New showcase of artwork to come to Gallery

An artistic take on Mexican culture and autism awareness awaits at Gannon University’s Schuster Gallery.

A series of 17 colorful, cubist-quality panels by Craig Matis entitled “Autism: A Mexican Adventure” arrived  Aug. 30 and will be displayed through Oct. 30.

The folded paper and 3-D pencil drawings tell a surreal story of a father and son’s journey through Mexico in the aftermath of the mother’s death.

“For this show I wanted to combine my love for the artistic and cultural elements of Mexico with the challenges that are part of raising a child with disabilities, such as autism,” the Evanston, Ill., native said.

Matis’ 33-year-old son, who helped inspire this latest piece, has lived in a group home in Cleveland for 12 years. Matis said he is very happy with the programs and services available to the special needs community of northeast Ohio.

“I have had the good fortune of helping to guide him along throughout his life and watching him mature into a fairly independent young man, despite his limitations,” he said.

An artist reception for “Autism” will be held 7-10 p.m. Friday, as part of the Erie Art Museum’s Gallery Night, in conjunction with the Governor’s Awards Week celebration.

Matis’ style as a visual artist has its roots in his post-collegiate rock band, Uzizi. Formed in the early ‘80s after Matis’ graduation from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the group integrated slides of original artwork into its live performances, creating a visual as well as auditory narrative and setting the band apart from others.

These “songbooks,” as Matis calls them, “later became a format, which was a natural extension of the band experience,” he said.

Gallery viewers could listen to the band’s recorded music on a portable media player while taking in the text and imagery that lined the gallery walls. His earlier exhibitions had a corresponding songbook illustrating a message for each song.

Years later, Matis developed two songbook installations: “Riverside: Personal Views of Racism” and “Trench Cuisine: A Rock Band’s Recipe for Semi-Success.” The latter drew from Uzizi’s own struggle to achieve commercial success. In “Trench Cuisine,” a fictional band’s journey from inception to its final tour through the United Kingdom spans 24 panels.

Using 3-D pencils instead of spray paint, “Autism” is an extension of “Trench Cuisine.” According to Matis, most of his work is fictional, but “there are aspects to it that are based in reality.”

 

APRIL SHERNISKY

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