Stephanie Matthews / "Causing (colorful) rambunction throughout the sphere"

{ exclusive feature}

{photo via Nakeya B.}

Have you ever seen artwork or design that literally made you gasp out loud? That's the reaction I had when I first saw Stephanie Matthew's work on Tumblr,* under the name Colorful Rambunction. Matthews is a mixed media artist based in New York City. She was kind enough to grant us an interview where she talks about her inspirations, what motivates her, and future projects!

{"A Woman’s Place," Mixed media collage, 2010}

Liberator Mag: What's the story behind "Colorful Rambunction"? How did you decide on the name, and how does it relate to the art you create?

Stephanie Matthews: The word "Rambunction" came from Busta Rhymes's verse in A Tribe Called Quest's Scenario** ('causing rambunction/throughout the sphere'). That word just has so much 'oomph' to it -- it's bold and playful. I'm naturally drawn to bold and striking visuals and that's what I create. I'd been searching for a unique way to distinguish my work and make it easier for people to find me, being that I have a pretty common given name, and Colorful Rambunction just presented itself one day. The name doesn't encompass all of my work, nor will it be permanent, but I think it's a good descriptor of the work I've done and the way I've been living thus far.

Liberator Mag: Why did you decide to leave Washington state for NYC? Did you leave to attend school or for some other reason?

Stephanie Matthews: After graduating from college in 2006, I decided to move out here because I loved New York City and wanted a challenging experience. I wanted to know who I really was when thrown into a new situation on my own, away from everything I'd known growing up. Not to be too cliché, but it was very much the "dollar and a dream" sort of move to New York -- I saved up money for a year and flew to New York with two suitcases, no job and no stable place to live. I ended up staying at the YWCA in Downtown Brooklyn for six months and working retail jobs -- one job even afforded me the pleasure of meeting the illustrious Dov Charney at the American Apparel on Broadway -- until I found full-time work in advertising. Not a creative position though; media planning and buying. I've learned over the years that I thrive off taking risks -- that rush of diving into the unknown becomes a catalyst for growth and self-discovery and it's what has pushed many folks throughout history to do great work. Challenging yourself is necessary.

{"Night Terrors," Acrylic on canvas, 2008}

Liberator Mag: Tell us about your creative process. How do you come up with ideas, how and where do you work? Do you work at home or do you have a studio?

Stephanie Matthews: I create out of my apartment in Brooklyn, but I'm curious about how having a separate studio space would impact my work. My creative process pulls from everywhere -- I think of many of my observations and inspirations as correlative threads; little pieces that eventually weave into a story or an idea. My art isn't totally abstract but it feels more natural to me to not be too literal about things. I believe that life is spectrum of color rather than black and white; there's always some other viewpoint to consider and truth is relative. In most cases I want to leave my work open to interpretation, both visually and in terms of subject matter.


Liberator Mag: What are the new mediums and techniques you've been experimenting with this year?

Stephanie Matthews: I've been playing around with silkscreening, digital and fabric collaging and more design work (logos, etc). I've already posted some of the more recent work on the site but there'll be more up soon!

{"The baby that never was."}

Liberator Mag: I've had this on the brain a lot: the work/life balance. If you have a day job, how do you balance that with finding time to create work? If making art is your full-time job (lucky!) how do you keep yourself on task and balance your work with other obligations?

Stephanie Matthews: Keeping a healthy work/life balance is so important... I know it's a constant struggle for many and I don't have any sage advice really, other than to be adaptable and resourceful with your time and break things down into small tasks as much as possible. Learn which tasks need a lot of attention and focus and which can be done more quickly.

I've worked full-time since I arrived in New York in late 2007, and it was always difficult trying to balance the personal work, especially because the job market is so competitive. You're expected to work long hours and there's little sympathy for or understanding of your obligations outside of work, and it's easy to get caught up in the mindset of "well, I should prioritize the job that's keeping a roof over my head" especially when the personal work doesn't always pay. I've spent very many late nights and early mornings working on personal projects, but I've accepted that it's something that comes with the territory, sometimes you have to sacrifice for what you love. You learn what's reasonable and what's not. I was recently laid off from full-time, so I've decided to take a break from having a proper J-O-B through the end of the summer. Freelance work was starting to pick up around spring/early summer, so the change of pace has been a blessing. It's really given me the chance to see what life could be like outside of the 9-5 and how much I can accomplish when I have full use of each day. It seems as though our younger generations are also beginning to realize what a valuable resource we are and how much our time really means.

I realize that I may need to go back to working full-time until I transition into working totally independently, but I'm much more selective now about the type of jobs and hours I'm willing to work. I've asked interviewers direct questions about employee morale and work hours because I've become very protective of my work/life balance. I think it's important to let folks know that your life means something to you and that your time is valuable. No job is worth killing yourself over.

*As you may or may not already know, Tumblr is a gift and a curse. A curse because of its time-sucking capabilities but a gift because it's a giant archive of interesting art, quotes, literary passages and more. I've found out (and even connected with) several truly captivating artists because of this oddly named blogging platform.

**Classic Tribe: Scenario. You should also see Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest