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First Image:
Maybe I'll Have Gills
Second Image: On The Line

Matthew Kimball

1. How do you see the theme subdue/d interacting with these pieces? 

My entire adult life and most of my adolescence has been subdued. At 15, I sustained my first of 6 traumatic brain injuries, the leading cause of disability worldwide for those under the age of 40. As an invisible disability, TBI affects millions of people annually, many of whom never know that the root cause of their bodily response is brain injury. I have spent my entire adult life attempting to adjust to this particularly common and debilitating form of subduction. 

2. What is the inspiration/process behind these works? Why did you choose a black and white theme for these works and not any colors?

My first injury resulted in over a decade and a half of suicidality, a particularly insidious existence, which I explore in these pieces that reflect upon my suicide attempt at the age of 17. Modern life has a proclivity for pulling us apart, particularly those living with disability. In these pieces, I take the abstractions of being pulled apart psychologically and use objective correlatives to make their effects visual. A clothespin to represent failure to meet particular social norms, or a fishing hook to signify the inability to produce to the extent our society demands workaholism, for example. The choice of grayscale results from the decision to use graphite pencils, an oddly emotive medium for portraiture that simultaneously conveys a draining of color or vitality. The body itself drains of color when we die, and the graphite medium depicts the body in the liminal space between life and death – alive in image, dead in color scheme.


3. How do you approach art making and writing separately? Do you choose to express different emotions in each medium? How do they work as your outlets?


Art and writing are inseparably linked for me, though I do pursue each in their own turn. However, I thoroughly enjoy completing pieces that involve both figures and words. Doing so allows for a more well-rounded self-expression, but pursuing visual art on its own, particularly when working without color, creates images that seem to gasp for air, the ability to articulate what can’t be conveyed by images that aren’t always worth a single word, much less a thousand. In truth, I tend to use all media in turn to see which form feels most appropriate for a given, inexplicable emotion like suicidality. Some elements of the experience can be conveyed with words, but others necessitate a fishhook through a fingernail. Regardless, getting what poison eats away at me out of my living body and onto inanimate paper is a catharsis that is hard to replicate.


4. Can you describe to us the feeling when you complete a piece? Do you abandon them or does your relationship with them deepens?


I don’t really believe a piece is ever complete. I choose to stop when the piece feels right for the moment, but I frequently return to the piece conceptually to revise or remake it entirely. With graphite, the fixative used to seal the piece precludes further work, but I often revisit the same subjects to remake them as I gain experience and perspective. The relationship never diminishes, as time functions very much like a river for me, constantly carving away new depths from whatever canyons my experiences have been etched into my being.


5. Is there anything else you want us to know about your process/pieces etc?


The only aspect of my art I believe worth the audience’s attention is the origin of its making: traumatic brain injury. The dialogue around the subject is not only rife with misinformation, but it is also far behind the other stratifications of brain health. Mood and anxiety disorders continue to gain public attention, but meaningful discussion of brain injury remains well outside the dialogue. My pieces are insignificant compared to the homeless population, over half of which live with a history of brain injury; the survivors of domestic assault, who experience adverse brain health fallout over 80% of the time; and our millions of children sustaining brain injuries annually, 25% of whom don’t graduate high school, 50% of whom don’t graduate college. If you want to know more about my pieces, you will find one unlucky person’s incredibly lucky survival of a condition that kills indiscriminately in my pieces’ depths. 

Matthew Kimball is an artist and writer seeking to further the dialogues around brain injury, disability, and toxic masculinity.

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