic reality and the difference between those and what is actually the real thing.

Monica: Exactly. For instance, when I look at my paintings, I will ask myself if that leg has weight on it and it looks like the horse is standing on that leg. It makes a big difference if you understand the feel of a horse. I know how it feels when you touch a horse in the winner’s circle. I volunteered for the High Hopes Steeplechase to give out the trophies in the winner’s circle. So the painting of “The First Saturday in May” is grounded in my experience that I had in there.

Rev Reporter: To your point earlier about conveying emotion, the heightened emotion of a moment like that is unique, the feeling of being in the winner’s circle.

Monica: I think it is a different kind of beauty that we are looking at. I like the fact that everything isn’t perfect because we don’t really live in a perfect world. Feeling is different than seeing. Feeling a horse, understanding a horse and riding a horse…I try to bring all of those things into that experience. In some ways, I made the horse unreal for me but yet, in my memory and heart, it’s alive. 

Rev Reporter: What part of your work brings you the most joy?

Monica: When the paint is still wet. I think there is rhythm. I like to play great music, which is a big part of my process. I am listening right now to Romanian gypsy music, the blues, and all kinds of things. I think the strength of the rhythm in the music reminds me of my heart and who I am. In the studio, there is a lot of work to go from the vision to the actual working out the painting. Sometimes you look at the canvas and think about how it’s going to take hours. So the joy comes from that moment when I see what needs to be done, and then I am in action and I don’t think. I just do it. That is when most moments of joy happen for me. I am free from myself and the work, and I just do it.

Lumen - Clouds


Artist Interview: Talking with Francisco Cardona and Jared Ned McNeil, Creators of “Lumens – Clouds” on Exhibit at Revelry January 4 - Feb 4th, 2019

By Rev Reporter, Stephanie Lindsay

Rev Reporter: Are you originally from Louisville?

Jared:  I’ve lived here all my life.

Francisco: I moved here about four years ago. I fell in love with my fiancé, and we have a house together.

Rev Reporter: When did you first start making art? In your youth?

Francisco: I’ve always been a creative individual. I went to school for architecture and design at Arizona State. I’ve always been making things, hacking things. I’m always trying to find a different way to do things. I graduated in the recession and took an internship that turned into an unpaid internship, but I couldn’t do that. So I started teaching and making things here and there, and I became good friends with some graduate students. I took some graduate courses where I explored different materials like concrete. I made articles like rainbow dresses out of magazine pages.

Jared: It’s so funny because I still don’t consider myself an artist in a traditional way. The first thing I ever made was when I was 7 years old. My grandmother’s rotary phone wouldn’t ring, and I took it apart and made it ring again. So in a sense, I was making something.

 Rev Reporter: How did the idea for “Lumens – Clouds” at Revelry first come to be?

 Francisco: We’ve made clouds before at the hackerspace, and you’ll see clouds as totems, so people can find each other, at music festivals.

 My first interaction with Mo was last summer after I did Startup Weekend here in Louisville. A friend who was a coordinator for that event had seen my toys that I would take to festivals and said “You should probably pitch this to people because I think they would buy it.” She signs me up, and long story short, I won second place for my totem, one individual light stick. We were talking about it at Taj, and someone suggested I connect with festival people, Burners, and the Electronic Circus. Grace Diamond introduced me to that group via Facebook and then that same weekend Mo posted on there that she was seeking a light artist for a Churchill Downs event, and Grace introduced me.

I came to meet with Mo at Revelry with a scale model of my “Crystal Castle” concept for Churchill Downs. I also had a cloud, and her husband Scotty said, “That cloud is cool. Can we do something with that?” And I said, “Later down the road.”

Rev Reporter: Jared, what is your role in this collaboration?

 Jared: I principally have been into sound. In this collaboration, Francisco did a lot of the light management. I did more of the kinetic management. By association, the aural presence that the art creates in the space—those motors make sounds. You can program to where the movement is the same but the sound they make is different, which for me is part of the experience. People first see the light but its subtleties like these that make it complex.

Rev Reporter: So you chose the cord for the clouds? It reminded me of telephone cord.

Jared: Yes, I did. It is a telephone cord. It’s a very conscious choice. I love telephones, and I work with telephones often. For the last 3 years, I’ve had a live telephone network set up at Maker’s Faire Louisville that allows the audience to talk live with people from across the Faire. My ongoing project is a hot racing series. I have a team that travels around the country to maker’s fairs and races.

 Rev Reporter: Is your team part of the hackerspace that Francisco earlier referred to?

Jared: Yes, LVL1. It’s an open-access community workshop where anybody can use the equipment. That’s how Francisco and I met.

Rev Reporter: How did you find it, Francisco?

Francisco: I was having cocktails one night after work and saying, “If I am not creating something then I am actively destroying something.” My friend’s boyfriend is a developer, and he suggested that I check out LVL1. I went to check it out and the first person I met was Jared. I went home and told my fiancé, “If I’m gone for twelve hours, that’s where I am.”

Rev Report: It’s so important to find your people when you are new to a community. Even Louisville can be hard. 

Francisco: Yes, especially being in the queer community. People here are really friendly, but it is still very conservative in a lot of ways.

Jared: LVL1 is a space where you can be queer and be comfortable being around the thing that you care about.

Rev Reporter: You are able to be yourself. 

Francisco: Yes. The only rule is “Don’t be a dick.”

Rev Reporter: Were you working in a maker’s community before Louisville?

Francisco: I wish there were something like LVL1 in Arizona. We had friends who worked in the digital labs and wood shops, so we had access to play around. Nothing like LVL1. LVL1 Is really special in that it is interdisciplinary with people from many different backgrounds who have different goals and who are so willing to help.

 Jared: LVL1 is one of the oldest hackerspaces in the country along with I3 in Detroit, Hack Pittsburgh, and Pumping Station One in Chicago. It started in 2010. About half of the founding members are still around. The community is really rich because we’ve had time to cultivate that community.

Francisco: Other places will try to start places like this but for the wrong reasons, like for profit. Or it’s only open in the daytime when people are working. Here it’s really open. Someone comes, shows us they know what they are doing, sign a waiver and they get to work. 

Rev Reporter: How do you refer to yourself as a creative? As an artist or a maker?

Francisco: I just recently started calling myself an artist. Rob, another artist I work with, recently called me out and said, “You are a maker, but you are creating art and so you should label yourself as such.” Artist also covers maker, architect, thinker, leader, all of these things.

Jared: For me, getting my artifact into a gallery, I am showing it in the context of art, not in the context of making, and it’s being called art then I can self-label myself as an artist. Because I define it as a way others see me, it doesn’t really resonate in a meaningful way. I know that it’s exterior definition rather than one that comes from the inside.

Rev Reporter: Now that you are working within the context of art, does it affect your approach, process, or how you perceive the work?

Jared: I am just now realizing that when I was strictly a maker, I would make things almost exclusively with found objects. These were entirely free found objects made (for example) with scrap cable found in the back of the hacker space. This is all brand new. The relationship to capital is different. With the clouds, the batting has to be new. It has to be white for the light to hit them and interact in the right way. We couldn’t find a bunch of separate motors that match. 

Rev Reporter: So funding gives the opportunity for your imagination to open to possibilities that otherwise couldn’t be done.

Francisco: Absolutely. We didn’t have to spend our own money on this because the profits from our Forecastle jellyfish went to this. So, having the funds to be able to take these crazy ideas and make them into something.

Rev Reporter: Do you have any next plans?

Francisco: Jared and I and a few others from LVL1 are putting together applications for commissioned projects like for BLINK in Cincinnati.

Rev Reporter: Anything that you’d like to share in closing?

Jared: Every Tuesday, 8 pm, at LVL1 there is an open meeting that anyone can attend, and I give a tour right after the meeting.

Rev Reporter: Is it helpful for LVL1 to receive donations of recycled electronics?

Jared: We have a limited amount of space, but anything with working parts is great. Printers are great. Anything with moving parts, displays that still light up.

 Rev Reporter: Sweet, I’m cleaning out miscellaneous unused electronics, and I’ll bring what I think may have value to you.

Francisco: Perfect.