FAIRBANKS – Local artists Mary Matthews and Madara Hill are kicking off the new year with a two-fold exhibition that Well Street Art Company owner David Mollett said is sure to be a likable show for all ages.
While both women are different in terms of their style and mediums of choice, both seem to tell stories with their work in ways that invite viewers to follow along rather than simply stare at the pieces from a distance.
“We typically do two shows at once and I wanted two people who wouldn’t clash,” Mollett said of his choice. “Sometimes contrast is good but these two artists complement each other very well.” Mollett called the work of the two women both cheerful and upbeat, something that is undoubtedly a welcome energy to the dark days of January.
Hill will present a series of representational paintings. Mollett says she takes a whimsical approach to her work.
“She uses depictions of animals and other icons to tell a story with her paintings,” he said. “They’re very engaging.”
Just down the hall, Matthews has built an array of work with the intention of getting viewers to use their imagination and to tell stories with her various pieces. Matthews took common packaging materials, like oddly shaped Styrofoam, and created a variety of small pieces that are irresistible to any imaginative viewer.
“We often see those pieces of Styrofoam as insidious and pervasive, but I like to use them because no one else does. I just wanted to make really fun things that kept people thinking,” she said.
Matthews said she tried to craft the wasted materials in a way that would suggest more functional uses.
“I just hate to throw things away,” Matthews said. “I played around with these various pieces of Styrofoam and made a lot of wall hangings and furniture,” she said. “I wanted people to see the potential uses of what we consider junk, even the most unglamorous junk.” Fragments of used-up children’s toys and plastic doll houses are just some of the pieces Matthews has acquired over the past two years for her latest constructions.
“It’s called ‘Repackaged’ because I think it sums up the idea of how I see our old world incorporating new technology,” she said.
The curiously crafted dresses made of beehives now standing in McCafferty’s coffeehouse window belong to Matthews and are some of her best-known pieces. But her latest collection takes an even wilder, more playful, approach to random objects.
“My original concept was to create a reading nook that incorporated an imaginarium of sorts,” she said. “I wanted to try and get people back into reading and for them to understand why books are so valuable,” she said.
In one particular small box, Matthews has created a theater where viewers can manipulate the various characters inside to create a personalized story. Other pieces show panoramic scenes that contain figurines and small dogs to add more twists to a story.
“All of these box pieces were created so that the viewer would bring his or her imagination with them into the piece,” she said. “I wanted a setting that encouraged people to use their imagination and to read more. I’m interested as to what people are going to take away from this.”
Matthews said she concentrated on this exhibit for the past two years and that, while it was nice to see it in a finalized form, she doesn’t believe the pieces are ever going to be complete.
“There are always new thoughts arising with each piece,” she said. “To me, seeing these pieces on the wall is more like an outline of what I’m going to do later. I never actually get done with anything. Most of these are just eternal jumping off points.”
Mollett said her latest collection is something different for the her.
“She usually works on larger pieces but this time has gone with a wider variety of smaller-sized items,” he said. This particular show features a lot of brightly colored furniture and a small theater-like structure with butterflies as characters.
“Repackaging,” will be open through the month of January at the Well Street Art Company. An opening reception for both Matthews and Madara Hill will be held 5-8 p.m. tonight.
“These two artists aren’t just presenting another winter scene but their work is both creative and whimsical,” Mollet said.
IF YOU GO:
What: Mary Matthews
and Madara Hill exhibitions
When: 5-8 p.m. Tonight
Where: Well Street Art Company, 1304 Well Street, off Phillps Field Road