Matthew Ballou is an artist and writer living in Columbia, Missouri with his wife and daughter. He earned his BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and his MFA from Indiana University. He is an Assistant Teaching Professor of Painting and Drawing in the Art Department of The University of Missouri, where he has taught since 2007.
Neoteric Art: Regarding your new book, “Nine Texts”, what was your favorite subject or topic to write about?
Matthew Ballou: I always love writing about the processes of thinking about art and the methods of actually creating it. These two avenues come together in terms of experience itself, and that’s perhaps the most deeply rooted interest that I have. I think these things – process, method, and experience – unite most of the writing I’ve done over the years.
That’s why, for example, my short piece Thoughts on Loving Diebenkorn’s Work is closely tied to other essays like Art and Submission or On Intuition and Analysis. Though these two longer pieces seem to be more abstract and deal with art in slightly more lofty language, they’re really very much about the background that brings me to my appreciation of Diebenkorn or any other artist. I find myself able to look into other artists’ work – and my own – with much more rigor and determination after writing texts such as those. Writing like this is able to, as I describe in On Intuition and Analysis, help me integrate my analytical consideration with my intuitive experience (and vice versa). Constantly working on that balance feels appropriate.
Another subject that flows naturally from dealing with thought processes, working method, and reflecting upon experience is that of teaching. In some sense all of my writing is about how I’ve been taught, how I’ve learned to challenge myself, and how I’ve grown in my ability to bring this life of art to students. A piece of writing such as Subjectivity and Robert Henri was something that helped set the stage of what I’d learned so that I could try to express it to others. My writing has always been an interpretive tool for me first – I often work on essays for years before I feel I’ve got a handle on what they’re aiming to do. The writing helps me teach myself.
I’ve appreciated the way Neoteric has allowed me the flexibility to present my thoughts both formally and informally. One piece can be more off the cuff and reactive, while others can carry the reflective distance of years. I think seeing that range in my own process has illuminated the process/method/experience core that I’m most interested in as a writer.
NINE TEXTS collects the writings Matthew Ballou crafted for Neoteric Art as a contributing essayist between 2009 and 2011. Touching on a wide variety of topics, from the work of Richard Diebenkorn and Andrew Wyeth to the challenging questions surrounding intuition and analysis, Ballou’s writings are centered in his own practice as an artist and educator. Highlights from this collection include Subjectivity and Robert Henri, Art and Submission, and Teaching Close Encounters.