matt wilt portrait

Matt Wilt

Resident Artist - Past

Residence Time: 1995-1999

My work is inspired by historical ceramics as well as the flotsam and jetsam of contemporary culture. Moche ceramics of Pre-Columbian Peru are a powerful influence, both technically complex and sculpturally compelling. The richness embodied by these ancient clay vessels drives me to make work that is emotive, reflective of my world-view, and visually demanding of the viewer. Moche artists drew from every facet of life: plants, animals, architecture, the human body, the divine and the mundane of existence. I strive to work in this manner as well, combining objects and forms from the diverse culture and society in which I live, the United States of America in the 21st century. Initially, this approach resulted in vessels derived from street trash such as mufflers and styrofoam cups, buoy forms on the Delaware River, and the urban architecture of Philadelphia. 

In recent years my work has become less vessel-oriented, though research into historical ceramics has continued to feed my ideas. Often my forms will seem to suggest a specific function or use, but the use is ambiguous; a hybrid of the known world with a less concrete reality. This newer work also draws from a catalogue of forms that are suggestive in nature. In Philip Rawson's book Ceramics, he refers to memory traces, and the power of forms to evoke thoughts and memories. This is similar to the way we associate colors with emotional states or meanings. By incorporating forms that are symbolic and suggestive, I attempt to engage the viewer in a process of decoding. 

Most recently, I have been intrigued by art that synthesizes the human, physical body with the mechanics of the manmade world. This has led me to research the work of Raoul Hausmann, Max Ernst, and Rebecca Horn. Each of these artists reference the body and its uneasy union with the artificial or mechanical. Symbolic forms that I find particularly compelling include the hand and objects used as surrogates for the body: bottle nipples, respirator bags, sex toys, prosthetics. The hand exemplifies the human presence, while the other objects, to varying degrees, distance us from the most human of activities. These forms, as manufactured objects replicating natural functions, act as substitutes for nature. I find this composite of the physical body and the synthetic world simultaneously fascinating and frightening. Through this line of inquiry I am conscious of the connecting threads that link the many disparate elements of history, culture, and what it is to be human.