Matt Sesow is an independent American artist residing in Washington, DC.
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The Expert


Matt Sesow, 37, painter

Sunday, March 28, 2004; Page M03

GOING SOLO: In 1993, I was working at IBM and met a girl who shared a house with some artists. One day, they brought out some supplies, and I started painting and couldn't stop. I started strategizing ways to paint full time. I set up a Web site, I saved up a lot of money. I got rid of my car. I bought my apartment with IBM stock. The day I got laid off from a dot-com, in 2001, I stopped by CD Warehouse and said, "I want to hang my paintings here." I've been living off my art ever since. All I have to come up with every month is a condo fee, health insurance and some brown rice.

STYLIN': I started out looking at pictures and trying to paint them. They always turned out really bizarre-looking: The eyes, the mouth, the teeth were way too big. People liked it. Eventually I started painting things that happened to me: When I was 8 years old, I was playing in a field by an airstrip and was struck by a landing airplane. The propeller severed my arm. So I've painted people missing limbs, people pointing at someone with a disability.

Thanks, dot-com bust! Layoffs allowed Matt Sesow to chase his true passion. (J Carrier For The Washington Post)

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ART SCHOOL: People put me in this folk-art/outsider-art group because of the disability and the rawness of my paintings, and because I'm self-taught. But I think "outsider" is a term that's almost like victim art. I want to reset the expectations in the art world, so I actively promote myself. I'm my own boss. I'm my own agent. I'm my sales team.

NETWORKED: When I set up online in 1995, I'd search out sites that showed art and e-mail them saying, "I'd love a link from you." I did that probably 800 times. If you do a search on "Sesow" on Google, I'm up to 2,500 hits. I get around 500 individuals visiting the site a day. I don't think a gallery is going to get that.

ON THE ROAD: I'm always working. When curators ask me to be in a show, I go. I had a five-day solo show in January in New York, and I'll have a solo show in D.C. at the end of April in Dupont Circle [at Art+Works+Wonders, 2122 P St. NW, Suite 303]. My paintings are pretty inexpensive, so anybody can afford a small one, and I'll do a sliding scale. I like the idea of somebody paying $4,000 for a large painting and then a college kid buying a little thing for 10 or 20 bucks. Better my stuff than a poster.

As told to Nicole M. Miller

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