Alumnus Matt Lively: “Helium Ghost”
New exhibit beginning Sept. 19: Images from Matt Lively’s current show, “Helium Ghost” at Glavé Kocen Gallery (1620 W. Main St.), are haunting and ethereal.
Lively (B.F.A./ ’93, A) studied sculpture at VCU and he is the first alumnus to exhibit on the Cabell Big Screen. He has enjoyed an active career. Close ties to his alma mater include the commission of a large painting for the entrance of the new Children’s Hospital of Richmond, which opened in March 2016.
The title of the show, “Helium Ghost,” arose from an incident that occurred shortly after Lively graduated. The artist had moved to Atlanta and was living with his Uncle Frank, who was building a dirigible for use as a moving billboard. Frank hired an experienced dirigible pilot, Allen Judd, to test the flying machine. The timing was bad: Hurricane Opal passed through Georgia with its 80-mile-per-hour winds and the blimp popped off its moorings at the airport and floated away. It was found intact the following day resting in a field 60 miles north. Lively asked the pilot how an airship could possibly maneuver on its own for 60 miles and land undamaged in a field. Without any hesitation or humor, Allen Judd described the “helium ghosts” that he had experienced during his career as an airship pilot, claiming that “they are protective, unseen and make collective aviation decisions when contained.”
Lively believes that he encounters “Helium Ghosts” in his own life, experiencing brief moments where he hears nothing at all. It’s almost as if he’s being moved by an unseen force. Ideas pop into his mind and without hesitation, he moves on them. More often than not, he says, it seems that those instincts make sense and those reactions become solutions that improve results.
“Helium Ghost” is a collection of work tied to memories from the beginning of his career and that pays homage to the rare, silent moments when decisions are made effortlessly.
Lively’s time spent and lessons learned while at VCU helped him to “Make it Real,” post-graduation. He says that he is directly and indirectly supported by his former professors.
“They don’t care that I’m not working so much in sculpture—they care that I’m making a living in something art-related since I left. I sculpt as often as I can, and many times, when my paintings call for it. At times, it’s helpful to make a 3D version of a work of art before painting it. A good portion of my artwork is interconnected—a lot of painting materials come from sculptures I have previously made. The support of my professors is apparent in my work as in the midst of creation, I often think to myself, ‘what would this professor have to say about this, that, or what I’m about to create?’ I love VCU, and I love Richmond.”–By Arianna Rose, VCU Class of 2017