Abstraction and relativism Flint strives to capture ‘moment of change’ in artwork
Lander – Painter Matt Flint sees a connection between painting and ranching.
“When we ask ranchers why they do what they do, part of it is tradition, but the other part is because they feel like it’s what they’re supposed to do. Most ranchers can’t imagine doing anything else,” Flint says. “When I found oil painting, it just made sense. There’s a struggle in art that I can equate back to ranching, and it’s as frustrating as it is rewarding.”
He continues, “Most people don’t understand what it takes to raise cattle or to get a calf to finish, and there is that same challenge with art. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work that isn’t necessarily glamorous, but when I’m done, I have a product that speaks for all of the struggle and hard work.”
Flint says the solidarity found in both art and ranching are similar, and he enjoys capturing the images of the West – from horses to wildlife and more – in his work.
Respect for ag
“I have great respect for the tradition of small family farms and ranches,” says Flint. “It’s vital farms and ranches are alive in the West. Local food production and the connection to food production is important.”
Flint was raised on a small family farm outside of Kansas City, Mo., but he went to school in a large city.
“I had an interesting dichotomy of being brought up in the city and the country both,” he explains. “We had a big garden, raised hay, horses, cows, pigs, chickens and rabbits.”
Flint was brought up living and working outside, and he says his parents always encouraged him to be creative.
Flint notes his art teacher in high school played an important role in influencing his career choice.
“I had a fantastic art teacher in high school. I hadn’t thought about art as a career before, but she steered me that way,” he explains. “When I hit my senior year of high school, I knew I was going to be an artist.”
Moving to Wyoming
After college, Flint’s parents sold the family farm, and he lived in cities during his young adulthood, working in illustration for five years.
“When the suburbs started to creep in, the farm wasn’t the same, so my family sold it,” he explains. “I knew I wanted to live somewhere mountainous.”
Growing up, he frequently spent time in Colorado and New Mexico. His wife’s sister lives in Jackson, and during graduate school, his good friend was from Casper.
“Things began to line up to move to Wyoming,” Flint says. “Central Wyoming College had a teaching opening, so I came out to teach art. We fell in love with Lander, and I love teaching.”
“I’m a full-time painter and a full-time teacher,” he continues. “I’m at a point where I could just be a full-time painter, but I realized teaching is beneficial. It keeps me balanced, and I need the teaching aspect of my career, as well.”
Since he began, Flint has been drawn to two styles artwork – representational and abstraction.
“In school, I knew I liked representational art, where people can recognize the subject and I can get as accurate as I can with the animals and people,” he explains. “At the same time, I really love abstraction. To me, abstraction represents something rough and raw around the edges.”
Flint works to combine representative and abstract art.
“I find myself leaning towards more representation, and with the pieces I’m working on right now, the backgrounds tend to be more abstract,” he explains.
Works of art
Flint paints using oil and mixed media. While oil tends to be the base of his work, he also uses ink, bees wax, water-based paints and even soil, marble dust or other components of nature to add texture.
“I use soil that comes from the mountains, which connects each piece back to the land,” Flint says.
He also uses a variety of tools to produce his artwork, from brushes to trowels, putty knives and more.
Flint works on anywhere between 15 and 30 pieces at a time.
“Because they’re really textural and oil takes a while to dry, I work on each piece in stages,” he explains.
“As I start painting, I start by building the atmosphere, and it pops into my head what animal would be appropriate for the background,” he says. “Then, I look at my reference photos and start to build the animal in.”
The process, he says, isn’t clear-cut, and each painting changes continually.
“I put things into the painting, then take them out, change their size and adjust as I go,” Flint explains. “I like painting because it’s very fluid.”
At the end of each piece, Flint says, “The fluidity of my work gives it the feeling that the final piece is caught in a moment of change. They feel fluid and not like a snapshot.”
A number of western galleries represent Flint, and his work can be found across the country.
Flint notes he enjoys taking the summer months to connect with the area that he lives in, while also traveling to restock the galleries that represent him.
“I’m really tied to the Wind River Mountains, the Red Desert and the Wyoming landscape,” he says, noting that his connection to the land shows up in his work. “Ranchers are tied to their land, too.”
“From when I was a child, I knew the land was just more than something I dwelled upon,” Flint says. “I knew the land personally, and there was something special about that. I hope my respect for the land and respect for animals comes through in my art.”
Visit mattflint.com for more of Flint’s work.
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.