Matt Eaton

Biographical and Artistic Statement

I was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and attended New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, New Mexico, where I received my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Printmaking and Sculpture. While studying etching and lithography, I was encouraged to make use of Highlands University’s Art Foundry in order to further develop my concepts and imagery through the casting process. I soon discovered the similarity of the processes inherent in the mediums and began to translate ideas I had previously been unable to express in printed form into sculpture. Through a direct process similar to making a monotype at a printing press, I drew lines in the sand around steel forms of various shapes and sizes. By pouring melted aluminum into the lines, I was able to make a “print,” as well as connect the steel elements. The skewed geometry of smooth steel forms juxtaposed with the natural flow of metal were complete and spontaneous compositions of an organic quality. However, in contrast to a two-dimensional print, the metal casting that resulted from the dirt etching produced richer, more enhanced surface textures. I continued working with this non-traditional approach until I developed a cohesive portfolio of work that would eventually lead me to graduate studies at Georgia State University’s Sculpture Program. 
After completing my Bachelor of Fine Arts I was accepted into The Tamarind Institute of Lithography at The College of Fine Arts of the University of New Mexico, where I received my Professional Printers Certificate. During my studies at Tamarind, I learned all aspects of the lithographic medium, both traditional and experimental. I also had the opportunity to work with other student printers from around the world, as well as established, professional artists. My experience at Tamarind was both enriching and rewarding. A great deal of the imagery I created while at Tamarind related back to my initial ideas of iron casting and the concepts that I dealt with in my sculptures. In the free time I found from printing, I continued to develop my sculptural work, built an iron foundry and established a studio, ultimately leading me to become a cast iron artist.
I studied sculpture under George Beasley at Georgia State University. Beasley is known for his cast iron performance work, as well as his more formal object works in cast iron. His work, which deals with issues of sociology as molded by immigration patterns of the iron industry and the traditions of foundry, is what brought me to study sculpture at the graduate level. Through my studies of art and working with cast iron, I was able to travel around the country to work with other artist working in the same medium. I was quickly introduced to a group of artists at Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark in Birmingham, Alabama. Sloss is a decommissioned iron foundry that produced the majority of the iron for the production of steel for this nation from the 1880's to the 1970's. It is the largest intact Blast Furnace facility in the country and has since become a museum. Working in the shadow of these sleeping giants has been the inspiration for my work as an artist, and has encouraged me to research the history of the industries that carried our society into modernity. ​
Using a machine aesthetic, industrial icons and railroad imagery, my most recent work reflects the shift to industry in the late 19th century. This short-lived, progressive movement has irrevocably transformed our post-industrial existence to one radically divorced from the environment ruthlessly exploited during the industrial era, where information technologies and plastics are the current, dominating forces.  The images that I create serve to invoke and reinforce the sculptural properties of architecture as "anonymous sculptures.” By juxtaposing unicycles and carts with these industrial icons, I want to bring a sense of humor and irony to my work as well as reference the relentless order of industrial production. Using industrial imagery combined with temples and ruins I have explored ideas pertinent to the industrial age and its subsequent lapse into obsolescence. My work can be interpreted as ruminations of a lost era. I consider myself to be an artist attached to the cast iron movement in America, as the medium of cast iron is the vehicle for the concepts behind my work.
As an educator I believe that listening is the most important aspect of the job. Every student comes from a different background and life experience. Each student has different needs when it comes to the development of their goals. In the Arts, the studio environment is a place where students can interact with each other and the teacher in an exchange of ideas. I believe that I cannot teach a person to become a great artist, but I can give them instruction on the tools, methods and processes they will need to begin their creative endeavors. Most importantly the art room is a place where an interaction between students and the instructor come together in the generation of ideas and visual problem solving. Students need to work in an environment where they can bounce ideas off of their peers. As an educator, I am there to give feedback and suggestions to help each student resolve the problems that they encounter while developing their concepts in a unique visual form. I feel that Art Education is an important component to the overall education of a student because it encourages them to think creatively and the problem solving aspect of art making equips students to think outside the box when it comes to their other academic pursuits. 
​As I reflect on my love of the Arts and my career as an artist, I am reminded of my early Art education and the impact my High School Art teacher, Karl Hoffman, had on me. Mr. Hoffman at Sandia Preparatory School in Albuquerque, New Mexico nurtured and encouraged my creativity and helped shape me into the artist I am today. I am eternally grateful for his influence, as it is that influence that has encouraged my professional endeavors as an Art teacher, so that I, too, can endeavor to awaken the artistic impulse in future generations of students.