Matthew Mullins hosts an artist talk for his solo exhibition The Sun In Our Bones on Saturday, October 20 from 2 to 3 pm. When Mullins began working on the show last year, he was shooting for the stars. “I thought about this spectrum of very earthy and grounded to the cosmos,” says Mullins. “How do you encompass that staggering span, and pull someone all the way through it?” The exhibition opens with a reception on Friday, September 28 from 5 to 7 pm.
Santa Fe artist Matthew Mullins presents a solo exhibition of paintings, photographs and sculptures, inspired by the intrinsic links between humans and the natural world. Known for his mixed-media paintings that visually connect landscapes with human-made, geometric patterns, Mullins broadens his practice to encompass photography and sculpture. With this expanded artistic palette, he draws viewers across time and space—from a windswept patch of grass to the swirling cosmos.
Matthew Mullins is an avid hiker and distance runner, and lately he’s been leaving artwork behind on his adventures through New Mexico’s high desert. He’ll install pinhole cameras in remote areas, note their coordinates, and return for them weeks or months later. The final images reflect the shifting path of the sun and other natural phenomena—that is, if Mullins can retrieve them. Weather and wild animals have destroyed several cameras, and others have vanished without a trace. Despite the occasional lost artwork, Mullins says his far-flung creative process is worth the risk.
“With these pinhole photos, I’m presenting different ways to look at nature and different ways of seeing time,” the Santa Fe artist explains. “The incredibly long exposures require the cameras to be in remote locations, which always involves leaps of faith.” In his solo exhibition The Sun in Our Bones, opening Friday, September 28 from 5 to 7 pm, Mullins presents photographs, paintings and sculptures inspired by the intrinsic links between humans and the natural world. An artist talk follows on October 20, and a closing reception takes place on November 17.
When Mullins began working on The Sun in Our Bones last year, he was shooting for the stars. “I thought about making a series of artwork within a spectrum of very earthy and grounded to cosmic. I wanted to paint nature and natural processes from the subatomic world to the stars” says Mullins. “How do you encompass that staggering span, and pull someone all the way through it?” The Santa Fe artist has been working on a series of highly unconventional landscape paintings since moving to New Mexico from Berkeley, California in 2011. The works depict scenes from nature, often in a monochrome palette, with geometric patterns inspired by human-made designs cutting through them. A concurrent series of watercolor paintings features mandala patterns dotted with countless stars.
Branching out even further, the artist started experimenting with several new mediums. He gathered dry, twisted pieces of juniper wood on his outdoor excursions and brought them back to his studio, cleaning them, burnishing them and covering them with shiny graphite to accentuate their lines and textures. Through the pinhole photography series, Mullins found a method for depicting a temporal experience of landscape. “I really wanted to track time in a different way and also show the movement of our planet around the sun. I didn’t think I could really get that in my paintings,” he says. “I love the idea of having these pinhole cameras out in the world. They’re working right now, so I’m making art 24/7.”
The Sun in Our Bones will span form & concept’s ground floor, the second show in the gallery’s two-year history (after Thais Mather’s Reckless Abandon in November 2017) to devote an entire level to a single artist. The title of the exhibition is a reference to an unconventional material Mullins has incorporated into some of his cosmic paintings: pigment made from burnt animal bones. “The calcium and phosphorous in those bones, and our own, are made in stars,” Mullins says. “It’s truly all connected.”
For Mullins, the exhibition is a culmination of 15 years of work as a professional artist. Originally from the Bay Area of California, he received his MFA from University of California Berkeley. There, he began his career with his Artifacts & Archives paintings, a series of photo-realistic watercolors that replicate the archival environments and materials he had access to during his graduate studies.
Mullins received the prestigious Eisner Prize for Visual Art in 2010, a year before relocating to New Mexico. Following the move, he was inspired by the desolate, sweeping landscapes of the Desert Southwest to shift from an illustrative style to semi-abstraction. Through his latest work, Mullins has sought to show the connection between human consciousness and the natural world. “Humans are part of the natural world,” says Mullins. “But we often become so focused on our individuality that we lose track of that greater connection. My work is about reintegrating with nature and finding unity in that relationship.”
For the second entry in our new Curator’s Selection video series (check out the first one here), form & concept gallery director Frank Rose discussed an artwork by Matthew Mullins from the group exhibition Inner Orbit. Matt’s mixed-media painting The Sun Is In Our Bones is an anchor of the show, which explores personal and cultural visions of outer space, and it’s also an introduction to his next body of work. In late September, he’ll debut a solo exhibition called The Sun In Our Bones that will span our ground floor. Learn more about the painting in the video above, then click over to the exhibition page to discover how it connects with the themes of the forthcoming show.
Here is Matt’s meditation on his painting The Sun Is In Our Bones:
The Sun Is In Our Bones is a meditation on the cosmic origins of the elements that comprise our bodies. The elements in our bodies such as carbon, calcium and iron were forged by the extreme forces that exist inside stars, supernovae and other cosmic events. It’s fascinating to think about the journey our bodies’ atomic ingredients have had, and that all of those individual atoms are now working together to form you and me. These elements that have existed for eons are engaged in a mysterious dance that allows us to maintain our complicated biological processes and even consciousness, empathy and love.
The black paint in this piece is made from burnt cow bones. The atoms of calcium and phosphorus from those bones, just like in our bones, were created in the stars. So, the material used in this painting was actually created in space and once provided life to other beings. The title The Sun In Our Bones is not only poetic, it can be taken somewhat literally. The bare linen that the stars seem to be growing into represents yet-to-be-created space. The handprints on the sides are traced from my hands and my wife’s hands, and represent the evolution of human consciousness from the elemental, raw ingredients created inside the stars.
Crystalline and Constellate are meditations on the subatomic world within our bodies. These paintings are nearly photo-realistic depictions of a matrix of atoms being lit up with a laser beam. The source photos that I painted from were taken with an electron microscope. I am awestruck by the intelligent orderliness, but also the mysterious fluidity, of the world experienced at this scale. Our own bodies look similar when viewed from a small enough vantage point.
Click here to browse the complete Inner Orbit exhibition on our website. The show appears in conjunction with Santa Fe Futurition, the Currents New Media Festival, and the Santa Fe Institute’s Interplanetary Festival.
This week’s issue of Pasatiempo features the winners of the publication’s annual writing contest. Images of works by local artists appear in the cover story, and a painting by our own Matthew Mullins graces the cover! The piece is a watercolor and gouache on paper titled Ursa Major. Make sure to grab a copy while it’s on the stands (December 22-28, 2017), and read more about Matt in his recently updated biography. Here’s an excerpt:
The interconnection of human consciousness and the natural world is what inspires the work of Santa Fe artist Matthew Mullins. Mullins’ watercolor and acrylic ink paintings merge human made patterns derived from social constructs with the visual perception of nature, creating a harmonious relationship that the artist feels is often lost in today’s culture.
“Humans are part of the natural world,” says Mullins. “But we often become so focused on our individuality that we lose track of that connection. My work is about reintegrating with nature and finding unity in that relationship.”