Matthew Barter Micro Documentary



The thing, I think that I'm realizing now is that as an artist, it takes you your whole life to process. And I'm still processing stuff from when I was 10. When I make something that really I feel is powerful or special, when you finish, it feels like you're coming home, you know, that's important because you're sort of grabbing everything from your experience all the way up to that point. And it all comes out. It's a really unique feeling. 

 My name is Matt Barter. We are in my studio in Brunswick, Maine. I'm a painter sculptor where I work. I've done a lot of different things. I was a house painter for quite a few years. Before that I worked on a lobster boat for a couple of years. I grew up in Sullivan Maine, which I never really realized what a interesting place that was until I kind of moved away for a long time, spent my childhood outside in the woods, on the shore, being able to walk out and disappear for an entire day with nothing but a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in my pocket. That was a huge part of my development. I did have a very unique childhood. My dad had quite a few different operations that were based on the water. She had a lobster boat for a couple of summers. I worked on that. I mean, I was only 12 at the time. Then when I was a little bit older, he bought me a clam hoe and a pair of boots. And I went climbing with him. So we'd find these different isolated areas, but he would hike him with an easel on his back and oil paints. And he would literally paint on the shore while he was waiting for the tide to go out. And I would just sit there with him that was very formative in my learning process. 

 He starts out with the sketchbook and I'll work for a really long time. I've got these ideas for these sculptures and I just start out with something, maybe simple, something like this. And then I just see which direction it wants to go in. The crazy thing about sculpting for me was I was used to working like one dimensional. So my sketches, I would sketch and paint. So then when I went to sculpt, the first ones turned out terrible. And then I was thinking to myself, of course, because you have to sketch from both sides. Never, never had sculpted before. And then it was like, I opened another portal in my brain when I did that. You know, when you go one dimensional to three dimensional, you get, you go to a totally different, exciting place. And so I started sculpting, I just took these chunks of wood and I just started hacking into them. 

 And at first it was just very clumsy and I had no tools and I didn't know what I was doing from there. I started to make some things that I was really excited about. What I love about it is you get to do a lot of experimenting with materials. Glom. I kind of came upon this through intuition. Olam is like an old Mainer word, you know, glom that on there, gluing and screwing things together to accomplish something that was maybe it's never its purpose. A lot of fishermen use that terminology. So like on a lobster boat, you might see things that they've had to rig together to make something work because they're basically inventing their own industry. And I love it. You know, there's so many different materials out there to play with. I think that's kind of what sculpting is. It's playtime 


As an artist, we are not stifled. We're not held to any perfect law and we get to play and we get to come up with our own ideas of what is beautiful and what is important. And the values that we have, we bring those into the, into a painting, a painting for me of Maine. It's about the working harbors, the work that happens that Mainers do in and out of every day, you know, and I find that to be incredibly powerful. If you're making art and you're like over the moon, then you're doing something right. And sometimes I have way too much fun. The right song is on and the paint is just going just, just right.


This Micro-Doc was directed and produced by Sean Thomas and Lamia Lazrak





Learn more about this artist:


Available artwork


Radio Maine podcast interview


Art Matters blog article


Off The Wall magazine Q&A


Micro-documentary film