Friday Fiver: Hirona Matsuda

Hirona Matsuda has done it all. Painting, sculpture, assisting, selling, managing, teaching. Anything that is arts related, it is likely that this Charleston power-house has done it. Perhaps best known for making tiny dioramas using dozens of different mediums, Hirona has made a name for herself as a visionary in the world of contemporary southern art. With her upcoming show, Hirona is exploring a more minimalistic approach, using paper as her surface. While the materials may be pared down, the result is, unsurprisingly, astounding. The show, “A Response to Paper”, will be a group exhibition also unnamed-1featuring Alan Jackson, Matthew Dietz, and Michael Hayes. See it tonight at Lese Corrigan Gallery at 5:00, or go during gallery hours through the month of July. We sat down with Hirona for our Friday Fiver.

You recently returned from a three-week trip through Europe. Tell us how that trip has influenced your upcoming show “A Response to Paper”.
My three colleges, Matt Dietz, Michael Hayes and Alan Jackson and I, came up with the idea for a show featuring works on paper because we had the desire to produce a cohesive show together even though our styles and mediums are vastly different.  By using paper as the uniting force we were able to stay true to our own styles yet create work with a common thread.  Paper is not my usual material of choice, but luckily this trip played into the concept perfectly.
I arrived in Sweden with a portfolio full of blank paper knowing that I had a show to put together when I got back.  The first leg of my trip took me to an old mill town called Fengersfors outside of Gothenburg.  The town now has only about 300 residents, but the old paper mill has been taken over by a group of artists called Not Quite http://www.notquite.se/.  They have made a good portion of the factory into beautiful studio spaces for working artists.
Being the scavenger that I am, I made a beeline for the areas that had yet to be renovated.  During my exploration I came across rooms and rooms of beautiful abandoned machinery.  It was like I had walked into a world that usually only appears in my favorite dreams.  The closest thing I can relate it to is exploring our old naval base ten years ago.
I found the inspiration for this show when I came upon the filing cabinets that held the paperwork for the factory when they were still in production.  Strewn all over the floors and spilling out of rusty binders were pages and pages of work orders and samples for all of the product they were manufacturing.  Each sample was signed off by an employee and had been cross hatched by hand to show how the paper handled ink.  The crown jewel was when I found a folder full of blueprints and plans for the machinery I had just explored.
Of all the awe-inspiring sights I took in and the amazing museums I visited during my travels, this portion of the trip was really the key to the body of work that I produced for this show.  The remoteness of this area and the unadulterated nature of the things I saw were more exciting than all of the master works I stood in front of.  Not to say that they aren’t going to play into my future work, but you know, one show at a time.
Although this show is all on paper, you work with a ton of different mediums and materials. What is the one thing you can’t live without to create your art?
Whether I’m working with paper or metal and wood, the key ingredient is a good adhesive to stick it all together.  I spend a lot of time searching out and testing as many varieties and combinations as I can find.   Because I was flying a bunch and didn’t want to carry a bunch of liquids in my suitcase, I brought the strongest, acid free glue stick I could find.  Without an archival glue that is customized to the materials I am trying to attach, my entire body of work could fall apart.  The biggest challenge is finding non toxic, studio safe alternatives to the harsher things on the market.
Having been in Charleston for the last 13 years, how have you seen things change for contemporary artists?
For the most part contemporary art in this city has seen a steady upward climb.  Over the past several years I feel like Charleston has become better known, not only as a place to find more traditional art, but also more modern or experimental art.
The biggest hurdle that contemporary artists face in Charleston is funding for non traditional art forms.  While sales of contemporary art art thankfully taking off in our galleries, there is still a lack of funding for artists who want to create work that is temporal, installation based, or performance based.  These art forms have few venues and almost no support, but are an important component of contemporary art.
Who are the top three artists that you would like to have at a dinner party?
I really enjoy dinner in the company of close friends over strangers.  But three artist that I feel might seem almost as familiar as the beautiful artists I’m lucky enough to call my closest might be Miyazaki the illustrator/filmmaker, Chris Ware the illustrator and graphic novelist (I must like illustrators), and maybe a wild card like Toulouse-Lautrec.  On second thought, all of these artists would probably fare better at three separate dinner parties.  Can’t complain about more parties.
If you could wave a magic wand over Charleston and one thing would change, what would it be?
I would make it easier for artists to make a living doing what they should be doing.  That includes funding for arts education in our public schools.  Most of us that are artists today, would never be doing what we do if we hadn’t been encouraged at a young age.  As far as I’m concerned, the more people making art and sharing it with our community the healthier our city will be.