Matthew Leavell is a Coastal Virginia sculptor known for his large scale three dimensional metal work, often characterized by vibrant coloration and a whimsical nature. He describes his work as follows: “My work is often created using recycled, salvaged, and upcycled raw materials which bring their own unique history and character to a sculpture. I see an abandoned or discarded piece of rusted steel as a literal representation of a broken life, an abandoned dream, or a damaged relationship. Salvaging such materials and through inspiration, creativity, and persistence creating an entirely new and beautiful work of art, is not only a personally fulfilling process, but one that stands as an analogy of the nature of life in general. I strive to create art which is vibrant, eclectic, and whimsical, and to create enduring reminders to myself and others of those elements in our shared human existence which are beautiful, joyful, and life-giving.”
Matthew grew up in a small farming community surrounded by the sprawling cornfields of rural Indiana. His early years were spartan in nature; defined by fundamentalism, conservatism, and simplicity. Matthew often describes his path into the art world as a “bootstrapped backdoor approach”, which is fitting. After a brief encounter with academia, he struggled through his twenties latching onto any project or business venture that would allow him to build, design, or create. These pursuits produced pieces that were undeniably beautiful, but terribly out of scale or proportion to the time, space, and energy that had been available for them. “I needed to create such things;” explains Matthew, “the concepts lived within me, and unrealized, would grow until they occupied every waking moment and solitary fiber of my being. To create them; to give them literal substance, was as much an exorcism as it was a catharsis”. Matthew restored and lived on an old sailboat, constructed sprawling, unique residential structures, and built small businesses around his creative tendencies and abilities, each venture somehow applying his creative potential to a practical or commercial end. Age and angst eventually motivated a move away from the traditional corporate world and the pragmatic conventions that define it, and into an unfettered creative existence as an artist and sculptor. The artist explains: “I have come to love the tension that arises from tying my financial well being to my creative exploits; it feels utterly natural and right to subsist by the work of my own hands and heart. The weight of this experience; the consequence piled upon the personal creative process by relying upon it for sustenance, is the essence of the creative life itself. I relish the inevitable conflicts that the creative professional must navigate at the nexus of practicality and creativity.”Matthew has exhibited original artwork at over 100 venues in 14 US states, and his sculptures are displayed in municipal parks, public and private gardens, and in private collections nationwide. His Imagine Exhibit, as well as his more recent kaleidoscopic work has delighted tens of thousands of visitors to botanical gardens in the Southeast and midwest regions of the US. Matthew comments on the topic of inspiration as follows: “Despite exploring philosophical issues in my work, I have been and remain a craftsman at heart. I believe that an artist honors his muse; honors his sacred ideas and concepts, by rendering them carefully, skillfully, and to the absolute limits of his or her abilities at that given time. Depth cannot be borrowed from the subject matter inspiring a piece, it resides within the work itself. I remain fixated on positive, non divisive subject matters, often finding inspiration in the natural world. I believe that the concepts of joy, beauty, whimsy, and resilience retain as much artistic depth as social injustice or angst.”

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