This month we talked to Matt Hebermehl to hear his story and see what advice he would give to up-and-coming creators. You may see his work displayed in Atlanta at the new Mercedes Benz Stadium, where he was commissioned by Arthur M. Blank and SCAD to create a site-specific 1,700 sq. foot mural inspired by the Atlanta Falcons. Read along…
How’d you get started?
I’ve always been interested in drawing. In junior college I took art and art history classes and decided that I wanted to transfer to an art school. I went on to attend SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) to study Illustration. After graduating, I did occasional freelance illustration work, but I mostly focused on creating works for myself and developing my skillset.
Where does your style come from?
While studying Illustration, defining styles and artistic categories didn’t matter much to me. The more I developed my craft, the more the lines of illustration and fine art began to blur. I gravitate towards the layering of gestural, visceral mark making. It’s important for me to maintain this line quality, I’ve learned how to carry energetic mark making across different media. Some say style comes from your sense of humor, how you see the world, or your perspective on things. So in that sense, my style of mark making drives from my willingness to engage the world with joy, even in challenging times. It’s my job to keep that consistent.
Are you influenced by any current artists’ work?
Being in Los Angeles has brought my attention to Mark Bradford. I’m impressed with his personal work, and his organization Art + Practice, which offers educational programs for foster kids, and exhibition space in conjunction with the Hammer Museum. Before I moved to L.A., I co-founded a program in Savannah, GA called SeeSAW, which coordinated, and curated temporary and permanent public art works. So, with consideration to my experience with SeeSAW and in my personal work, I respect tremendously what Bradford has been able to accomplish.
You’ve worked on many murals and public art projects. What compels you to public art?
My work with SeeSAW was about bringing people together through art. I’m a social person, and I enjoy presenting works from artists in a public space, this allows for a social opportunity for people to meet and share experiences. Whether it’s to discuss the art itself or a larger discussion about the time or place we are in, the art plays a role in bringing people together. Public art also adds a performance aspect to an artist’s work. When you invite a public audience into the creative process there’s an opportunity for people to take ownership of the moment and the work of art produced in that moment.
What advice would you give to an up-and-coming creative to make it to the next level?
As my career has grown, I’ve learned the importance of talking to my peers and networking. You start to create a team of support for when you need it most. The larger the project, the more issues arise outside of your scope of work. As an artist it’s great to have people who specialize in law, PR, etc. on your side so you can focus on your craft.
When did you decide to take on legal counsel?
I always knew I’d need backup at some point, but project budgets don’t always allow for it. My recent project for the Falcons, and Mercedes Benz Stadium allowed me the flexibility and support necessary to gain legal counsel. The stakes were high so I needed real legal coverage. You always have that thought in your head about what you’d do in the worst possible scenario. Having great support has helped.
*Our phone conversation has been paraphrased to fit an online format