Saturday, July 30, 2016

Chasing Bernard Mattox. (Or How I Finally Bought a Great Painting!)

When my wife Cindy, our son Ryan and I moved to Covington, La. from Monroe, La. back in 2001, one of the first things I wanted to do was explore the wonderful art scene Covington had to offer. Within a few months, we hit every gallery and shop we could and encountered wonderful pieces of art by Allan Flattman, James Micholopolous, Gretchen Armbruster, Tanya Dischler, Rollen Golden, Linda Dautreuil, Peggy Hesse, and many more talented artists from the area. I made trips to New Orleans to view the numerous galleries there as well and tried to learn more about the art scene in the metro area. There was a lot of great art, a lot of good art, tons of average art and an even larger amount of really bad art. But I soldiered on through all of it in an effort to educate myself.

Then one Saturday morning as I was visiting the Brunner Gallery in Covington, I came across an artist whose work really grabbed me by the throat. The images, the symbolism, the detail and variety of textures in the paint hypnotized me. It was modern, primitive, expressionist, abstract, constructivist and contemporary all at once. The pieces overwhelmed me with their colors and structure, the bits of ceramics attached to some, collage on others and bits of raw canvas or board visible on still others. It was art that spoke to me more than any other art I had ever seen. It fired my senses and  held me captive. I wanted to own a piece, I wanted to live with this amazing artwork. This was a totally new experience for me. Never before had a painting captured my imagination like these.

Who was this artist? Why was I so attracted to what I saw? I had never liked this type of art before. I was usually drawn to impressionism, post-impressionism, realism and figurative paintings. These paintings were nothing like that. Quite frankly, they were like nothing I had seen before. At first I thought they were abstracts, but I quickly realized that wasn't the case. There were figures, crosses, plants, stars, pottery, animals, windows, boats, doors, flowers and many other things scattered throughout that I had not even begun to recognize yet. There was thick paint, thin paint and in spots, no paint, There were scratches in the paint, lightly painted areas and some area's were filled with thick impasto. Some works even had words painted on them. Who was this mad genius painter?

Artist Bernard Mattox
As I began to ask more about the paintings at the gallery, the salesperson began to tell me about Bernard Mattox and his unique style. I was more than impressed. But when she told me the prices of the paintings were $3000 to $3500. I realized, even though I was enthralled with the paintings, I wasn't ready to pay that amount for paintings by an artist I didn't know much about. So I didn't buy. It was a mistake then, but the long chase was on.

I began to look for his work in other places. I would see some from time to time, but the prices had gone even higher. The gallery where I saw Mr. Mattox's work first, moved locations and had a big solo show of his works. I attended the show and it was fantastic. I fell in love with his work all over again. But still I hesitated and didn't buy.

A year or two later, my wife and I saw and liked a painting by well known New Orleans painter James Michalopoulos, As an anniversary gift to each other, we purchased a nice large embelished giclee painting that was one of 25 that James painted in Paris. It's a great piece, we like it a lot, but I still couldn't get the Mattox pieces out of my head.

Flash forward to September 2015. My wife comes in from volunteering at The Samaritan Center in Mandeville, La. and tells me I won't believe who volunteers at the center. Well no, I couldn't guess. "It's your favorite artist, Bernard Mattox!" she tells me. Now that was cool news! Then she tells me he's donating a piece of his art to their big fundraiser, Empty Bowl in November and we should bid on it. So when November rolled around, we stepped up and bid on the huge 4'x4' piece he had donated. The work was valued at over $6000! My budget was still limited, but my hope was I could snatch it at this fundraising event for bargain. But alas, I was out of luck. There was a bidder there that already owned two of Bernard's pieces and wanted this one to add to his collection. It was just the two of us at the end, and he countered each bid I made and finally ran me out. That bidder got a great piece for a steal! I was disappointed to say the least.

I had another chance in March of 2016 when two of Bernard's pieces came up for auction in New Orleans at New Orleans Auction Galleries. I headed down to the city the week of the auction and got a close look at the two pieces. One was 4'x4' and the other a 4'x3'. These were about the same size as the one I had bid on back in November. The palate on both were a bit different and I decided, I'd bid on both with the hope of getting one. Once again though the bids soared past my budgeted price. The phone bidders and internet bidders had me out after just two bids. I was disappointed yet again.

Finally in late May, my wife tells me, just go for it, forget your budget and lets get you a Mattox for Fathers Day. Well, that's why I love her! So, she spoke to Bernard and I got an invite to his studio! I looked and looked, and found two different pieces that I really liked. At this point of course, I created yet another delima for myself. Now how in the hell was I going to pick just one of these amazing works of art? It was a hard decision. It took me five days of living with both paintings, staring at them over and over, contemplating the imagery, the patterns, and the nuances each work presented before I finally picked one. I couldn't go wrong either way. So I'm happy with my new acquisition. I stare at it each day and see something new. It makes me smile. It's part of my family now. The chase was a long one, but in the end I think I ended up with the piece that was meant for me. Plus I now have a personal friendship with the artist! It truely was worth the wait!

Archeology of Solitude. My Mattox painting!

If you'd like to see this artists amazing work in person, you can check it out at Hooks-Epstein Gallery in Houston, TX, and  Carol Robinson Gallery in New Orleans. I promise you, you will enjoy viewing these works. Personally, I think they're works of genius. I hope you will get to make your own decision. Now I just need to build up my "art account" and start chasing down another great painting.

Click here to learn more about Bernard Mattox