Interview with Mateo Galvano

MS- Do you find a relationship between creating art/writing and the human body? Or between your artistic process and your body?
MG- I’m involved in a sensual relationship with my environment, a relationship to those around me. Through inhabiting the body and striving to be present, I confront the condition of being human. Choosing the path of the artist affords a chance to leave the weight of the body behind, if only for brief moments. To live this way, writing and painting, is a pursuit that enacts an approach to the spirit, an escape from the encumbrance of existence. This idea is full of contradiction, because I am bound to the body and to the earth, and the work I make often traces my movements. The works reflect the body and relate in some way to its scale.   
Despite a tendency toward eschewing the obligation to the body, I am aware that my body is a lens through which all work is filtered. In the best creative pursuit, the body and the mind are one, not separated. The body is always implicated, directly or indirectly, in the topics I write about, and is depicted, often in an abstract manner, in the images created in my visual art. In much of my work, the human form appears as a fragment, and bears a relationship to the landscape. The landscape is the stage upon which the body performs. The Earth is itself a body, whirling before the backdrop of the cosmos. 
Much of the content of my work as a visual artist and writer refers to the idea of gesture. Writing uses metaphor, which points to the emotional body and engages the senses. Abstract gestures of brush and paint capture the movement of my body as I make marks. These marks record moments in time, moments of embodiment and presence that have some kind of value. Something of my performance in a body is captured. This activity functions as a metaphor for that which exists beyond the body and beyond a particular measure in time. These traces also capture the movement of ghosts, of those that have vanished from my life, including loved ones lost or desired in one way or another. Some painterly gestures are caresses, incidents of a devotional frame of mind, mudras that serve as signs, not entirely explicit. Phrases in writing are related to uttered prayers, wishes, hopes. Consistently portrayed in my work is a longing for some elusive element that is not easy to name.
MS- Have you ever set specific creative goals for yourself? Such as?
Did you “succeed” or “fail”? Have these goals changed over time? How?
MG- I am enthusiastic about beginning a range of types of projects, planning exhibitions and reaching for opportunities to bring bodies of work to the fore. Always, a few concepts are simmering. In between the activities of the day, I’m thinking about the practical challenges of what I’m working on, the puzzles of bringing out the best material iteration. Because of the nature of the art worlds I participate in, it’s necessary to plan ahead to produce a body of work and do the legwork and communication it takes to bring it to a state of exhibition. This involves maintaining relationships and having conversations, being involved in communities. In that sense, I do set goals to complete some things. That said, I try to leave things open. My nature is child-like in this regard. Part of me resists too much planning. Some of my goals are vague, and I notice I am not interested in being too clear about the future. A lot of factors are left open to possibility, so that I can respond to chance occurrences.   
Some projects don’t get finished. Stacks of unrealized paintings and drawings get shelved, and writings that have not coalesced languor in folders, unable to reach a final, published expression. This material adds to the depth of the practice. The activity has value even though the works are not brought out to shine in a public format. Though some works fizzle out and fall apart, I’m committed to the overarching condition of reaching for something, of making these mysterious attempts.
The notion of failure is central to artistic practices. It’s necessary to try things out, to experiment, to reach for something beyond our ability, to waste time, daydream, take risks and explore tangents. In visual art, mistakes give way to interesting ideas and new techniques. In writing, we can’t play it safe or we aren’t revealing anything new. Failed attempts shape eventual successes and deliver us to the exceptional qualities in our works that are necessary for recognition in creative fields.  
MS- In the past decade, have you been able to bring your work out into the world?
MG- In the past dozen or so years, I’ve been involved in academia. Before that, I was on my own, crafting situations to exhibit my work or showcase my writing, often via performance and other ephemeral means. Engaging in academia to earn a BFA and MFA in Studio Art in my forties occupied my time and attention in ways both detrimental and beneficial to my practice. Teaching at the university level has afforded me an expanded context for thinking about art. It has been extremely valuable and intellectually stimulating, although this situation has occupied many of the hours previously spent in the studio. Regardless of that conundrum, being involved in academia has ultimately augmented my abilities to reach an audience and to find opportunities. The circumstances are different in nature than in the previous approach to my practice. The disparate realms of my activity sometimes clash. I’ve come to accept that the nature of being an artist includes operating in a number of worlds simultaneously. It can be awkward and frustrating. One pathway cancels out another, and I try to embrace that as a test, to discover my own resilience.
This multiplicity is reflected in my self-identification as an artist and a writer. The activity in the studio, working with my hands to translate ideas into images and material objects, is my primary occupation. Writing often overlaps with, or springs from, my life as an artist. Writing compels my time and attention with increasing urgency. It is a struggle to accommodate the demands of each facet of my overall activity as a studio artist, a writer, and an educator. I am gaining insight into how to combine these efforts toward a tipping point. I’m learning to manage my interests and to find suitable formats and appropriate venues for dissemination of the work.
MS- Are you satisfied with your ability to engage with new technology?
MG- Technological advances and new media present abundant possibilities for artists and writers. There is so much to learn. I admire fellow artists who master digital tools for imaging, animation and moving image. Applying such tools in my own work to create interesting immersive environments is exciting. Installations are a branch of my work in which I would like to further include these technologies, such as incorporating moving image in elegant ways. I record experimental vocalizations based on my spoken texts and use recorded sound to provide aural, time-based elements. This material is used to form layered compositional soundscapes to accompany some of my room-sized installation pieces. I’d like to find opportunities to further investigate digital sound media and broaden this area of my work.
The time or the funding necessary to engage with technology and electronic media is not always available. Despite the proliferation of such formats, I return to the basics of pencil and brushes, paper and paint. I like the immediacy. Entire skill sets are associated with using basic materials. Applying traditional media in experimental ways to voice ideas or to discover something beautiful is interesting. Though technology offers beguiling tools, making a drawing or a poem is enough of a challenge.
MS- Is there anything you don’t like about being an artist/poet?
It is difficult to strike a balance between freedom and discipline. The insecurity associated with some choices is tough. Making art requires commitment and effort. Producing visual artworks requires systematic elements of application, including scheduling extra studio time in order to move a project along. One process follows another, sometimes in a specific order, depending upon the medium. However, It’s important to make time for life outside the studio, away from the desk.
In order to allow the beauty of the work to flow easily, in a state of grace, I try to get out of my own way. Some work unfolds that way, without a lot of preparation. The creative life moves between tension and release, structure and flow. I’m trying to locate a sense of calm and also indicate the presence of chaos. Some of the discomfort involved is probably necessary, though I don’t always like it.
The work should be healing or enlightening in some way for myself and for the viewer or reader. The aspiration is to express powerful statements that can address some need in someone, somewhere, or to tell of loss in a way that helps others find a release from loneliness. I hope the work provides an opportunity for its audience to reach for some kindness toward itself and others, a sense of connecting to what is right in the world. The task at hand is to work through the painful aspects of life in order to achieve, through creative practices, a comforting equilibrium. 
there are moments when a bear in the woods is thrown from the scent of all she knows and must listen to birdsong in the hope of following someone home. she finds her way to the nest in the tree and realizes that it’s not a place for her, realizes the size of her body, the strong scent of herself. she spends the afternoon in a daze, listening to her own breath and wondering where her kin have gone. they’ve vanished in the berry patch and she imagines she can hear them but again it’s the birds and she’s lost in a cycle of remembering. she remembers other lives, the way centuries blur together in dreams. she remembers once she was not an animal but a machine, a cart with wooden wheels rolling abandoned down the side of a hill in the tall grass. she was a garment. she was a tree bearing the slow fruit of figs. she remembers once she lived in a narrow underground place, her skin dry, sloughed off along the walls. she was something else, not a bear. the breeze lifts the scent of sweet annie, of seaweed and moss, crushed beneath her paws. there was the terrifying sound of words, the naming of things she might once have known. she lies down to forget and finds again a purpose for the way the wind sweeps over her, cooling her thirst, her jaw slack as she dozes
MS: Tell us something about the FLORA show you are involved in right now in Santa Fe.
FLORA is a group show currently on view at The Webster Collection, 54 1/2 Lincoln Avenue, Santa Fe. Click the following link for a slideshow of works included: The botanical themed exhibition was co-curated by Christopher Webster and the Santa Fe based artist Andrea Senutovich. An assemblage sculptor, collage artist, writer, and arts advocate, Senutovich is skilled at designing exhibitions including various artists in lovely, cogent arrangements. She’s a gifted creator of interior spaces, evidenced by her collection of works for the FLORA exhibition. Situated in the appealing galleries of the Webster Collection, amidst Southwestern antiques and colored walls reminiscent of another era, the exhibition combines artists primarily from Santa Fe, featuring the lens-based artists Alexandra Ewing, Tasha Ostrander, Robert Stivers, Victoria Goldman-Amoré, Marion Claire Wasserman, Andrea Senutovich, Patti Levey, Louis Leray, David Michael Kennedy, and Willis F. Lee as well as the painters Maggie Hanley and Mateo Galvano. The show opened April 26th and will remain on view through June 30th, 2018.
A special event will occur June 29th and 30th, 5-7pm, when Galvano will offer a selection of unframed works. Portfolios of monotypes and works on paper from a new series entitled Alluvium Variations will be available for purchase. In addition, Galvano will perform a brief reading of recent prose poems. Scheduled for 5:30-6:pm, the reading will be repeated each evening. All are welcome to the free event, which is open to the public.
For further information regarding the exhibition and related events, contact Andrea Senutovich at The Webster Collection:
Biographical Notes
A multi-media artist working with painting, drawing, printmaking, creative writing, digital arts, sound and installation, Mateo Galvano’s recent awards include a Willapa Bay AiR Fellowship and a Jentel Foundation Residency Fellowship Award. His work has been exhibited in solo shows nationally, including Chiaroscuro Contemporary Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Mainsite Contemporary in Norman, Oklahoma, Muse Gallery in Columbus, Ohio, and Box Gallery in Santa Fe, in addition to Aumonerie Saint Jacques in Gordes, France. He has participated in numerous group shows at locations including The Kennedy Museum of Art in Athens, Ohio, Ward-Nasse Gallery in New York City, The University of North Carolina in Asheville, North Carolina and The Chicago Printmaker’s Collaborative in Chicago. His works are included in numerous collections nationally and in Europe. The recipient of an MFA in Studio Art from Ohio University, Galvano is a freelance arts writer and consultant for artists. He teaches studio art and visual studies at Ohio University. His artwork is represented by BraveArt Consulting,  based in Santa Fe. Galvano’s work can be viewed online at Artsy at or at

Photograph by Tasha Ostrander

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About Miriam Sagan

I'm blogging about poetry, land art, haiku, women artists, road trips, and Baba Yaga at Miriam's Well ( The well is ALWAYS looking to publish poetry on our themes, sudden fiction, and guest bloggers and musers.

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