Meet Matthew Coté
"I enjoy sparking discussion because, even though I may not be able to change someone’s mind of create empathy, a discussion lasts. A discussion reverberates from person to person and reveals hidden truths to people either a part of or observing the discussion."
Tell us your artist story, some biographical info, when did you decide to be an artist? Why do you make art? Where did you study? Etc.
I was born and raised in Tacoma, WA, and I am currently residing in Erie, PA. Finding my way towards an interest in art was a long process of discovery. I was always interested in art when I was younger, but I never took it seriously until much later. Art took a serious hold on me during college. When it came to working with metal I first became interested while attending Tacoma Community College’s sculpture program. My professor handed me a MiG welder and basically said, “Have Fun.” I was fascinated by the welding process and enjoyed producing work almost as quickly and spontaneously as I came up with them. That fascination led me to my initial focus in producing large-scale sculptural installation projects, mostly in steel.
Eventually, after graduating from community college I lost interest in sculpture and installation shortly after taking my first metalsmithing class. Making work quickly and in large-scale had its benefits but I never attained any real satisfaction from the process or the end result. Metalsmithing allowed me to focus my ideas. I enjoyed the process more, and the end result was satisfying unlike previous attempts made on my early work in steel. I eventually attained my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art from Central Washington University (2011) and then my MFA in Metalsmithing from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania (2018).
I produce art because I enjoy interaction. I enjoy the dialogue I can create with others who view my work. I enjoy the interpretations people take from my work and the discussion that stems from those interpretations.
What do you want people to walk away with after experiencing your work?
Initially, I thought the goal of my work was for a viewer to maybe learn something new about themselves, or to discover empathy towards the issues of others. Now, I have come to understand that true value is in the discussion that is sparked from my work. I enjoy sparking discussion because, even though I may not be able to change someone’s mind of create empathy, a discussion lasts. A discussion reverberates from person to person and reveals hidden truths to people either a part of or observing the discussion.
Sometimes a piece of mine is a reactionary critique on an event or perception, other times it is a calculating paradox that stides the line of an issue. Sometimes I strike a cord of humor, other times I am dead serious. No matter what tone or intention in design the goal of my work is to be a spark towards something more.
What influences your work? Why?
What influences me is manipulating the various implications behind how jewelry is perceived. I came to find that Jewelry was a better way to convey the messages of my work. Jewelry and metalsmithing are my tools for political activism, as well as to broaden art outreach within a community. When jewelry is worn it is a statement. Depending on the placement on the body it can imply feelings, such as sexuality or arrogance. Jewelry is influential, and sometimes subliminally so. I enjoy that jewelry has a chance to breach outside the gallery walls and be worn as a statement or critique. The person becomes the gallery. Even when displayed off the body a piece of jewelry bares implications of value, eccentricity, and stereotypes related to value and desire.
What does it mean to you to participate in Hera an exhibiting artist for the In God We Trust exhibition?
I was excited to be accepted into the exhibition, because it is a profound honor. The topic of the exhibition is controversial and provocative. As a venue itself Hera has a history of being ahead of the curve and pushing boundaries, the topic of this show is no exception. To be apart of such an exhibition allows my work to be viewed and critiqued in a new way, with other work exploring the same topic.
To see more of Matthew's work visit his website: https://www.matthew-cote.com