It is with such considerable sadness that I announce Matt's death today, October 24, 2020. We were together in the hospital in Queens and it seemed, in the end, like an easy release. A larger Zoom memorial is in the works. Please stay tuned for information on that. And thank you for all your kind thoughts.
Feel free to publish any memories, photos or stories here.
They were forever good-natured, encouraging, smart, and downright nice. Matt was playing volleyball and making his lumpy sculptures. Jude was welding and casting and playing drums. The dog Sparky ate a video tape because it just kept coming out of the cassette. I would return to find my clothes and shoes gone. The dogs had taken them into the other room because they missed my smell. 19 Hope St. was where we all listened to Anita Hill testifying on the radio. We figured things out about our work and were grateful to know each other.
We’ve gathered this evening to celebrate, mourn, and share stories about Matt. He was larger than life, someone who taught us about Living, and Teaching, and Making Art, but also about Fighting, and Failing, and Fun.
I ‘ve seen your social media posts these last few days, and the phrases RADICAL GENEROSITY, A HEART GENIUS, and HILARIOUS, EVEN WHEN MOROSE stood out. Yeah, All That.
It’s not just that we all loved him, but he actually changed so many of our lives. More joy, more humor, more risk, more commitment, more insight. There was, quite literally, no one and nothing he wasn’t profoundly interested in and curious about, and we felt that. One of his performances was called Magic and Catastrophe. Yes.
As a colleague, he was a true inspiration – he believed so profoundly in our students, in the realness and poignancy of every struggle and breakthrough. His presence in this department reminded us all why we are here. My only regret is that future classes of MFA’s will not have the experience of that eccentric, wonderful mind – the one the size of a small planet. If there’s any doubt about why you go to Grad School at all, this is the answer – to encounter people like Matt, so you can hear his brilliant voice in your head when you doubt yourself in the future.
I’d like to share a paragraph from his famous Drawing Syllabus – the one that everyone has kept, and reread, and tucked away somewhere safe. It’s basically Matt’s manifesto….
“I am going to make one simple assumption to guide me in this class: we are gummed up, at least more gummed up than we’d like to be. Every artist entertains some level of frustration with their practice, and every artist searchs for the tools to liberate themselves from that nagging sense that things could be better in the studio. “Gummed up” is a deliberately imprecise and goofy term. There’s no point dressing up the fact that artists struggle, often against themselves, to improve their work. The problem may be purely practical: you may want, (and need) to widen your scope of material and skill options. It may be scholastic: you may want, and need, to know more about the history that informs your work: who did and thought similar and more clever things before you. It may be psychological, or if you prefer, spiritual; you may worry too much about what others think of your work and about your own right to make that work in the first place”.
I feel ‘gummed” up by the very idea of continuing without him.
Matt made everyone believe they could be an artist, and that life was worth living no matter what, and that we should do it with gusto. HE certainly did, drawing and laughing through everything. As one student said, “he should be designated a National Treasure”. And so, with the power invested in me by no one whatsoever, I hereby do so.