Artist Interviews 2024

Matthew Dibble  
By Johnny Otto

You said that all is well on the North Coast. By that you meant, Cleveland Ohio. What is so great about the art scene there and how do you see yourself fitting into it? Does Ohio breed artists? Why?

I am probably the quintessential Rust Belt artist, being in the trades and having my studio here has given my work a rough charm which people respond to. I’ve shown in Cleveland storefronts and galleries for decades and watched the scene grow and evolve. There are many new galleries and other opportunities for artists here. Young artists trying to get their foot in the door and seasoned veterans re-inventing themselves. I never feel that I fit in but I know this feeling is false. Cleveland Is a great place to be and the artists here always surprise me with their work ethic and optimism.

What is your background and education in art or are you self- taught? How did this all start for you?

I graduated from Cooper School of Art in Cleveland in the late 70’s with an associate’s degree in painting and immediately began to work in the trades as a professional roofer. I don’t remember ever not being interested in art, and have the same creative drive today as ever. I started my own business and continued to paint and draw when I could. I painted without much notice for a good 25 years and when social media hit, I had a large body of work to share. I’ve been able to expand my audience which allowed me to sell my work and today I’m working as a full-time artist.

What is your fascination with gestural painting styles?

  I’ve been painting the same painting for a very long time. It never fails to interest me. When I go to the studio, I never know what I’m going to do, it energizes me and I love every minute there. I don’t see anything chaotic in abstract art and my goal is to create unity on the canvas with the materials at hand. Boots on the ground, responding in the moment to what is unfolding in front of me.

You’ve said that your “work deploys distorted, other-worldly creatures across layered surfaces” but isn’t it really an examination of the human form? And what’s your obsession with the human form?

Asking myself once ‘If you did figurative work what would it look like’? I realized I had been working with the figure from a very young age with an ongoing series of pen and ink drawings. I began projecting them on large canvases and was able to create new compositions and entanglements. I don’t look to deeply into the figures or where they come from, it is a mystery to me. A critic once wrote about my figurative work and made a parallel to the study of ‘marginalia’. Medieval monks getting bored working on illuminated manuscripts and start to doodle in the page margins. I never made this correlation but it seems the gestural abstraction is the main page and the figures are my working in the margins.

Have you collaborated with any other artists? Would you like to?

I collaborated with other artists many times and enjoyed it. I recently built a very solid crate for a colleague that arrived safely for a museum show in Germany. In the early days with other artists and musicians showing any where we could, under bridges in abandoned buildings and storefronts. It was an exciting time with fond memories.

  Do you listen to music while you paint and how does that affect your mood? 

In the late 1970’s when I was in art school the Cleveland / Akron area had a very interesting music scene. My favorite band was Devo, I saw them live and there first album really turned me on. I still listen to some of the punk and new wave music from that era. Vintage country music and the high lonesome sound are also on my play list.

What is coming up for you down the road? Any shows? Hopes and dreams for the next year or so?

After many years of gallery shows which can be a grind, I started getting involved with some online art advisories which began to sell my work. My favorite is Saatchi Art who I have a good relationship with and recommend highly to anyone that will listen. I’m very comfortable with building a wood crate and shipping my work around the US and beyond. Running my own business for many years has showed me the importance of following through, meeting deadlines and being reliable. I’m doing exactly what I want to do right now and grateful to still be a working artist in the 21st Century.

Do you have any creative rituals or habits that help you stay focused and productive?

When I started out, I had a lot of big ambitions, as I studied art history and other artists, It became clear to me that I had a long way to go and was humbled. I did notice that I’m very persistent and don’t give up easily, which are qualities that help me navigate through life and remind me not take myself too seriously. It is a gift to be an artist and for that I’m thankful.

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