“Strive” – An Exhibition of Pastel Work

My show, Strive, opens on November 2, 2009, at Bellevue College Gallery in Bellevue, Washington.


Here are a few links to some of the work that will be in the show:

The Impossible Geometries of Contemplation


Current Events

Revealer (Forced #1)

And here is my statement about the works, written for the show:

Strive – Pastel Works by Matthew Ballou

The group of works I present here – each in the tondo format and created in many layers of pastel – is a small contemplation on the gesture or shape of struggle, concern, and distress.

I have created dense surfaces and chromatic environments meant to play in the distance between implied narrative and votive stillness. Though I take cues from the ways bodies move through and react to stress or pain, these are not pictures of actual pain, nor are they meant to address the true physical reality of hurting. They are instead symbolic stylizations of the aches we feel, inspired by an iconography of bodily form and posture. They imagine the machinations we get up to when in states of deep anxiety, whether in our banal daily lives or amid the worrisome questions of intellectual engagement. They are about a kind of conceptual discomfiture distilled through the image of the body.

My desire for each work is two-fold. First, I aim for the artworks to stimulate reflection, creating some key resonance in viewers, perhaps via the memory of past physical or metaphysical tension. Secondly, I want the artwork to function as an argument for the image of the body as a meaningful metaphor beyond the constraints of individual persons or singular moments.

A summation: “Everything takes form, even infinity. We seek to determine being and, in so doing, transcend all situations, to give a situation of all situations. Man’s being is confronted with the world’s being. The being of man is an unsettled being which all expression unsettles.” – Gaston Bachelard, from The Poetics of Space

Bachelard in the Woods



…reading Bachelard’s “The Poetics of Space” in the woods outside of Columbia, MO.


A strange centering. I read this back in grad school and am now enjoying it with one of my grads – more specifically chapters 8, 9 and 10. Check it out here. It’s worth way more than 11 bucks.

Hope Sandoval

Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions just released their second, long-awaited collection of music, titled Through the Devil Softly.

The new music stands in some dusty, murky ground between the previous HS&tWI CD, 2001’s Bavarian Fruit Bread (BFB), and the legendary body of work created by Sandoval’s other (long dormant) band, Mazzy Star. Through the Devil Softly (TtDS) is neither as downbeat-shoe-gazing as BFB was, nor is it as deathly otherworldly as the Mazzy Star work was. TtDS finds a glowing haze that the others forego in their overcast evenings and midnight reveries.

The sonic textures of old (glinting, rain-like guitar work; fleeting harmonicas; noir-ish, understated drums) are back and certainly reference the previous HS&tWI recording. But in TtDS they feel not so much quoted as rethought, reconstructed; there really is a different feeling to this new group of songs. Bavarian Fruit Bread’s sound was nested largely in an acoustic feel and this inflected every aspect of the production – even the layered use of keyboards and other ambient soundscapes present in the work. In TtDS, layered instrumentation and vocals signal the constructed, incremental product that it is.

I’m pleased with the confidence in Sandoval’s voice on TtDS and find the syncopation of delivery that she’s using really lovely. Yes, the trademark lilting languidness is there – it’s something fundamental to how she uses her instrument – but on TtDS her intonation touches a clarity and closeness not felt on previous tracks. The music stays pushed off in fade and reverb, yet Sandoval’s breathy voice is near and concise when compared to her past work.

Overall, TtDS feels more varied and staged than BFB… and that’s good. It’s a body of music that feels like it is referencing a greater range of feeling than past tracks were while retaining the trademark sound and mood for which Sandoval is known.

It’s nice to have more Hope out there.

Key tracks from Through the Devil Softly:

For the Rest of Your Life
Sets the Blaze


Dodecahedron Bronze, Part 3


Worked on the investment mold for my bronze with Chris again a few days ago. Above is the “before” picture… and below is a pictorial of the process.







This was one of about 12 iterations of the same process. Eventually the wax will be entirely coated with the investment and a fine silica sand. In a week or so we’ll aim at the actual bronze pouring. I’ll have pictures of that as well!