Though recently relocated to the Twin Cities, Matt Pawlowski spent the past 23 years in California, based mostly in the Bay Area. After graduating with an MFA from the University of Minnesota, he moved to San Francisco in 1996 and opened ESP Gallery, one of a small number of alternative exhibition spaces supporting artists of the Mission School, located near the corner of Valencia and 14thStreets.
ESP championed emerging California artists and Pawlowski was the curator for both solo shows and thematic group exhibitions such as Prettytown: Queer Americana in San Francisco Parts I & II, (2000), and Erotic: Unsolicited Works from the Tom of Finland Archive (1999).
Pawlowski was an early roster artist for Circa Gallery, has been an associate artist with Andrea Schwartz Gallery, San Francisco, since the early 1990's, and shows regularly at Sticks Gallery in Berkeley, California.
Pawlowski has focused his own practice on the dicotomies of identity and is interested in the conflict between acceptance and “otherness.” He focuses on an ethereal intersection where gay culture and a larger cultural mind set meet.
Utilizing needlework, a traditionally feminine art form, Pawlowski creates work highlighting the repetitive nature of embroidery, a ruminative medium that infers self-recorded history. Pictorially, he reconsiders symbols, history, and representation as a response to gay culture’s journey into the 21st century.
My art practice reflects upon gay culture and the evolving way the queer community interprets (and re-interprets) its identity. I center my practice around needlework, a traditionally feminine art form, as a meditative exploration of queer culture and as a visual medium to reconsider gay symbolism, history, and representation. Focusing on an ethereal intersection where gay culture and a larger cultural mind set meet, I am interested in the conflict between acceptance and “otherness.”
In previous centuries, needlework has been used as a tool for pictorial mourning and representation of loss. In our digital age, the internet allows individuals and tribes to construct their history, and responses to it, instantly. We can curate and mold digital expressions of individual or group experiences within the larger cultural cache, and also mourn there. My work is influenced by the echoes of queer culture milestones (HIV/AIDS, activism, the absorption of queerness into mainstream culture) that ricochet within our embrace of the digital present.
Text has become more prevalent in my work as of late. Utilizing phrases, proper names, queer slang, pop culture references, musical lyrics, and original writing, I search for subjugated expression and meaning within queer culture’s presentation of itself. In addition, symbolic images (pride flag, pink triangle) or queer icons (Judy Garland, Karen Carpenter) are used as a launching point of exploration and as subjective cultural cyphers.
By using traditional materials, (painting, needlework, drawing) I contrast the contemporary, pictorial language of images (and our technologically aided memories of them) with a methodological reproduction (via handiwork), which together, form a meditation on ideas of cultural permanence, remembrance and loss.