Live With Intent

Jack Mattingly

The best art feels natural. No matter how labored over, there is an ease to the completed piece – a sense that it was always meant to exist. It’s the feeling given off by the work of Jack Mattingly, a longtime San Franciscan and talented artist. Jack works in assemblage, a medium blending found objects into three-dimensional collages. His finished creations transform often dissimilar items into cohesive works that appear as single pieces of sculpted metal. They are byproducts of intense engagement and quiet contemplation – acts of pure, emotion-provoking purpose on behalf of the artist.

Jack’s ability to combine unlike things in ways that reveal powerful new truths has brought him acclaim in San Francisco art circles, along with a measure of financial success and personal fulfillment. But reaching his full artistic potential has been a journey decades in the making – a process that began with a vivid realization and newfound commitment.

Growing up in southern Indiana, Jack quickly revealed himself to be a talented painter. His skill with a brush formed the foundation of his early identity, but youthful acclaim soon felt like a burden. Emboldened by resisting expectations, Jack turned away from painting and moved to San Francisco in the mid-1980s, searching for (and quickly finding) “the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.”

Needing to make a living but bristling at the thought of working for a boss, Jack turned back to the brush, teaching himself to be an interior housepainter. Skilled at controlling paint, he became fascinated by the rare instances it misbehaved. Inspired, he began painting at home using a single rule – no paint brushes. Instead, he would drip, fling, or otherwise apply paint to canvas in unusual ways. The resulting work sold at a steady clip, on the street or out of Castro coffee shops.

Despite growing renown and a substantial body of work, Jack felt a gnawing sense of incompleteness. It was watching the 2010 World Series-winning San Francisco Giants team that led him to an enlightening epiphany: “I was watching the Giants hit all these home runs and realized I had never tried to hit a home run [with my art],” he says. “I was just trying to make things happen without really investing. [I decided to] see what I could really do…to step up to the plate with some intention.”

Invigorated by his new mindset, Jack began creating with newfound intent. He started working in assemblage in 2016 and took to it naturally. Here was a medium that allowed him to engage with a combination of interests: the inherent visual qualities of items; the disposability of things that someone once labored over; the nature of what something truly is worth.

When engrossed in his work, Jack enters an almost meditative state – he simply listens to the piece and does what it asks. He easily loses track of time, teasing out commonalities from cacophony. The moments when everything coheres give him the deepest sense of satisfaction. “It’s so beautiful…like the most beautiful experience I’ve ever had. That gestalt of the whole becoming bigger than the parts,” he says. “I really dig that. I take a step back and it’s like an out-of-body experience. ‘Did I do that?! How did I do that?!’”

Intent has deepened his art’s power and impact, giving himself and the viewers special gifts – the opportunity to connect and the chance to feel. Making art was always natural to Jack, but it is only creating with purpose that has led him to true fulfillment.

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