A redhead in a summer dress sits lost in thought in the plush, green landscape of an enormous canvas. Nearby, naked, half-drawn figures look out from equally vast canvases within the studio space of junior Matt Statz.
Statz, a studio art and political science double major, can often be found working in his studio until the wee hours, completing paintings for his painting and portfolio classes. But there is more going on there than the brush strokes and the earthy smell of oil paints.
“The real difficult part is the head work,” Statz said.
An artist can always develop technical methods, he said, but discovering what his or her work will accomplish is the challenge.
Statz said traditionally he focuses on execution and less on concept, but he is trying to break that mold. He said he is seeking to answer the question, “What do I want my art to do?”
Department Chair and Professor of Art and Visual Culture Ron Mills, Statz’s adviser, mentor and professor, said he can see the struggle Statz has finding a theme in his art.
“Searching for a thread is really an internal skill that every artist needs to develop,” Mills said, explaining that Statz has to figure out which thread to tug on.
Statz said he comes from a small community in Washington with an overwhelming support for the arts. He began taking painting lessons when he was 8 years old to supplement his school art classes.
He concentrated mostly on landscapes and still life. Now most of Statz’s work is portraiture.
“When I got to college, we had the opportunity to work with live models, which I’d never done before,” he said. “I like the emotional connection you can feel with figurative work.”
Landscape and still life, Statz said, can be looked at and appreciated, but they don’t connect with an audience the same way portraits do. Still, he is attempting to incorporate all these aspects into his paintings.
Statz is incredibly devoted to art, junior Sterling Scott, one of Statz’s roommates, said.
“He’s out [in his studio] every night until at least two in the morning,” Scott said. “Honestly, I think he spends more of his free time in the art building than anywhere else.”
And Statz has the credentials to prove Scott right.
Not only is Statz always in the Miller Fine Arts building to attend classes and to paint, but he also is a peer instructor in one of Mills’ painting classes.
Mills said Statz is mindful to appear as a mentor to these students.
“He’s really generous with his time,” senior Kelly McLeod, a member of the class, said.
McLeod has never taken an art class before and said Statz spent three nights in a row with her to work on one independent painting for the class. She said he gives a lot of one-on-one attention to all of the students, for which they are grateful.
“He makes [painting] look easy,” she said.
Assisting students is good practice for Statz, who said he would ideally want to be a college art professor. But he doesn’t help just for the experience.
“I think art really meets a need that a lot of people have and don’t really act on,” he said. “I think more people should do art.”