Meet your Maker: Matt Weir- The Paper
Passions In Stone: Massive sculpture at Bernheim will honor late newspaperman Barry Bingham Jr. - The Courier Journal
AstroTurf monkeys and evolutionary allegories — LEO Weekly
Artist Spotlight: Matt Weir (The Evolution of a Sculptor) — Louisville.com
Here There Be Tygers (sic) — The Highlander
Domains | Matt Weir, sculptor— The Courier Journal
St. Xavier High School — I Live in Louisville
A Ferocious Project — The Courier Journal
Profile - Matt Weir - Sculptor — LEO Weekly
Tiger Project for St. X is Artist's Dream — The Courier Journal
Not your Usual 9-5 — The Courier Journal
Meet Your Maker: Matt Weir
By Lane Hettich. November 2, 2012.
“I hold myself very responsible for what I do, what I put out. Your article’s name – “Meet Your Maker”- says it all. I essentially make things. I hold myself responsible for the materials it takes to produce something. I want what I make to be worth the time energy and materials it took to produce it. I consider myself a conservative artist for this reason. “
Matt Weir creates all his sculptures in a breezy, red brick warehouse tucked in a forgotten corner of Germantown. Formerly home to furniture, this edifice now houses Weir’s creative impulses. To see it yourself is to lay eyes on a wonderland of ingenuity. The warehouse interior falls somewhere between utilitarian simplicity and the “Antiques Roadshow.”
Small scale models of current projects, clay masks, a tiger bust, brain molds, and a smattering of tools arranged with chaotic organization line the shelves. The garage doors were lifted when I arrived, allowing the whole world a glimpse into the studio of this eclectic and humble artist. Weir seems more like the brainy, charismatic classmate we all had in high school, rather than an accomplished artist with pieces on display all over the Bluegrass.
A column of limestone that once stood as a pillar for Calvary Cemetery rests peacefully behind the warehouse, waiting to be summoned.
“Right now, it weighs four tons,” said Weir. “So I have to carve it and figure out what’s inside of it.”
Recycled, reclaimed, and new limestone all make their way into Weir’s studio by happy accident or commissioned necessity. He imparts his scientific perspective and pragmatic conservative nature in every piece, focusing on behavior and evolutionary cohesion.
Weir mentions E.O. Wilson, the new synthesis, and evolutionary biology during our interview – all subjects that haven’t stirred my gray matter since 10th grade. It’s clear he operates on a level more insightful than most prolific sculptors, constantly aware of the final product, the waste, and the limited resources available for his art form. He discerns good ideas from great ideas and spends years boiling down his plans for the identity of his next piece.
When asked about one of his most memorable pieces, Weir cites a bike rack on the northwest corner of 4th Street and West Market Street, commissioned by the Louisville Downtown Management District. His design is a spoof on the historical markers that seem to dot every third corner of the city. This marker has two plaques. One side reads “Presence” and depicts a graphic diagram of a 24-hour metaphoric clock of planet earth, with all of earth’s major events recorded as if they happened within a 24-hour period. The other side is titled “Pangaea: A Study of Change,” showing 12 paleogeographic maps of the breakup of the earth’s last supercontinent.
Weir operates with a sense of responsibility in his craft: a responsibility to the product and the environment, as well as a responsibility to bring value to the audience. He balances energy and materials with a conscientious frame of mind, constantly aware of his goal as the artist.
Where did your artistic skills come from?
I think it comes from wanting to conquer materials and manipulate things like stone and metal – the creation and manipulation of things.
What is your favorite or least favorite part of the creative process?
I really get bogged down by the idea. I am working on a project now and I have been thinking of it for over a year and a half. Process is easy; I can get automatic with it…I get overwhelmed as an artist because of the waste….And I am hypercritical. I have a thousand ideas in my head and only one will pan out. 99 percent perspiration and 1 percent inspiration – sometimes that’s what it takes.
If you were to give advice to budding artists, what would you say?
If one wants to get into art, the primary thing you must accept and recognize is sacrifice. You must sacrifice normalcy in your life. It’s a feast or famine timescale that you have to adapt to. It’s a very surreal living – therein comes time management. My commission-based work is my 9-to-5 and it pays for me to do my artwork…Everything that I am conceptually passionate about, what I have to say as an artist.
Little known fact about you?
I am a member of the [Cloud Appreciation Society]. Gavin Pretor-Pinney wrote this book – “The Cloudspotters Guide” – about six years ago. It’s as benign as it sounds, but cool to me in an evolutionary perspective. Clouds are identified by a genus and species, just like us. So you have this standardized measurement for clouds in terms of Linnaean taxonomy. It’s a way to package and ingest these elements so that we can essentially control nature.
But it’s clouds.
Exactly! They evolve and change all the time. You start with a cumulus humilis and watch it change to a cumulus congestus and so on…
Bio:Louisvillian. Sculptor. Student of natural art and human behavior.
Passions In Stone: Massive sculpture at Bernheim will honor late newspaperman Barry Bingham Jr.
Written by Elizabeth Kramer May 19, 2013 | courier-journal.com
In January, it was difficult to tell that the construction activity at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest in Clermont was an art project in progress. At that time, the site was being prepared for a long-planned, massive sculpture. Concrete footers were installed in a field across the road from Bernheim’s education center, where the center’s grounds give way to prairie land. But in early April, Bernheim and artist Matt Weir ramped up work. Nearly 100 tons of Indiana limestone were delivered by truck and set in place by cranes for the building of a sculpture called “Earth Measure” in honor of Barry Bingham Jr., former editor and publisher of The Courier-Journal and Louisville Times and Bernheim board member for more than 30 years.
Bingham, who died in 2006 at age 72, led the newspapers to win Pulitzer Prizes between 1971 and 1986 before they were sold by the Bingham family, and he later dedicated time to growing Bernheim, a 14,000- acre natural area, arboretum and research facility 26 miles south of Louisville. Over the summer, Weir’s sculpture — already more than three years in the making — will take shape. “It’s definitely been a long time coming,” Weir said. “And part of the problem was I had my own selfimposed demands.”
Weir, 33, got the offer to create this piece after a donor, who has requested anonymity, contacted Bernheim. The donor wanted to give the artist a chance to create a large-scale piece, and he wanted it to honor the life and passions of Bingham at this place that the late newspaperman and philanthropist loved. “I loved it. I loved the idea when it was first presented,” Bernheim executive director Mark Wourms said recently.
He said this project will recognize Bingham’s contribution to the arboretum and the region, and it has the potential “to use art as one of the means to connect people with nature, but as importantly to (help people) think about the world around us in different ways.” Weir remembered that the first time he talked with the donor, he offered few specifics. “It was a very loose conversation,” Weir said.
Many of the details, Weir said, the donor left to him. Martha Slaughter, Bernheim’s visual arts coordinator, who began managing the project after that conversation, said she got the idea that the donor wanted a real challenge for Weir. “I think that was all part of the master plan from day one,” she said.
At first, Weir thought of something simple, like something that included an image of Bingham or a tree. But he then did more research into the man’s life and interests. He interviewed Bingham’s daughter, Molly Bingham, and widow, Edie Bingham, during visits to the family’s estate to garner further insights. During one visit, he saw the small outdoor theater with a proscenium inscribed with words from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” — “to hold as ’twere, the mirror up to nature.” The words are part of the play’s “Speak the speech” monologue where Hamlet tells actors set to perform for his stepfather to portray their characters with an honesty that represents truth.
The line spurred Weir to think about how it also pertains to visual art and to the media, which were so much a part of Bingham’s life and passion. It also had him reflecting on one of Bingham’s personal passions and hobbies: photography.
That set him to research the science of photography and of broadcasting sound. That led him to study the workings of parabolic spheres and satellite dishes. He consulted some of the country’s leading sound engineers. Then he considered how a sculpture that included many of these elements could create a space and environment that would invite visitors to interact with it and with nature. He gave a presentation to Bernheim and the donor on his final designs last fall.
“This is such a colossal undertaking in every way,” he said, referring to developing the concepts for the piece, creating the blueprints for it and, now, getting ready to put chisel to stone and implement them. It will all take shape in a nearly 3,600-square-foot area at the edge of Bernheim’s Great Prairie. On one side of the sculpture sits a 121/2- foot-tall triangle of Indiana Limestone in the three sides of which Weir will carve circular indentations.
shape will give the indentations the ability to receive and focus sound waves to a particular area, much like a satellite dish, and reflect the landscape’s acoustic ecology. A person standing in front of it will act much as a receiver does on a dish. Stairways on each side of this large piece will allow visitors to move around it and stand in front of each “dish” and hear sounds — wind, birdsong, human conversations and more — emanating from yards away. Weir said he has created this to allow a sense of “intimate dialogues with nature.” The largest of those carved dishes, with its 11-foot diameter, will face a 14-foot-tall square frame with a circular window. It will resemble a large lens and will frame the landscape beyond. Just the limestone topping that frame weighs more than 7 tons.
After Weir has finished his carving, and before a November presentation ceremony Bernheim is planning, the areas around and between the two large forms will be filled in with prairie grasses. Edie Bingham, who was married to Barry Bingham Jr. for nearly 43 years, said she intends to be there and was “thrilled” when she first saw the plans for this “amazing proposal” last fall. “He loved Bernheim, and he loved the things that Bernheim did,” she said. “He had shepherded Bernheim from being sort of inaccessible to the public and wanted to increase programs to help people get closer to nature.”
While she called Weir’s work in Bingham’s honor “perfect,” she was at a loss for words when she learned there was an anonymous donor who wanted to make this happen. “I just couldn’t imagine who would have thought of doing this without telling me. I couldn’t think of a family member. I couldn’t think of anybody,” she said.
A challenge for artist Edie Bingham, Slaughter and Wourms said that they understood that the donor had taken an interest in Weir’s work and wanted to give him a chance to create a significant piece while honoring Bingham. Among those saying that recognition is highly deserved is Bob Hill, the retired Courier-Journal columnist who knew Bingham and now operates Hidden Hill Nursery and Sculpture Garden in Utica, Ind. He got to know Weir more than a decade ago when Weir was still an art student at the University of Louisville and Hill was trying to find artists to commission for work for his growing nursery.
“He was just barely 20 when I first met him, but he had a passion for art and the knack for sculpture,” Hill said. Hill commissioned Weir to create a piece for Hidden Hill. Near the place, Hill had found some big rocks in the ground called floaters after some construction. He offered them to Weir, who worked on them over one winter to make a four-piece sculpture he called “The Beautiful Terrible.” “Basically it’s a family unit with three members of the family all looking at an unformed child in the middle. It’s just a beautiful thing,” Hill said.
Not only has Hill been impressed by that work but also by Louisville artists Weir has learned from — Paul Fields, Paul Nelson, Raymond Graf, Craig Kaviar and artists and artisans of the Bright Foundry (founded by the late Louisville sculptor Barney Bright). The art of science
Weir has not only left an impression on Hill but also on locales around Louisville and beyond. His commissioned works include pieces created for the Louisville Downtown Management District, Jewish Hospital South Medical Center and St. Xavier High School (his alma mater), among others. One of his largest commissions was in 2010 for the “Chiseled” Public Art sculpture symposium in Vandalia, Ohio. That work is called “At Play in Geologic Time,” and Weir counts it among his largest pieces to date and one that also was inspired by science. Here ideas behind evolutionary science and geologic time moved Weir to create a piece of a large pixelated human brain on one panel and a theatrical stage on the opposite panel. “So much of my work and passion is science-based,” Weir said, adding that the Bernheim commission truly dovetailed into his concern about the environment and the idea of being a steward to the natural world.
That passion being realized at Bernheim is something Wourms welcomes. “This presents really bold connections between nature, art and science,” he said. “It’s also a major piece for a young local artist. And I think that this is going to become such an icon that it will really help Matt Weir’s advancement in the arts.”
Art: AstroTurf monkeys and evolutionary allegories
Matt Weir’s interpretations at Actors Theatre
By Chealsea Gifford. January 18, 2012
If you are the kind of person who hates reading subtitles, Matt Weir’s sculpture show “Anthropocene’ya…ass” at Actors Theatre of Louisville is not for you. But if you are the kind of person who revels in crossword puzzles and watches National Geographic specials with relish, then this show is going to make you sweat — for a couple of reasons.
First of all: It is hot and heavy in the conceptual arena — with subject matter spanning from evolutionary biology to psychology to speculation on the extinction of the human species. You have to work for it — in addition to the sculptures, there are eloquent and engaging artist statements explaining the derivation of titles, inspiration, scientific concepts explored in the work — it’s layered, it has footnotes, it’s the sculptural equivalent of a T.S. Eliot poem.
Secondly, you’ll sweat because you have to walk all over Actors Theatre to see it. Two pieces in the foyer outside the stage entrance, one in the stairwell that goes to the balcony, one more upstairs, with the bulk of the work in the Victor Jory lobby on the third floor. Both times I went (during intermissions for plays, with people packed in the building with time to kill), the Jory lobby was completely vacant. Not only does the physical distance between the pieces make it hard to understand his conceptual arch, but for the most part, Weir’s work is on display amidst a prolific amount of landscape paintings by Nana Lampton.
Lampton and Weir, accomplished artists in their own rights, make awkward visual bedfellows. Their work does not rhyme, and nothing is gained by viewing them together. The contrast is distracting, and after accounting for everything else on the walls — photos, show advertisements, signage — it feels a little bit like going to an art show at a T.G.I. Fridays, which must be a letdown for a sculptor who has invested so much time and so many resources in the careful execution of his work, only to be sold short in this particular way. I wouldn’t have even known half the show was there if I hadn’t asked around.
Regardless of circumstance, I’m glad Weir is showing his work. An accomplished craftsman and professional sculptor, he has had limited showings of his personal work since his BFA show at U of L in 2004, which featured “Reproduction Stress” and “Death Drive: Go With the Flow,” a sculpture so beautifully compelling that I had to remind myself not to touch it the whole time I was in the gallery. His “Zoon Politikon: The de Waal Group” featured in the Victory Jory lobby shares the tactile allure of that previous work. Silhouettes of bonobos and chimpanzees, our genetic cousins, participating in acts of violence, conflict resolution and sexual negotiation, are made out of sculpted synthetic grass. The bodies are finely crafted, and the faces are emotive, haunting and distinct. Running the gamut of possible primate behaviors, it is an illustration of the diversity from which we as a human species arise. This is certainly the strongest work in the show; too bad it is up where few people are likely to see it.
“X/Y” and “Spear bearer,” featured in the lobby gallery, are somewhat less accessible. “X/Y,” which is composed of a brain, a skull and a golden human face relief elevated on Lucite poles, comes off as a play on a natural history museum display, while “Spear bearer” is a farce on classical Greek sculpture. You would think all of the realism he employs would lend itself to easy understanding, yet I struggle to interpret it. With these pieces, I felt somewhat dependant on his explanations. Possibly in the context of his other works, it would have been more obvious.
Weir is an incredibly proficient technical sculptor. His figures are beautifully proportioned, and he executes every object skillfully with obvious respect for material. The way he draws the parallel between the analogous texture of primate body hair and AstroTurf shows a tremendous and playful eye for creative use of non-conventional materials. Weir succeeds most profoundly when he is driven by his materials and riffs on conceptual niches, but his brilliance is obscured when he relies on realistic, literal translations — exposition rather than interpretation. I want to see him get more Philip K. Dick on his subject matters, with more showing and less telling. I want more things to marvel at, more things to feel compelled by, more things I have to remind myself not to touch.
Anthropocene’ ya…ass’ by Matt Weir
‘Farmland, Seashore, River, and Mountains’ by Nana Lampton
Through Feb. 5
Actors Theatre Gallery
316 W. Main St.
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Artist Spotlight: Matt Weir (The Evolution of a Sculptor)
By Julie Gross. January 5, 2012
Matt Weir is a local artist whose work will challenge you to think about where you've come from and where we're headed as a species. A reception for his new exhibit at the gallery in Actor's Theatre will be held during the First Friday Trolley Hop (Jan. 6).
You may not know what Matt Weir looks like, but you’ve seen his work because it’s all over Louisville. At First and Main Street there is a limestone  bench that features three abstract figures who are transfixed in permanent observation of whoever chooses to take a rest. At Fourth and Market Street a sculpture that is cleverly disguised as a Kentucky Historical Marker makes the correlation between the decline of planet earth with the onset of human presence. At St. Xavier high school there is a half-ton bronze tiger that is frozen in an aggressive hiss in order to strike fear into all rival high school teams that step foot onto St. X’s campus. Matt Weir is one busy and talented sculptor.
I caught up with Matt in his studio, which is housed in an old furniture warehouse in Germantown. His studio is an expansive creative wonderland. Unfinished works hang eclectically on the walls, work in progress scatter shelves and tables, and there are brains everywhere. Not real brains, but brain sculptures. Matt is a thinking man so it’s profoundly appropriate that they are the décor of choice. We sit on old wooden slatted park benches and I’m offered a quilt that his mother gave him to reduce the chill in this drafty space. Crystal clear water, cheese and salami, and Blue Dog bread are available to nibble.
Julie Gross: How did you get started in sculpture?
Matt Weir: I first went to UK. I went into the counselor, had my dad next to me, and I said, “I’m a sculpture major” and my dad leaned forward and said, “he doesn’t know what he wants to do” and I thought “no I am a sculpture major write it down.” I was there for a year and didn’t like it and mostly came back to Louisville because there were sculptors in town that I was aware of that I wanted to work with. So, I came back enrolled at UofL and they didn’t even have a sculpture program. They had to hire a sculpture professor, but where I learned the most was apprenticeship. I started with Craig Kaviar, the blacksmith and next door he rented a studio to Paul Fields, the stone carver. I really wanted to work with Paul and so I introduced myself one day and told him I was a student at UofL and he asked what my major was and I said art and he said, “you’re an idiot.” I started working with Paul in the mornings then would finish the day with Craig and then on off days would go to the Bright Foundry.
JG: I’ve read that you consider yourself a figurative artist.
MW: Yes, that’s part of my narrative, being that my earliest works went through this evolution from being abstract to anthropomorphic to personified forms to almost literally human representation directly. (He places a bronze cast of his face onto the table). Proof positive.
JG: When did you become interested in studying evolutionary theories?
MW:I took a class at UofL called Evolution and Culture. In that class we read Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and we were synthesizing books, evolutionary traits and behaviors and identifying them in the world around us. That class shifted my whole focus and frame of reference about life, living and my responsibility as an artist.
After that class, stone went from aesthetically pleasing forms and sculptures and shapes to fossil beds. The information that I garnered from that class was like a born again point of enlightenment for me. Ever since then, I’ve been very passionate about studying, reading and learning about evolution. I’m very interested in evolutionary psychology and I’ve been reading a lot about primatology for the last five or six years and have been corresponding with primatologist Frans De Waal. He is giving me permission to use some of his images for some sculpture work that I’m developing for Actor’s Theatre.
I want to own up to my perceived and recognized responsibilities as an artist, to be the most responsible person I can be as a producer of ideas and objects and those ideas could be anything. I could be saying that I believe in God the Father, Jesus Christ, X, Y and Z and it’s my responsibility in recognizing these things and everybody else needs to believe what I believe. So, I get that everyone will have different beliefs.
JG: So are you saying that everybody needs to believe what you believe about evolution?
MW: I have a lot of ideas. I do believe that evolution is the way life happens and will happen all around us on this planet and this solar system.
JG: Evolution over adaptation?
MW: Yes, there’s more to evolution than adaptation. Adaptation is a part of it as is competition. Me and my ideas compete with others and their ideas. My doppelganger could be you sitting across from me having the same emotion and servitudes but saying, “this is the way.” We can only get so far because we’re so confident, so we’ll have to agree to disagree.
JG: Imagine what your work would look like if you had taken a class on Martin Luther.
MW:(laughs) It’s not that I would have been a slave to any subject matter in that class. For a long time I was finding a lot of disbelief or had a hard time digesting religion and how it was told to me as what to believe. Ever since I was really young, I’ve always been quite thoughtful about these things and specifically religion. I’d think I don’t really believe that so much. So, I was very intentional about setting out on a long-term path to discover where religion came from, how we came about as humans, and to learn about other religions and other worlds. That really took me to a place where I was ready to digest evolution and at that point it resolved everything so beautifully, so crystal clear, where everything fell right into place.
JG: Why aren’t you a scientist?
MW: That’s really crossed my mind. I have yet to fulfill that statement in a way. It’s an ongoing conversation that I pose to myself.
Essentially, it’s a matter of responsibility, to nature in a way, first as an artist making something, but beyond that, more environmentally speaking, as a producer of something, feeling that it is incredibly important for people who produce things, especially artists, because there is so much attention given to them so they’re most responsible. It’s an incredible opportunity, but it’s also important that you don’t waste that effort and those materials and everyone’s time with creating waste. That’s really what it comes down to, its the balance of is this worth its creation. Lots of things I’ve made probably most aren’t.
JG: You show it anyway?
MW: I’m referencing the past, most of the things on my website. It’s not a good or a bad thing. Its just part of my ongoing evolution as an artist. I’m just a person learning, growing and gaining so much perspective that I can have a better understanding of what I can look back on.
JG: Is your art completely about the message?
MW: I kind of divide my art up between the work itself and the principles behind it. There’s philosophy and art making. My work is more philosophy based and driven. The art making part is more craft.
JG: Those lines seem blurred.
MW: They are blurred and sometimes they come together in a really great way and that’s what I’m striving towards, but sometimes they don’t. For instance, take the St. X tiger statue. That was not something I would have made on my own. It would have been a great exercise as an artist, life studies, etc. and I very much appreciate skill, craft, talent and development of ones capabilities, which is a more classical sense of art and what a classical artist is.
I created the tiger project for myself. I went to them (St. Xavier High School) and said, “you need a big bronze tiger and you need to hire me to do it.” So, that was a step beyond the art making/craft/philosophy context. Because the idea of it worked, I was able to continue working and surviving as an artist. That was a good job for me and I wanted to do a good job of it. It was a serious project as well. It took an entire year to complete and some of my darkest days were in the middle of that project. There was a lot of sleepwalking, waking up with night terrors. I’d wake up from a dream that my mold failed or the whole thing fell apart. I wanted it so right and it was such a huge job. I had never done anything realistic before that. It was a great challenge. A lot of people’s best work comes from great challenges.
JG: Do you have a favorite work besides the St. X tiger statue?
MW: The bike rack I made for the city on the corner of 4th and Market. I’m proud of that piece. It’s called Presence. People walk by it every single day and see it and probably don’t think it’s an artwork or that I made it. I modeled it after the state historical roadside markers, which feature facts about what happened there in history. So, I took that palette and uploaded it with my information, which is not my own, but information that I wanted people to learn about. On one side it says “Presence” and a twenty-four hour metaphoric clock for planet earth is represented. 4.6 billion years are condensed into twenty-four hours using clock hands. All the earth’s major events are recorded as if they happened within a twenty-four hour period; the development of complex organisms, plants, mammals, humans. The other side of the marker is “Pangaea: A Study of Change” and it shows twelve paleogeographic maps of the break-up of the earth’s last supercontinent. I hope to open discussion about our human context in time and how humankind has affected the world around it through exponential growth and resource exploitation causing an unsustainable rate of exchange with the planet. The result of this sustained behavior and human overpopulation is the effect of permanent loss or extinction of species throughout the planet.
It is a passive sign standing there on the city streets, but what I’m trying to suggest is exactly what this type of sign represents, “you are here.” This is my educational platform and I do believe that this is a call to change and get people thinking for themselves about these very big competitive ideas of religion and science, which are unfortunately at odds for a lot of people. My call to action for people is to be responsible with your time and energy and educate yourself and the people around you and learn about our impact on the planet.
JG: You’ve used stone, wood, and bronze. What’s your favorite material to work with?
MW: I’ve gotten away from stone because it’s harder for me to make work with it, but I still do like carving stone the most. The process of it is very enjoyable and meditative.
JG: What do you do for leisure?
MW: I am really into clouds. There’s this author that I really like and his name is Gavin Pretor-Pinney and he founded the International Cloud Appreciation Society of which I am a member. (Grin) It’s such light reading and I was just fascinated by this information.
JG: And I thought you’d say something like watch Desperate Housewives.
MW: (Chuckle) I don’t own a TV. It’s kind of a hard question, I mean I don’t know what I do for leisure because I feel like I do this (artwork/concepts/ideas) all the time and if I’m not doing it I’m thinking about it. I feel that I’m lucky enough to have stumbled into something that I’m passionate about; that is the substance of my life.
Matt Weir’s exhibit Anthropocene’ya . . . ass which features two award-winning sculptures in addition to three new works will be on view at the Gallery at Actors Theatre from Dec. 20th – Jan. 22nd. A special reception is planned for the First Friday Trolley Hop on Jan. 6th at 5:30 p.m.
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THE HIGHLANDER - FEATURES
Here There Be Tygers (sic)
By EVE BOHAKEL LEE. FEBRUARY 27, 2010
Artist Matthew Weir has a deep sense of nostalgia with an eye toward the far future. He has seen a lot in his thirty years – more or less the same things the rest of us have, of course, but the changing landscape seems to have affected him more than most. The woods behind his childhood home near the Bellarmine campus have been swallowed up by development and, along with them, the clay and wood constructions he created in the mud there as a boy. “I enjoy the abstract form,” he says, “but as far as how I feel about the state of the world and the generations to follow us, I don’t feel there’s much room for abstraction anymore.”
At work, Weir is a traditionalist. Using a hammer and chisel, he works frequently with Indiana limestone. He’s also setting up a blacksmithing forge in his Germantown studio – despite having accidentally set himself on fire from time to time working with hot metal. His other mediums have included wood, fiberglass resin, plaster, rubber, even wax. The multi-dimensional artist says, “I grew up drawing and painting as well, and I guess I don’t find the time to do it much anymore.”
Weir’s alma mater, St. Xavier High School, is home to his bronze rendering of its mascot, a tiger. The 11-foot-long, 1,000-pound cat represents a departure from his earlier abstract work. To accurately capture such a figure with meaning to so many, Weir – who, in 2004 received his B.F.A. in Sculpture from the University of Louisville – studied countless photos of tigers, visited the zoo and even watched YouTube videos of tiger attacks. He sketched tigers, made miniature models, then, after having a full size Styrofoam model of the tiger made, cast the statue himself using a complex traditional method known as the “lost wax” process, adding details along the way.
Weir always carries a sketchbook, in which he regularly draws and composes ideas. “My inspiration now is the play in a natural landscape and how that landscape isn’t there anymore,” he says. “In my own little personal way, it can be easily compared to the rest of the world. The play landscape we evolved with as human beings is completely missing from the planet now. It’s very exciting in a futuristic, car-crash sort of way.”
It’s not all bad, however: “The term ‘sculpture’ used to refer only to stone carving, before bronze casting and things like that,” Weir says. “All of the lines of art are blurred now, and they really blur to the ends of the lines of culture and media. And it’ll all blend together and it’ll be hard to determine one thing from another, and that’s okay too. It’s the trajectory of things.”
Weir’s sculptures are all over Louisville, on permanent display in such places as Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church, Bernheim Forest and Jewish Hospital South. Recently, Weir was awarded the Norman Kohlhepp Merit Award for his creation, “Spear Bearer,” on display through March 7 at the Louisville Visual Art Association’s 2010 Water Tower Regional Exhibition.
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Domains | Matt Weir, sculptor
By Jeffrey Lee Puckett. October 23, 2011
When Matt Weir graduated from the University of Louisville more than five years ago with a degree in fine arts, he needed a place to practice his craft. A sculptor, he often worked with large blocks of stone and an array of tools, so a second-floor apartment wasn?t going to work. Fellow sculptor Mike Ratterman kindly invited Weir to share a two-car garage at 953 Clay St., but it quickly got uncomfortably crowded. “Two sculptors working in a space that size is not the most practical thing,” Weir said. “I was amassing all of my junk on top of what he already had.”
Around four years ago, Weir reached his limit and started looking around his Germantown neighborhood. While riding his bike one day, he noticed a for-lease sign attached to an old warehouse on East Oak Street at Reutlinger Avenue. Intrigued, he called owners Roanne Victor and Grant Helman, longtime supporters of the arts in Kentucky.
When he pulled open the ancient wooden door, he was flabbergasted. The ceilings are 35 feet high and the floor is 40 by 45 feet. The brick walls are scarred from a fire, the cement floors could take a beating, and there?s more than enough room. Weir had a new home. “I hauled over three pickup trucks and two trailers worth of material from Mike?s garage, and it suddenly looked like I had nothing,” Weir recalled. “It was piled in one corner of this huge space.”
Weir is now in the space constantly, except when temperatures dip below freezing or above the high 90s, but when he first moved in, there was a brief time when he couldn?t go in. “I was kind of scared of the place, I think,” he said, smiling. “The place was so great that I didn?t want to jinx it.” Weir works in a variety of mediums — stone, wood, wax, metals — and each one now has its own section of the space.
Remnants of past work hang from walls and support beams like big-game trophies, most notably a cast of an enormous tiger?s head. It?s from the massive, 11-foot-long bronze statue of a tiger that Weir sculpted for St. Xavier High School, so far his most prominent gig.
There are a couple of time-killers, too. A huge wood target hangs on one wall, with deep gouges from knives and ax heads, and a 30-foot swing hangs from the ceiling. Weir is also lucky enough to have a bathroom and plenty of outlets, both of which were provided by Victor and Helman, who have spent decades helping Louisville artists. Although Weir pays rent, he said, “I consider this space an act of patronage, and I consider Grant and Roanne patrons because they?re so generous to let me rent this space. It?s definitely a gem. Everybody’s jealous of it, which is always kind of great.”
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St. Xavier High School
By Leslie Lyons
Matt Weir reflects on the Lost Wax Process he used to create the life-size bronze Tiger that has become the official St. X mascot welcoming spectators and, in particular, opponents to the home field.
It is a case of the means justifying the end, instead of the other way around, as the process itself is as fascinating and formidable as the intimidating, artful finished sculpture itself.
“Tigers as dominant, fearsome carnivores are interesting as symbols,” says Matt, “but they are also associated with soul transfer.” And the journey begins. Even more so than being a graduate of St. X, it was this mythological concept of the Tiger that drove Matt to pitch the project and then obsessively research and focus the vision to its realized state.
Enter the Lost Wax Process. It is a 13-step process — if you don’t make any changes or adjustments along the way — involving clay models, three-dimensional computer interpretations, high-density Styrofoam blocks, ceramic molds, and molten bronze poured into a “sprue” system that creates a hollow yet highly detailed positive. In this case, a 13-foot-long 1,000 lb Tiger.
To date, this is Matt’s largest piece, and it will be officially unveiled this week where it now stands at the entrance to St. X’s playing fields. “I can’t even explain how daunting this was,” Matt says, while at the same time everyone passing by the Tiger and its creator shares nothing but awe and praise for both.
Maybe Matt is just shy, or maybe he is suffering from some kind of post-partum experience after living with his creation for almost exactly one year, but he seems uncertain. As an artist, he will most likely use that state of being to soul transfer to his next subject, while St. X students and fans alike enjoy a psychological edge to their team spirit.
Go and see the Tiger yourself and you’ll know what that means.
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A Ferocious Project
By Diane Heilenman. The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY.
October 09, 2008
Sculptor Matt Weir has been living with a tiger for more than a year.
In the early months, it sent Weir into fits of sleep-walking. In the later months, he fretted so much over it that he lost weight.
But now, Weir has said good-bye to his daily companion. Last Tuesday, Weir -- with the aid of a crane -- dropped off the 1,000-pound bronze Bengal at his alma mater, St. Xavier High School, on Poplar Level Road.
The tiger crouches in a pivoting pose on eroded limestone, raised another 6 feet from the ground by a tall, black base. The tiger, simultaneously aggressive and defiant, appears ready to swat and bite the next thing that moves. He is part of extensive athletic improvements at the 54-acre campus. But this tiger is more than a school mascot, said Weir, 28.
A student of nature, behavior and evolution as well as art, Weir said the tiger also represents the status of the world's largest predator as being in danger of extinction. That metaphor fits Weir's body of work, but for those who are familiar with the primarily smooth, abstract designs that deal with the evolution of human behavior, his production of an impressively realistic tiger may be a surprise.
It has even surprised its maker.
"It was a learning curve; straight up," confessed Weir, showing off the untitled tiger at his studio off Oak Street. "It wasn't the process I was afraid of," he said.
Weir has worked at Louisville's Bright Foundry for nearly eight years and has made bronze castings of many other artists' works. The sculptor has a degree from the University of Louisville and has worked as an apprentice to the late Paul Field, a noted stone sculptor in Louisville, and as a helper to Louisville blacksmith Craig Kaviar.
"It was the abstract thought of making this tiger" that began to haunt him, he said, although "even in the beginning I was sure I could do it ... I just wanted to show myself I could."
At first, Weir said he figured he could keep working at the foundry two or three days a week and meet the deadline of completing the tiger in one year (September 2008).
Then, Weir said, he realized he was having trouble seeing what the tiger was really going to look like: "I realized I had to take more time off for research."
His goal was to create a tiger that was more than "just walking down the sidewalk."
"I felt I had an opportunity to make the world's best cat, to make this a very dynamic, active and, in a sense, voracious cat."
He visited the tigers at the Louisville Zoo. He inspected toy tigers, such as He-Man's green Battle Cat. He pondered the simplification of Egyptian sphinxes, the animal artists of the French salon. He watched gladiator films and Disney films. Weir went online and printed out images of tigers in the wild, fighting each other, mating, hunting.
He discovered the first images of running tigers made with multiple cameras by 19th century photo genius Eadweard J. Muybridge and the recent allegories of Walton Ford, whose "Tigers of Wrath" at the Brooklyn Museum in 2007 spoke to the way humans have feared and manipulated one of the world's most awesome predators.
He made templates and transparencies from anatomy books. Weir took his calipers and established a ratio of body parts to each other for the aggressive pose he wanted for this animal with remarkably long, slender, back legs and a remarkably massive chest, head and front legs.
By the time he had finished a one-third size clay model, he had solved 90 percent of the challenges, Weir said.
Now, he only had to live through a series of small disasters.
He sent the tiger to Daniels Engraving in San Fernando, Calif., which enlarges objects with a 3-D digital scanner and creates a file that is used by a technician with a milling machine to cut foam into the larger duplicate. The only problem was, the technician was mugged and hospitalized, delaying the process by six weeks.
When the tiger arrived back in Louisville, Weir had more hand-carving to do. "I snarled the cheek higher on one side ... I stretched, pulled and strained the muscles in as fantastic, but as believable, manner as possible."
He solved the issue of stripes. Sculptor Michael Keropian opted to remove the stripes on his simplified heroic tigers at the new Comerica Park for the Detroit Tigers in 2000. Mass producers of tiger statues opt to paint on the stripes. Weir came up with an engraver's solution, creating textural stripes by incising parallel lines in the clay with a piece of threaded metal pipe.
All went well during the laborious and messy process of making molds for casting. However, one of the ceramic casts broke during the pouring of bronze heated to 2,000 degrees and had to be redone. The two sides of the tiger torso, each a 400-pound casting, are the largest single castings yet done at Bright Foundry, Weir said.
By August, the St. X tiger had become a rush job.
Weir and helpers went to work cleaning up the 16 separate bronze castings, removing sand-like bits of casting grit -- "boogers," in foundry lingo -- from the tiger's teeth, gums, belly hair and from every single incised line in every single stripe on his body.
There was a little bit of metal contortion to hammer out or pull out with hydraulic clamps. There was the limestone base to carve and the need to make a precise jig of the tiger's footprints so he would fit on the base.
By mid-September, the hollow tiger was ready for the final touches. "We were very close to finished," Weir said.
He and a helper went in on a Sunday. "We turned on the lights. We went outside to enjoy the wind. We walked back in and the lights were out."
Power remained off for seven days. The tiger and base were finished literally on the last day of September, Weir said.
"It's done and I'm proud of it," he said. "I had a lot of help from a lot of people." Some were friends and students but, also, he said, "It's the first time I've ever employed my fellow employees at the foundry. The funny thing was, I was making less than I was paying them."
St. Xavier President Perry Sangalli said the commission was funded by donors John and Marlene Bohn, but declined to release the amount. The tiger sculpture will sit on a large base that will serve as a place to recognize all donors to the school's expansion and master plan. The tiger is located at a new plaza entrance to three new athletic fields opened last year, Sangalli said.
An Oct. 31 dedication ceremony for Weir's sculpture will occur during a home football game that evening with Central High School.
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Profile - Matt Weir - Sculptor
By Aaron Frank. Leo (Louisville Eccentric Observer) weekly
August 26, 2008
I’ve been an artist ever since I can remember,” says sculptor Matt Weir at his Germantown studio, the expansive back room of a dated warehouse. The 29-year-old Louisville native graduated from St. Xavier High School in 1999 and moved on to pursue a bachelor’s in fine arts at University of Louisville. With a drought in interest in sculpture at the university, Weir became only the second graduate with a focus in sculpting. “The department was more or less defunct at the time, but aside from that, most of my education and experience came from classical apprenticeships,” he says.
Weir has worked under the pioneers of the Louisville sculpting scene, including Paul Fields, Barney Bright and Raymond Graf. “There’s not an incredibly large group of us, but the ones who are here form a family tree, and mostly it stems from Barney Bright,” Weir says. Working closely with Fields, Weir learned the basics and a little more — dabbling in woodcarving, stone carving, welding and making molds.
His first major exhibit was his senior thesis, “Reproduction, Stress and the Death Drive: Go With the Flow,” which was displayed at the J.B. Speed Art Museum. The piece involved various concepts of the evolution of the human mind and body, themes that are strong in much of Weir’s work. “My passion is evolution and, specifically, evolutionary psychology,” he says. “Why we think the things we think. Why we behave the way that we behave, and just synthesizing our homosapien, human behaviors with the rest of the species and even materials, like wood and stone. Objects feel stress. You learn that and experience that in the process of working with materials and stretching them to their limits.”
The bulk of his personal projects are striking and abstract. In his studio are two sculptures of the brain, finely carved in Southern Indiana limestone. Weir’s commercial projects run the gamut from benches and backyard lawn figures to his latest and most significant project, a mammoth 11-foot-long, 6-foot-high sculpture of a tiger for his alma mater, St. X.
The school offered him the freedom to portray the animal with a realistic, contemporary theme. “The tiger looks aggressive and kind of defensive, which is actually pretty true to life when you consider that the tiger is on its way to being extinct,” he says.
After he wrangles the beast, it’s back to work on another personal project — “Check Out My New Spear,” a conceptual piece that involves sculptures of Weir and two other individuals. It is meant to portray the competition of evolutionary psychology.
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Tiger Project for St. X is Artist's Dream
By Bob Hill. The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY.
July 15, 2008
Matthew Weir is casually perched on a chair in his warehouse studio, something approaching a thoughtful smile on his lean face.
His eyes are fixed on his latest work, a creature with a different demeanor -- an angry, snarling, tiger that will live forever in bronze near the entrance to the St. Xavier High School football field.
The tiger is immense -- 11 feet long and almost 5 feet tall. It is poised to spring from an 8,000-pound block of limestone that Weir will carve and shape into a natural setting to be placed 6 feet above the ground.
The tiger's muscles bunch at the shoulder as it pulls back a front paw to strike. Its head is slightly cocked, its open mouth showing 3-inch-spikes of teeth.
Weir, 28, created this from imagination and talent and work. He's been shaping the Styrofoam and clay model for 10 hours a day in the process of creating a 900-pound tiger in bronze.
His studio is vintage-red warehouse brick without heat or air conditioning. Conversation bounces off its thick walls. Its industrial doors are wide open on a July afternoon. Sunlight eases inside through big, blocky windows.
Weir has sold almost everything he has created -- but he is not interested in numbers. He is as lean as a butter knife and mixes intensity, salesmanship, art history and intelligence with a Louisville-born affability.
He is still staring at his tiger, searching for the words to explain how stone and oil-based clay will become bronzed, crouching fury.
"It's kind of a sculptor's dream," he says, "to create the biggest, greatest, most powerful walking carnivore in the world.
"You see all those classical lions and tigers from Greco-Roman history and art in all the museums. So I really wanted to do this very classical cat but with this very contemporary attitude about it, with almost an element of stress involved. ... Tigers are in danger of going extinct all over the world."
Weir's oldest memories are of creating art, first in drawings as a child, then in adding a third dimension with some unlikely help.
"I'd go out and bring things home from junk pickup day," he says, "nail it together in my garage."
He graduated from St. X, went to the University of Kentucky for a year to study sculpture, then returned to Louisville for some hands-on experience with some of the best artists Louisville had to offer: Barney Bright, Paul Fields, Craig Kaviar, Ed Hamilton and Raymond Graf -- the last a friend who has been a mentor on the tiger work.
Weir ended up with a fine arts degree from the University of Louisville. He works at the Bright Foundry, but never affiliated with any gallery: "It kind of had to be up to me to survive."
The tiger idea came in a starving artist phase about 19 months ago; he sent e-mail proposals to the Lakeside Swim Club for a bronze aquatic sculpture and to St. X. President Perry Sangalli, proposing the tiger.
Sangalli was interested, Weir spent months researching tigers, reading books, watching documentaries. He made a small model to be used as a St. X sales pitch. After seven months, Sangalli told Weir he had the job. Weir immediately changed the tiger: "It wasn't good enough."
The clay-to-bronze process will take a few more months. The final work will be so real the tiger's stripes will show. It should be ready by, say, the St. X-Trinity football game.
Just what that game needs -- some added motivation.
Not your Usual 9-5
Being one’s own boss is 24/7/365 proposition
By Michael L. Jones. The Courier Journal, Louisville, KY.
March 06, 2007
As an artist, sculptor Matt Weir is fixated on the concept of time. His work is ripe with allusions to ancient civilizations, evolution and modern man’s role in the world continuum. This is especially evident in “The Tree of Life as Described by Narcissus or the Wind,” a sculpture he created for the Jewish Hospital Medical Center South.
In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a youth who was so mesmerized by his own beauty that he couldn’t stop staring at his reflection in a stream. In “The Tree of Life,” Weir uses this as an analogy for mankind’s tendency to place itself at the center of the universe. He does this by juxtaposing two objects: a tree and an egg. The tree, made of bronze, has metal roots that dig through a thin limestone shelf to connect it to the egg, which is carved from the wood of a maple tree.
Bronze. Wood. Limestone. Weir said he picked these materials partly for the symbolic power. “Indiana limestone is like a historical record in itself,” he explained. “It’s all fossils and bits of stone. It’s special because you can see the time and accumulation in it. … Wood expresses the tree and the forest: an organism, a system, life. Bronze and steel are entwined with human history – a narrative of obstacles and advancement. Together, the materials in my work are the same as the materials of the story of life.”
Weir, 27, graduated from the University of Louisville’s Hite Art Institute with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in sculpture in 2004. He spends three days a week working at the Bright Foundry, 1621 E. Washington St., which was founded by noted sculptor Barney Bright. “I do a little bit of everything at the foundry, as does everyone else there. I melt metal, weld, and do metal finishing. It’s very much a team effort.”
When he’s not at the Bright Foundry, Weir works on commissions and proposals in his own studio, which is located in a former furniture warehouse in Germantown. Depending on the material he’s working with, Weir gets about $500 and up for each commission. “Bronze is expensive because of the process,” Weir said, “You have to make a mold and go to the foundry. Stone is less expensive, but it takes a lot of work to get something out of stone.”
Weir added, “This is a 24-hour thing, seven days a week, being your own boss. When I’m not working in the studio, I’m on the computer making contacts, trying to pay bills. That starving artist thing is no joke.”
Recently, Weir has been supplementing his income by creating more functional objects to complement his abstract works. He’s done several custom-made sinks and the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft is selling several bowls that he made. “The functional stuff is something that I shied away from doing at first, but it’s a more lucrative avenue for my sculpture work,” Weir said. “I’ve come to see it as an extension of the other stuff. It’s something that is really creative and it can be enjoyed outside the art.”
Weir never consciously decided to be an artist; his temperament just pushed into that direction. “I’ve always been drawing and painting as long as I can remember,” he said. “Eventually, I started thing in more three-dimensional terms. I started working off the edge of the page. Then I started bringing stuff home that people had set out for junk pick up.”
After graduating from St. Xavier High School in 1999, Weir headed to the University of Kentucky to study sculpture. “I didn’t like the atmosphere there, he admitted. “They were mostly doing metal fabrication, welding large sheets of metal into different forms. There is nothing wrong with that, but that’s not where I wanted to go with my art. I came back to Louisville and started attending the University of Louisville. For a while, I think I was the only sculptor major in the whole school. The department was in limbo at the time because a professor had left. A painting professor was teaching the sculptor classes.”
Luckily, Weir found two mentors who helped him hone his skills – the late sculptor Paul Fields and Craig Kaviar of Kaviar Forge. Fields was an important figure on the Louisville sculptor scene. His work includes “Molly,” a life-size limestone rhinoceros at the Louisville Zoo; the two dancers that adorn The Louisville Ballet; and several pieces at the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, where Fields spent five years as an artist in-residence.
“The sculpture scene in Louisville is sort of a family because things are passed down,” Weir said. “(Sculptor) Raymond Graf studied under Barney Bright. Mike Ratterman worked with Fields. I did sort of an apprenticeship under Fields and Kaviar. I would work for Fields from 8 a.m. to noon, eat lunch and then go next door and work at Kaviar Forge. That’s where I honed many of my skills.”
One of the projects Weir worked on with Fields was a limestone flower blossom, “Untitled,” which sits in Bernheim Forest. Fields dedicated the work to his mother and Weir said it was an honor to work assist him. “We got this big piece of stone and we were knocking off like 300 pounds of stone,” Weir remembered. “I really got to cut my teeth with him.”
Weir’s own artwork has appeared in numerous places, including The Evansville Museum of Art, History, and Science; the Louisville Visual Art Association’s Water Tower; The New Center of Contemporary Art; Actor’s Theater and Hidden Hill Sculpture Garden and Arboretum.
The sculptor said he finally can communicate the things he wants to say in his art. “I’m really into evolution and psychology; that what I read a lot,” Weir said. “I’ve always had these theories on life and it’s getting to the point where I can express them with these different materials.”