Mattie O.


I was born to an engineer father and an artist mother and have merged both of these influences into my life and my artwork. My mother, incensed that the first grade teacher criticized me for crayoning a green bunny, got herself hired as the grammar school art teacher. She illustrated fantastic stories on the spot to the class, and encouraged all manner of colorful animals from us. My classmates loved their eccentric art teacher and I was delighted and proud of my artistic mother. I wanted to be just like her when I grew up – until, my mother succumbed to illness. I immediately refused crayons and paints, turning instead, to my father’s world of physics, calculus and law. Except for small fissures, I managed to avoid almost anything creative for many years. I readily admit that for an artist, I have a checkered past. I was an engineer working on off-shore oil rigs and later, designing astronaut jet packs, then a bar owner in Vail, Colorado, a ski bum, a hermit in a one-room log cabin, an environmental attorney, a full-time single mom, and I cleaned guns for the Israeli army.
Today, I tour patrons of the arts at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, and ski, bicycle, hike and travel worldwide with my sweetheart, daughter and friends. But, mostly . . . I create. My artist’s statement will not make your eyes glaze over, be incomprehensible or deeply significant. I will tell you what inspires me and what is real for me. I am inspired by our natural world – botanical, figurative, animals, bugs and birds. Years ago, I took classes at the internationally renowned botanical illustration program at the Denver Botanic Gardens. One of the classes required no drawing or painting, but rather focused on dissecting flowers with tweezers and scalpels, while under magnification. In an instantaneous flash, I felt like I had met our creator in an overwhelming appreciation of the detailed intelligence and beauty I found within the minutiae of my flower. In my attorney days, we would say, “the devil is in the details,” when reducing oral negotiations to writing. But, on that day, I discovered that wonder and beauty are in the details. So, unlike most present-day artists who eschew detail, I relish in it. Detail creates the paradox of seeing more, yet inducing the experiences of mystery and wonderment. To see my artwork, you have to pause . . . to see the details; it won’t shout at you from across the room with sheer size and loud colors. My hope is that my work will enchant you, delight you, and uplift you.
The mediums that I work in are my own inadvertent inventions – likely, nothing you have ever seen before. Because of my experimental approach, my work is constantly evolving. In recent years I have moved into the 3D realm, leaving behind 2D paintings and collages. But, I take those former techniques into my new work. Collage using tissue paper and acrylic medium has morphed into sculptural papier mache’, on which I often draw, paint and collage. Making flat paper has evolved into strong paper sculptures. The statics and dynamics classes from engineering school are applied in my kinetic sculptures and mobiles. I approach creation with the play of an adventure. I rarely know what to expect when I start; I experiment and play until, hopefully, something beautiful, or whimsical or enigmatic emerges.
My artistic influences and inspirations are diverse. I blur the edges between fine art and decorative art, and lately seem to have edged to the side of decorative art. Over the years I have studied under a number of talented artists and reputable venues. They include artists such as Gwen Fox (abstract and collage), Bob Burridge (acrylic), Tom Lynch (water color), Helen Hiebert (paper making), and schools such as the Denver Art Students League (drawing and pastel), Denver Botanic Gardens (botanical illustration) and Carriage House in Brooklyn (sculptural paper). I have learned from numerous books (e.g., Nancy Reynor) and videos (e.g., Quang Ho). For several years I’ve been taking classes from Jan Cashman in Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging), which deeply influences my work. Artists that inspire my work include Robert Kushner, Georgia O’Keeffe, Alexander Calder, Ruth Asawa and David Oliveira.

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