100 Colorado Creatives 3.0: Suchitra Mattai
The artist poses with her work.
Editor's note: As our second 100 Colorado Creatives series came to a close in December, it became painfully obvious that our work was far from finished. We feel lucky to live and work in a place where the number of creative people is ever-growing, raising the bar of the arts every single day, year after year. And so we're picking up right where we left off to present 100 Colorado Creatives 3.0.
#100: Suchitra Mattai
Guyana-born with roots in India, Suchitra Mattai is an artist/traveler, picking up global cues and layering them into her works, which blend craft, multimedia, painting, installation, assemblage, collage — and other new mediums yet to be explored. A current RedLine resident, Mattai continues to shape-shift her way through historical touch-points and modern thought as an artist, always growing. We asked her to take a break from her psychic travels to tackle the 100CC questionnaire — here's what she had to say:
Suchitra Mattai, "Don't Underestimate Me."
If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be and why?
I would love to collaborate with the Italian artist Caravaggio and/or the thousands of artisans who constructed some of the most beautiful and complex temple structures in India.
I’d like to think that I share some of Caravaggio’s bold and irreverent spirit (though I’m pretty sure I won’t have to flee Colorado on accusation of a murderous crime!). His dramatic sensibility and considerable innovations would surely contribute to some feisty dialogue.
In addition, the thousands of nameless artisans within guilds who were involved in carving the rock-cut temples and sculptures of the Elephanta caves off of Mumbai’s coast would make for exciting collaborators. I’m intrigued by the thought of thousands of artisans working side-by-side towards a common goal, while still maintaining their individual aesthetic sensibilities.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
I love the landscape paintings of Peter Doig. After living in Scotland and England for most of his life, he moved to Trinidad in the Caribbean. Occupying a similar cultural and natural history to the place of my birth — Guyana, South America — his works resonate with me greatly, referencing mythology, lore and flora that I can relate to. I find his paintings to be fantastic. They are magically real and capture the essence of a place while occupying a position of universality.
Suchitra Mattai, "Generally I Don't Think That Way."
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
I think that we should place more value on work that embodies a sense of sincerity and probes significant questions. There are no specific trends per se that irk me, but a move away from flippancy and poor craftsmanship would benefit us all.
What's your day job?
When I’m not in my studio, I’m often in the classroom. Most recently, I have been teaching at the University of Denver.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
I have many wishes. Donations would, of course, go to those in pursuit of world peace, the eradication of world hunger, solutions to environmental problems, the cure for all of the awful diseases that inflict us as a people, including mental illness, etc. My main focus, however, would be to fund artists and organizations that support artists and to continue to make art myself. Providing studio space to artists would be a priority. A world bereft of culture is a world not worth living in.
Suchitra Mattai, "Imagine That."
Denver (or Colorado), love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
I love Denver…now. When I moved here from out east, it took me a while to acclimate and to find a niche in the cultural landscape. I am thrilled to be part of a city that is undergoing tremendous growth. The natural beauty, the opportunities for artists and the struggle of the old and new make it an exciting place to be.
My woes are as follows: After having lived on the East Coast in places like New York, New Jersey and Philly, I miss cultural diversity, in the sense of being connected to the larger world. I am also sometimes wary of xenophobic background chatter and feel that it would be great if we could all be welcoming of others and recognize the value of diversity.
Lastly, I am alarmed by the way we sometimes neglect our homeless population.
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
While I appreciate the major strides that have been made in our community to promote artists at large, I would like to see more inclusivity and more support for “others.” Whether they are "othered" by gender, race or economics, we need to make room and provide opportunities for all voices to be heard.
Suchitra Mattai, "Misfire," detail.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
I have many, but I will focus on three. The artist Libby Barbee definitely comes to mind. I have always been drawn to her work and appreciate her intellect and voice. I also think that we need to recognize RedLine director Louise Martorano for her endless efforts in supporting artists from many different communities. Lastly, in a bout of nepotistic zeal, I would also like to put a shout-out to my husband and philosophy professor, Adam Graves, who has spent the last year creating an organization that fosters dialogue surrounding the arts, culture and humanities. Housed at Metro State, D-phi (The Denver Project for Humanistic Inquiry) stages innovative and interactive events that bring world-class musicians, artists, poets, philosophers together for thought-provoking events that are open to the public.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
I plan on using the remainder of my residency at RedLine Denver to create as much work as I can. I look forward to experimenting with animation, installation and other large-scale projects. I also have some exhibitions coming up. I will be living in Paris for six months as well.
Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
Everyone should check out the work of Frankie Toan and Jodi Stuart. They both make multimedia work that pushes boundaries and tackles important issues. Both are very dedicated to their practices and create without limits.
Work by Suchitra Mattai can be seen in the annual RedLine resident exhibition, Monumental, through March 27; in Art of the State, through March 27 at the Arvada Center; and in Tear, Cut & Paste - the Art of Collage, through February 13 at the Art Gym. Mattai is also a participant in Ridiculous-ness, a group show opening February 12 and running through February 27 at Ice Cube Gallery. Learn more about the artist online.
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