edited by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam
Matthew Sallack has been involved with Spiderweb almost from the beginning; he had his first art installation, a take on the Guess Who? board game, at a show in August of 2012. In addition to displaying art at the shows, Matthew has designed many of the Spiderweb zine covers, posters, and generally provided art where art is needed. He says that Spiderweb has been “such an incredible source of enlightenment and inspiration for [his] direction as an artist.” But the feeling is mutual; Matthew has been such a major source of inspiration for Spiderweb too.
Your work is largely inspired by pop culture, which means you're often playing around in other worlds originally built by other people. Are there considerations you make when building on top of established properties versus working from a blank slate?
I have this long, drawn out (haha) artist statement talking about pop culture and the content of my artwork. I've been trying to write it for weeks now and get it whittled down, and so far it's not finished. But what I want to say is that I look at pop culture and referencing it as a way of shared history and where we come from. It's a way of appreciating and recording history. The visual style is my own, but it's a reference point that already exists. I like to think of it like I'm taking all these characters that exist in my head and come upon my brain, that permeate my consciousness, and I'm releasing them back out into the wild. Through the language of my mark-making, they are exorcised. In that weird way, they all exist in the same universe. And they are all building on each other. The difference when coming up with new worlds and new characters is you have to educate folks of the rules and characteristics, and that takes time. I actually have a huge project I've been working on that involves aliens and paper dolls that's completely original material yet still spoofs sci-fi conventions and pop-culture beats.
You've been working primarily as an artist for the last couple of years. How has that process of transitioning into a full-time creative gone for you?
I've actually been a full-time artist since February of 2015. It's the dream, as someone who has been drawing and art-focused since an early age. I am so grateful that I finally got to a point in my life where I could categorize all the work I do as art-related. Before that, I was waiting tables, working at a bar, and stocking shelves at a liquor store. It was tough, but I built up the art business in that time and was able to finally go full-time when I realized I had just had it with all the other things and wanted to focus all my time and energy on myself. Trying to balance the creative brain with the business side of things is tricky, but you just have to be willing to learn. Not to mention, I never had any business classes in art school, so I learned everything about marketing, cold-calling, organizing, work-flow managing, contracts, and all that stuff on my own in practice. The hardest part of the transition is dealing with the roller coaster of the fiscal year. You have ups and down, and it's tough to pay the bills and taxes when you are trying to eat and have a personal life. But the most profound thing you have to realize if you are going to take the plunge into self-employment is that no matter how much you invest, you are investing in yourself.
Your work often has a sense of humor; who are some of your favorite funny people? And do you work to cultivate that sense of humor?
I know it's a cliché to tell a writer, "Write what you know." But I feel like that's applicable here. I'm always looking for a pun or a funny take on something in my day-to-day life. I get a kick out of getting smiles and chuckles from people. It's a high-level reward for the brain, in my opinion. As far as cultivating it for my artwork, I think it comes down to rethinking something. Whether you are changing the scale or the perspective or making a clever observation about something (like similarity in form), and then translating that through an image. As far as funny people, Claes Oldenburg is an artist I look up to and work to emulate. He takes everyday objects and makes them into huge installation sculptures, changing the perspective into something ludicrously impossible.
What subjects within and outside of pop culture interest you most?
Anything visually striking. Bold choices in color, shape, and line are what I am most infatuated with.
What have been some of the most rewarding experiences you've had as an artist?
Oooh, good question. There have been many. But I'll keep it simple. The best reward is when a stranger comes into my booth and gives me a compliment. It's so simple, but a little positive reaffirmation goes a long way for an artist. We are so often filled with self-doubt that when we hear something positive, it can change the game. For me, it is like artist fuel, and I want to just take those good feelings and turn them into more work. I think the nicest thing you can say to an illustrator is "I like your style. Great work." It always makes my day.
Who are some of your influences?
Oldenburg, as I already mentioned. Also Andy Warhol, M.C. Escher, and Rene Magritte. All fantastic artists but also visionaries who challenged the way we think about things.
Any upcoming shows or projects you'd like to share?
I am at Denton Community Market nearly every Saturday, 9am-1pm (8am-12pm in August). The next Backyard Market at Eastside (local artist/maker market I organize) is September 16, 2pm-6pm.
Matthew Sallack is a Denton artist who graduated with BFA in Graphic Design from Texas State University—San Marcos and an MFA in Illustration from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. He operates Otter Illustration and tables at the Denton Community Market as as well as at various local fests.
If you’d like your work to be featured by Spiderweb Salon, send us your work through our submissions page.