10 inches x 12 inches
Philadelphia based artist Matthew Cox is best known for his x-ray work which highlights the contrasts between the two materials from the tactile to the technical. He is of course not defined solely on this work and his exciting ‘Fragmented Hosts,’ series shown above indicates there is a lot of exciting work ahead.
What is your background in textiles?
I think of myself as an artist who, in the instance of the embroidered x-rays, draws with thread. My introduction to stitching was probably noticing my mother quilt. She continues a long-standing Southern American tradition of quilting quilts whose tops are made of leftover scraps of material.
My major at Parsons School of Design was illustration. The embroidery on the x-rays is simply that; illustration with highly-coloured, shiny thread. But of course the impetus for the embroidered x-rays was about redefinition of materials that have an assumed purpose that, when layered together, upset and redefine that purpose.
What is it about textiles that appeals to you?
Textiles to me are warm, nurturing, tactile, familiar and necessary. Each of those lends itself to the possibility of engaging art.
How long did it take to develop your X-ray work?
The embroidered x-rays are just one of several different kinds of work that I have made since 2001. Each of these has been very different but worked through in a similar vein, concept and look. For instance I drew with rubber stamps for a couple of years. Primarily portraiture, I would have a stamp made that referred to the subject’s experience at that time and render a life-sized portrait of them by stamping thousands of times; literally labelling them. ‘SWM, loves art, seeks’, ‘Mortgage’ and ‘The life of Riley’ are examples of stamps used.
How have your later X-ray art pieces evolved from your earlier pieces?
When I begin an new body of work I generally aim for ten pieces to firmly get the idea across and that was the case with the initial group of x-rays. But they have continued on and been shown more and longer than I expected. They have evolved over time. At first I was containing the embroidery within the x-ray but in 2011 I began to join two or three together and make shapes outside of the rectangle.
How long does one piece generally take?
A piece can take between 10 days and a month with several hours of stitching per day.
Where do you acquire your X-rays from?
Most of the x-rays have come from Australia as I have friends there who give me their own. In countries with socialised medicine doctors hand x-rays back to each patient to hold unlike here in the U.S. where HIPA laws are quite strict and physician liability is heavy.
How do you sew on the x-rays without damaging them?
X-rays are quite tough but there is a day of perforating holes to establish the design before the stitching begins.
What or who inspires you?
Annette Messager’s work awes me. She tackles tough subjects with sewing and textiles. Embroidered misogyny; stuffed animal toy heads over taxidermy; knitted sweaters for dead sparrows.
What are your career highlights so far?
In 2008 I was awarded a fellowship from the Pew Fellowships in the Arts, a great honor and boost. Collections: New Orleans Museum of Art, Progressive Insurance, Museum Biedermann, Missoni Fashion, Beth Rudin DeWoody and many others. But the real highlight is standing back during an opening and watching people discover a new unexpected object.
Do you take on commissions?
I like doing commissions of x-rays particularly if someone gives me one of their own. This has happened several times. I’ll take time to understand the experience of the person and let that decide the outcome of the piece.
What are you currently working on?
My new drawings are of fantasy objects composed of textile. Right now, rather than use fiber, I am engaged in these drawings.
Do you have any advice for people wanting to be textile artists.
Join a gym! If your medium involves stitching you will be sitting a bunch.
Do you have any exciting plans for 2016?
My next exhibit is in a great new gallery in Stockholm named Fiberspace.
Matthew Cox Artist