Spotlight on Thomas Matsuda: 2017 Open Studio Fellow

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Thomas Matsuda

Thomas Matsuda, MA, infuses Buddhist teachings with elemental forces of water, fire, wood, earth, and metal into his large-scale public sculpture and performances. Born in Connecticut and now living in Massachusetts, Thomas has also spent time living with the Diné Navajo in Arizona and lived for thirteen years in Japan during which he apprenticed under the sculptor Koukei Eri. He has carved and exhibited sculptures around the world; over 200 in Japan alone. Currently, Thomas is a professor and Chair of the Department of Art at Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner, MA.

As one of our fall artist-in-residence fellows of 2017, Thomas has a special connection to one the very first fellows of the year, Ojars Feldbergs, to bring us full circle with another ceremonial stone and fire performance. Thomas was invited by Ojars, founder of Pedvale Open Air Museum in Latvia to carry out several projects there in 2012.

Thomas’s work with wood often manifests in a performative burning that chars the surface of the wood to a rich, velvety black. During his recent Open Studio Fellowship, Thomas created Oneness, a new sculpture incorporating the five elements and culminating with a fire performance featuring local musician JG Everest and poet Thomas LaBlanc.

One ocean,
One land,
One people,
Oneness in one life

Poem by Thomas LaBlanc

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Describe your creative process and influences:

My inspiration comes from experiences in my life.

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Tell us about your project at FSP:

John invited me to make a sculpture after creating several sculptures at FSP in 2003. I was honored that he remembered me and asked me back. Since I am teaching, I only had one week to be at FSP. My work revolves around the basic elements and I have been burning wood, recently dealing with water. This time I wanted to combine the two. I developed an idea using a stone basin with burnt wood around it. I asked John if he had any large boulders and he sent me pictures. I picked one. He sent me contacts for tree cutters and lumber yards. I contacted them and set up times to meet when I arrived. I had an old native poet friend, Thomas LaBlanc, in Minneapolis and asked if wanted to collaborate with a performance. Then whole piece evolved during the week at FSP.

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How does your time at Franconia compare to other residencies or projects you’ve completed?

Franconia was full of energy from the staff and interns. The support, assistance, and equipment was exceptional. It is rare to have all of these and made my piece possible

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What did you learn at FSP? What was the biggest challenge?

I learned to work fast and not sleep! I learned to have confidence that a piece can evolve through the process. My biggest challenge was my limited amount of time.

Do you have any other projects coming up?

I have some commissions and a residency in Japan coming up.

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The Open Studio Fellowship Program is made possible by generous lead support from the Windgate Charitable Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional support from many generous individuals like you! Thank you. The Open Studio Fellowship Program supports the creation of new works by emerging and mid-career visual artists from across North America and beyond.

Subscribe to Franconia’s blog and never miss out on a FSP Spotlight interview. Check out earlier 2017 Spotlight installments: Bridget Beck and Joy Feuer, Carissa SamaniegoNick RiversSamantha HolmesJordan Rosenow and April MartinNooshin Hakim Javadi and Pedram BaldariBill KlailaLaura Feldberga and Ojars Feldbergs! We will be featuring all of our 2017 Fellowship Artists throughout the summer and fall, so stay tuned.

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