It’s the End of the World as We Know It, and He’s Rifling Through His Tool Belt

The political theater is personal for Chalkley Matlack. Photo by Matt Rose

“Everything changes: that’s the one true reality.” Chalkley Matlack is talking about society’s future, but it’s also an unintentional artist’s statement. Matlack is always exploring new methods of expression through painting, sculpture, photography, and printing. Construction materials and adhesives get plenty of play, too.

“I like to think of the interdisciplinary approach as a tool belt,” says Matlack. “As the conceptual part of a work unfolds, it [becomes] more clear what medium or approach best communicates the message or emotions. Some techniques may work well together for one series or project … sometimes a singular medium speaks loudly on its own.”

The abstract monotype prints of Dream Series started as an experiment. “I was using water-based and alcohol-based [inks] together. In the end, the series became sort of a Rorschach test for the viewer,” he says. Matlack adds that he is influenced by “interactions with people and observing the ways they react to their realities.” He manifests “daily frustrations, hopes, and tragedies” into visuals — “like all artists [do].”

Like many contemporary artists, he’s serious about a global reach: “We are starting to have conversations about topics that are uncomfortable,” he says. “Scary and difficult.”

Shaman’s Ritual

The emerging artist considers his 2014 college thesis to be one of his more important works. “I portray a civilization beyond ours that was raised out of the collapse of our contemporary society. In this world, people revert to tribal culture and find our old technology and trash, and begin to worship it,” he explains. He created his idols and altar pieces from natural materials like wood and clay; then he mixed them with computer parts. The deification of phones, computers, and other technologies is the problem — and the point.

Right now, though, he’s getting personal again. “I am working on an exploration of the self,” says Matlack. “There are many external manifestations that are capturing my attention in regards to our society, the environment, and political theater.” To communicate the internalization of such forces, he’s busy sorting through all the mediums at his disposal.

Neither dystopian nor utopian, Matlack’s works ask us to pause and consider our actions. “Seeing more people exploring topics of social justice and environmental impact, and [utilizing] critical thinking, gives me lots of hope for our future,” he says.

Chalkley Matlack, Trackside Studios, 375 Depot St. in the River Arts. For more information, call 828-545-2904 or see

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