“Rosa Parks” (acquired, AVAM permanent collection)


“Rosa Parks”,  30” x 20” acrylic/oil on watercolor board, 2016

(acquired, AVAM permanent collection)

from artist statement 2002:


Growing up in Lincoln, Nebraska, I was lucky to live in a college town, damn lucky. I had been exposed to the likes of Noam Chomsky, ‘Raw Magazine’ (Art Spiegelman), college radio, and since I ‘looked old’, I could get into the bars (passing as 18) to see live music. It goes without saying that I was especially lucky to be raised by ultra-supportive parents; however, it was the influences I picked up from feeling a connection to the underground political and musical passion of the early 80’s that is my bridge from personal experience to art.

"Raw Magazine", a New York City art-school-inspired publication published ‘two to four times a year’ was the first and greatest influence on my appreciation for ‘meaningful art’. I used to pick it up when I was in junior high school (1981) at a record store near the University of Nebraska campus. From that I was introduced to Charles Burns, Sue Coe, Mark Beyer, and Gary Panter. Of course Art Spiegelman, of ‘Maus’ fame, was the editor and somehow must have influenced my use of ‘icons’ to symbolize everything from trauma, ignorance, desire, faith, consumption and innocence.

On the radio in Lincoln we had KZUM, an independent volunteer-run station, that featured a call-in show by a local anarchist. It was the Reagan years in Lincoln and most of the callers that got through would poke fun at the host’s wildly foreign ideas. And most of the time he didn’t seem to realize they were trying to be funny, at his expense... he’d faithfully labor through every ‘I think we should nuke Russia’ call and explain why nukes were bad (in great detail) and how the labors of the proletariat class keep the rich in place at the expense of the poor. Listening to the anarchist talk was entertaining, and probably the reason I started to pick up and read Noam Chomsky. Chomsky was, and continues to be, ‘the voice of reason and fact’ amongst the horrors of wars and the media’s Orwellian depiction of reality. I don’t want to be pinned to the ideas of any one political intellect, but let’s just agree that trauma is suffered on both ends of an M-16 rifle and original art should be affordable to everybody, regardless of economic class.

KZUM radio also played punk rock from Berkley, California (Maximum RockNRoll) on Thursday nights when I was a kid. It was insane music back in the early 80’s and was just about as foreign as a Nebraskan anarchist. I suppose the energy and alienation of socialism, punk rock, and even an anarchist, fed into my subconscious desire to belong to something ‘different’. Something that was different, and not related to physical disability. Punk rock culture flourished on the idea of d.i.y. ("do it yourself"), be yourself, and accept everybody as an equal... Back then, it seemed that the smart kids were the ‘punks’. Bands and fans would book shows, create magazines, and produce fantastically creative flyers to advertise shows. All ‘outside’ the creative and economic influence of the music industry. The imagery from the flyers , the collage-like rawness, and politically horrific, sometimes humorous imagery continues to influence many of my paintings. I feel that much of what I do today, from maintaining my own webpage, my pricing, to dealing with galleries and buyers one-on-one was inspired from the genius of the "do it yourself" culture of punk rock.

So my primary education in Lincoln was fruitful... And then it was off to college in Oklahoma. It was time to go it alone, with a nice scholarship from the Mensa society (for a paper I wrote questioning the ethics of nuclear arms). Life at the university was ecstasy. It was there that I was elected homecoming king, student senator, frat boy, volunteered at and got fired for playing punk music at a radio station, plastered the campus with my flyers, and ran amok with alcohol. Yes, and I got a Bachelor of Science in computer engineering, made the dean’s list, and landed my first job out of college with IBM in Washington, DC in 1988.

© Matt Sesow 2016