We had the good fortune of connecting with Matt Magee and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Matt, why did you pursue a creative career?
When I was a boy I was always working with my hands. I could sit quietly making origami or drawing with crayons and in about 1970 when I was nine my mother enrolled me in Saturday morning ceramics classes at the Camden Arts Center in London, where we were living at the time. We moved to Texas in the 1970’s and in highschool I found a safe haven in my art classes and also found approval for what I was making. In college I was going to focus on geology but again found myself in the art department most of the time taking art history and studio art classes. My dorm room was like an underwater seascape and full of objects and sculptures made from spray painted plastic bags hanging from the ceiling. At about 21-22 I realized that what really made me happy was making things. I didn’t decide to become an artist, it was just a natural evolution.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
In 1984 I was accepted to the MFA program at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. I had a liberal arts degree in art history from college and moving to Brooklyn to attend Pratt gave me the opportunity for the first time to really focus on my art making. For 2 years I worked steadily in the studio at Pratt and in 1986 had the exhibition required of all MFA graduates. Some of the sculptures from the show went directly to the windows of Bergdorf Goodman, the department store at 57th Street and 5th Avenue in Manhattan. After graduating from Pratt I worked full time in the gallery and museum world of New York. My studio work only happened evenings and weekends. I worked constantly though in the studio, bound and determined and soon enough started having shows and being invited to participate in shows. Living in New York and working in galleries and museums provided connections which then fed into my studio activities. In 1994 I interviewed for a job with Robert Rauschenberg in his New York studio and was given the job. For the next 18 years I worked in his building, a converted 19th century orphanage, in lower Manhattan. The job took me to Europe many times as an exhibition courier and also provided deep and rich connections to the highest levels of the art world. I continued working working working in my own studio, following Rauschenberg’s life and work as an example. The exhibitions kept coming, the important collectors started buying my work and important galleries sought me out. In 2012 the job ended at Rauschenberg studio. He had passed away in 2008 and because there was no new work being made. my work as archivist, curatorial assistant, and preparator became redundant. My partner and I decided to move to Phoenix, where I’ve had family since the 1980’s. I’ve been able to be in my studio full time now for the past 8 years working steadily 7 days a week creating paintings, prints, photographs and sculptures for my 8 galleries.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would take them first on a road trip up to Arcosanti, an hour north of Phoenix and then on to Jerome and have lunch in Sedona. I love the desert landscape and geology of Arizona and would want to share this natural beauty. In Phoenix I would take them to Cosanti, another one of Paolo Soleri’s enclaves where they make the brass bells. We would have lunch at Welcome Diner or Gallo Blanco and dinner at Ocotillo. The Phoenix Art Museum and the Heard Museum are both favorites. Both currently have outstanding shows. Robert Sentinery who owns JAVA magazine is a good friend and fun Phoenix personality. I bump into him at just about every art event. Lisa Sette Gallery is also a favorite.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I owe so much to my parents who encouraged me all along and were proud of my achievements. My mother was an artist and printmaker and my father a career geologist. They both always took a unique and special interest in what I was doing.
Phoenix Art Museum Scott Farence Carlos Mandelaveitia Scott Baxter