Artist Profile - Michael Murphy Gallery

Matt Lively


Growing up in the seventies in Louisville, Kentucky, Matt Lively realized at an early age that he was more likely to become a professional artist than a professional baseball player: the odds were in his favor. All he needed was a good role model and an opportunity to hone his craft.

That role model was a high school art teacher, who didn’t just critique Matt’s work – he also coached Matt on his career path and encouraged Matt to diversify his skills. Through after school sessions with his mentor, occasional workshops with local artists, and individual experimentation, Matt developed his skills in film, sculpture, and drawing. As a sculpture major at Virginia Commonwealth University, Matt developed a critical eye and his own technique by working in a variety of mediums. His process is deliberate, every brush stroke intentional. “The painting becomes smarter than I am; it tells me what to do next,” says Matt.

Inspired by household objects like clothing, furniture and kitchen appliances, Matt draws the objects on paper, canvas, or wood (he prefers canvas and wood), then layers in a unique combination of materials in nondescript colors with subtle patterns. He paints objects as if they have their own personality and paints primarily in an abstract representational style.

Never short in his own ideas, Matt also enjoys the challenge of commissioned work and loves making someone else’s ideas – like a two-dimensional piece on wood juxtaposing karate with scuba diving – come to life. Likewise, installation art (large-scale independent or collaborative works) also appeals to Matt.

Today Matt Lively is indeed a professional artist, who credits the advice of his mentor and his decision to make his art his “real job” the keys to his success. And through his workshops and a recent teaching stint at VCU, Matt doesn’t teach young talent about technique, but that their goal to be professional artists is within their reach.

Artist Statement

“The paintings all depict a suggestion of implied movement. Not necessarily objects in motion but rather subtle hints of things that have been displaced. The movement represented could be as obvious as fluttering Beecycles but most of the motion depicted is represented by the remnants of what was left by who was there before. An empty chair suggests that someone has gone away. The paintings playfully represent a less hectic time where the minutes go by so slow that normally stagnant objects seem to be moving.”