A mere five minutes on the streets of New York City and one can’t help but fall in love with it. Millions of people from every which way existing both in high-rises and below ground in the multitude of subways that act as the veins of the Big Apple. It’s those subways that sparked something in Matthew Grabelsky. His work features the NYC-staple with a wild twist of the imagination. Beautifully done oils done on canvases that showcase not only skill but a variety of relationships; each one familiar.
It’s no surprise the subways served as major inspo for the artist. It’s the place that served as his first home. The place where his first artistic inklings were awoken. Although, if you ask him – he doesn’t quite remember the first time someone else realized his potential growing up. “I’ve been making art for as long as I can remember; so, unfortunately, I can’t identify the first time that someone pointed out my artistic skills,” he notes. While he can’t pinpoint that exact day and time of that, he can recall why he loves both the arts and the sciences. Not common, but where our conversation started.
Kendra: You went on to get a BA in Art and Art History. Um, as well as a BS in Astrophysics. Those aren’t often two majors one rarely see within the same person. How does one’s work when their brain can comprehend both the arts and the sciences on that Cum Laude level?
Matthew Grabelsky: Art and science are related pursuits, in that they are both ways to explore and to learn about the world. Science has allowed me to understand how the world works, and art lets me express my relationship to it. My knowledge of science has been very useful in the technical side of creating my paintings. Having a scientific background gives me an easier grasp of concepts such as light, perspective, or even the chemical properties of oil paint.
Kendra: You went from New York City to Houston to LA, but a lot of your work seems to celebrate your first hometown, especially the subways. Why that feature of the city?
Matthew Grabelsky: The subway is particularly fascinating; it is the circulatory system of New York City. It’s a place where everyone ends up, at some point during the day. It’s the ultimate people-watching spot.
Kendra: It’s also clear that you have a love and appreciation for animals and do them very well. Do you ever spend time sketching at zoos or do you just binge Planet Earth?
Matthew Grabelsky: As a child, I watched nature shows and went to zoos to see animals. I still engage in both of these activities. I sometimes make sketches at the same time; but, more often, I just observe and allow my mind to wander. Ultimately, I’ll come up with new ideas for paintings.
Kendra: You feature many interesting pairings in your work. Like Union Square where the couple features a man with a rhino’s head. Are the pairings random or are there ever meanings behind who goes with what animal?
Matthew Grabelsky: Earlier in my career, I would ask friends and family members to model/pose for me, and I would photograph them. I would subsequently select an animal that would fit the person’s pose. Recently, however, I’ll start out with an animal that I’d like to paint, and then I’ll choose a friend or family member whose personality and body type fits that animal.
Kendra: There are also a number of father and sons in your work. Usually many celebrate the mother in art. Was your dad your first fan?
Matthew Grabelsky: My parents were extremely supportive of my art. They were involved in the arts; my mother was a dancer, and my father worked in film and television production. Therefore, my interest in art made a lot of sense to my parents.
My first father-and-son painting was inspired by a memory of being with my dad when I was a kid. My friend and his son modeled for that piece. They were such great models; I ended up doing more paintings of them. I have since painted a couple of mother-and-son paintings as well. Two of my close friends just had a baby girl, so I expect that I’ll have some paintings with a little girl coming soon.
Kendra: What can we expect from you in 2019? More exhibits?
Matthew Grabelsky: It’s going to be a busy year. I have two solo shows this year, and I will also be participating in several group shows. The first solo show will be in July at Thinkspace Gallery in Los Angeles, and the second solo show will be in December at Dorothy Circus Gallery in London.