Matt Kruse

View Matt Kruse's artwork

After 20+ years in the Bay Area doing graphic design and animation, Matt moved back to his home town of Phoenix to pursue fine-art (again). He graduated from the ASU Art program in 1997 where he experimented with multimedia and even showed his work at Art One Gallery among other venues. Fast forward to 2019, Matt is now working in his studio in downtown Phoenix, exploring some truths, and creating work using traditional mediums.

After a long hiatus, I wanted to challenge myself by focusing exclusively on portraits using oil medium. My subjects varied: pictures of friends, models and anonymous faces found online.

But then after a rabbit hole image search, I came across a few police arrest photos from the 1950’s/60’s. These black and white photos captured something unique about the human face that I did not find elsewhere – a state of vulnerability and direct confrontation. These people were from a period when things seemed simpler and, in my imagination, crimes were often committed out of desperation, survivalism, or mental instability. They embodied an honesty I was looking for. I was hooked.

At minimum I wanted to capture the expression and light and form. But also attempt to connect with that person, as a person – not a criminal. To empathize with their situation. They were looking directly at me, and I was looking at them. So I started asking questions. What were you thinking at that moment? How did you deal with loss of self determination, of freedom? What brand of escapism allowed you to get through that moment? Are you dreaming of your grandmother’s farm house where you felt loved? What books have you read? What music did you listen to? How would you react to the music that’s playing right now?

And who am I to assume I can connect with these people having never been arrested myself? This is where I get to imagine their world and the color that defines it.

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