We had the good fortune of connecting with Brett Matarazzo and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Brett, is your business focused on helping the community? If so, how?
As an artists, I feel the role of creativity and specifically contemplative artwork is essential to any community. It allows for discourse around the issues and values of our time, and has always been a very important part of society. As I have said many times to the people that frequent my shows and events, I believe art must make you feel something, make you have visceral reaction, start a discourse, or make you think. If it does not, It’s not doing its job. We must start the conversations around the issues we have as a society, we can’t solve any problems without talking about them. So my artwork, and my shows are all about creating these community conversations, first as an establishing member of ZEEL art collective, a group of wonderful artists dedicated to social issues, and second, as I am passionately working to develop local business/artist collaborations to keep art in the center of Denver communities, as development and growth has seen art pushed out for finical reasons, and now the pandemic has seen art struggle to reach communities.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
So I have spent the last 25 years developing a style for contemporary art and design that is uniquely repurposed, environmentally and socially conscious but with an experimental soul. I care deeply about nature and how we treat her, and i am some what of a contradiction, I love humans and believe they are invariably good individual creatures, but as a whole Humanity seems tragically flawed and struggles to treat itself or nature well. My work is derived from this conflict, how we perceive and coexist with our natural and man-made environment, an exploration and commentary on the human condition, over consumption, and the environmental impact from it. I juxtapose these two things, an element/instrument of humanity (usually something industrial) and an element of nature to create a tension, to cajole the senses, and lead to conversation or thought about how there is always an impact, large or small, on the natural world from this human experiment. My medium, to start this greater conversation, is reclaimed and repurposed wood, I like to call it post-industrial tear-out. I’m a dumpster diver, and scavenger of sorts, always looking to find beautiful discarded remnants. I’ve always loved the beauty of wood as canvas, alive and deep with history, but i have almost exclusively used reused wood for the last 14 or 15 years. I believe deeply that the best way for anyone to be environmentally conscious in this society is to repurpose something old into smoothing new and useful, and forgo the waste stream, and the energy and material use of buying new. I call this the foundation of my work, it all starts there. I am also a lover of the human history, and behind every 100 year old 2×4, wood floor plank, square nail or beam, each one tells a tremendous story: who was the person that ran the saw that made those saw marks, who hammered in those square nails, how did they live, what was there life like? Again the contradiction, I love these individual humans and their lives, regardless of what their society will become, the damage to the animals and ecosystem they will do. My work evolved naturally and organically to Mixed Media from this love of wood as canvas, in addition to my early love of photography as shape, bold functional design and typography. In my design and advertising background. I was always experimenting with materials, and being subjected to many tools and techniques gave me a lack of fear in mixing these elements together. So today my work employs custom built wood canvas/sculpture/installation, acrylic paint, occasionally ink or paper, digital and heat transfer, and laser etching. Where has this process lead me, i suppose after i realized the distaste i had for the commercialism of advertising and the over consumption, It led me down the path of full time artist. I started to create urban pop up galleries in unfinished spaces in the late 2000s to showcase and emphasize the enviro-social message of my work. Thats when I learned to just go and do it, not to wait for someone else to tell me how. I put on 5 or 6 of these shows from Aspen to Denver. That early exposure gave way to participating in some more established and curated group shows, kind of evolving my current work towards installation and sculptural art. A Large part of my growth and journey into the greater art community was joining and helping establish ZEEL art collective & gallery on social issues, The process, friendships, mentoring and introduction to the larger art community was awesome.. It stoked the passion for creating for and curating amazing groups of artists around a central social theme, starting conversation and bringing art to community. During my creative journey i watched as Denver was consumed by growth and development, pushing out the neighborhood art galleries at every turn, because of the real-estate value. I Have been telling anyone who will listen, how can you have a vibrant, young and world class city and neighborhood, with no local and community based art? That is where I stand now, passionately working to develop local business/artist collaborations to keep art accessible in Denver communities, and to continue those societal conversations….. Like the partnership and relationship started with Unico Properties, generously providing space ongoing during the Pandemic for our Collective & I to create a community window gallery at the Circa Building, providing a safe empathetical creative release while the world was distanced and locked down. And my current project a 6 month use of amazing space at the historic Zang building. A collaboration with Good friend and amazing artist Michael Dowling something we are calling “BRDG project” – a place to bridge the community, artist, gallery, together with an amazing accessible contemporary art experience.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Growing up here is Denver Ive been the unofficial social tour guide for 25 years of Denver growth. There is so much to experience and its now getting overwhelming. But there is always some much depth and fun, though the Pandemic has halted some of the best spots, there is still much left. It always starts outdoors in Colorado, so the first thing is to hike or snow sport depending on the season, Every day would start with a different beautiful 30 minute or less from Denver spot to hike or bike. Like Beaver brooke trail, not far from the buffalo heard overlook (but they are bison I would say emphatically) one of my favorite hikes if you like water falls and a deep ravine. Or a jaunt to boulder for a hike on Mount Sanitas or Royal Arch trail near in Chautaqua Park. Always with a beer and app on the great roof patio at the West End. On the way back, a study of the many breweries in town, to create a bit of a beer tour, Zuni street in highlands has a great patio and live tunes, and Prost is a must. Then maybe DeSteeg brewery in the little know alleyway off of Tennyson street, or maybe a quick nano brewery after like Diebolt or Factotum for a taster. I would no miss my personal favorite as a Belgian beer head, one of Bruz Beers locations on 67th & Pecos St. or downtown on Colfax. After a good nap an early evening/sunset would start on the east upstairs patio at Avanti, the “Wolf Bar” Aptly named after my large commissioned Installation behind the bar about the neighborhood, its history and its growth. Avanti is a great place for a diner or snack, views, an incredible drink and beer list, and a place to see great local artists on the wall, including some of my own. Next I venture to one of Justin Cucci’s restaurants, Root down, Linger, El Five or Ophilias, the food is always amazing with vegan & vegetarian options, with an eclectic and usually repurposed vintage decor ambiance, the scene is always amazing. for the nightcap, i go to a classic music dive of awesome proportions, Herbs hideout, live music rhythm and blues and jazz, in the baseball neighborhood! Lights out! Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have been very privileged to get the opportunity to have a great education and support; from Ms. Jeppson my grade school art teacher who recognized a talent in me when i was struggling in all basic academics, the confidence she instilled, that i was good at something, was instrumental to my personal growth and success. From my professors at DU, and instructors in my art and prior advertising life, I learned so much. The love and compassion my family taught me; My mother who dedicated her life to volunteerism, coaching Special Olympics for 20 years, and my father in family medicine for 45 years both showed me that giving and helping others was what true humanity was about. But i must say the support and inclusion, the passion of my piers in the Denver art community has been the most amazing catalyst for my current Artistic life. To work along side and learn from so many amazing creative people, trying in their own way to bring beauty, imagination, conversation and cultural relevance to a growing and changing Denver and Colorado art movement… they are inspiring.