Matt Wedel: Poet of Clay

Artist Matt Wedel is HoMA’s next artist in residence, and he is currently in town doing a site scout. He will return to the museum in July for his residency, which will see him working in the Art School’s new glazing studio where the public will be able to visit him during open studio hours. You can get to know more about him and his art Saturday, March 11, at 7pm in Doris Duke Theatre.

Talking to Wedel, who created the striking—and poignant—gold sculpture Figure with Child in Gallery 2’s installation “Treasures of Devotion,” is like listening to an epic poem read aloud. He has a rhythm and word choice unlike anyone you have ever met. He is an artist-monk, a seeker looking for clues that will lead him to where he needs to go in his art and his life. He seems to exist in a heightened state, attuned to frequencies inside and outside his body the rest of us aren’t even aware of.

The son of noted Colorado-based potter Tim Wedel, Matt grew up with clay. “It meant there was a ritualness to being able to eat off the dishes every night and the idea that sometimes they would break. [My father] gave me the opportunity to understand material. He gave me the ability to touch it and to hold it, the space to learn about material outside of just making.”

But he went to art school thinking he would work in metal, welding and casting. “But pretty quickly I realized it was the one point that I could begin from, to grow from, because it was so part of the nonverbal language of my body and my reference to material,” he says. “It was such a solid foundation to begin from. I think that was one of the biggest reasons I came back to clay as a sculptor, because it was my beginning point.”

This is Matt’s first visit to Hawai‘i, and his first time in years seeing his 2015 sculpture Figure with Child. In a departure from the gallery’s paintings of madonnas with their children, the baby in Matt’s work lies at the adult figure’s feet, not swaddled and cozy, but in an angled pose that tells us all is clearly not well. The artist is moved, “I forgot how broken…” he murmers, and twists his body in an empathetic movement of memory.

He explains that his daughter was born prematurely, and that “it took me three years to accept that she was going to stick around. I remember when I was making this, I was still in this vulnerability of that space not seeming fixed.”

Returning to the present, Matt, who home schools his daughter and son on his farm in Athens, Ohio, with his wife, immediately brightens. “But now she’s radiant and powerful, and stronger than me and a better artist than me. I’ve devoted so much of my work and practice to both kids. Those emotions have shifted to be more like a caretaker. Before that, I was still waiting for something to take care of.”

Learn more about Matt and his practice—and his amazing family—when he takes the Doris Duke Theatre stage on Saturday, March 11, and speaks with HoMA Director and CEO Halona Norton Westbrook and Director of Learning and Engagement Aaron Padilla.

Entry to the talk is included with the purchase of museum admission. Book your spot here.