The last in our series on the artists awarded grants through the Creative Catalyst Fund.
To call Matthew Hebert an installation artist is sells him short. He’s as much a woodworker and designer as he is a fine artist. And as diverse as his work has been over the years, if there’s a simple categorization for the bulk of it, it’s that Matthew Hebert is an environmentalist.
“I’m collecting memories about people’s experiences with the landscape that have somehow been impacted by technology,” says Hebert, describing his new “Information Retrieval” installation, which will be unveiled Dec. 12 at Heritage Garden Park in Escondido. “I want it to be monumental, but I also want it to kind of be absurd.”
Hebert’s work isn’t preachy and doesn’t have an overt, environmental agenda. “Information Retrieval,” much like his work in the past, does deal in the varying ways humans interact with the environment. Constructed out of old filing cabinets and fashioned to resemble a Stonehenge-like monument, “Information Retrieval” is meant to be both engaging and participatory. The cabinets will be filled with wooden dioramas that will be backlit using motion-sensing lights. There will also be a recorded, spoken-word element. People will look through little peepholes to see the dioramas and, he hopes, be inspired to submit their own memories to the project using an online submission form on his website.
“I’ve done a few of these projects where you’re pulling from the community and it’s a challenge,” Hebert says.
Still, the Escondido Arts Partnership found the idea for the piece interesting enough to award Hebert a Creative Catalyst Grant. Hebert will install the piece for one day in Heritage Garden Park during the Escondido Art Walk. It will be installed again at the California Center for the Arts in January. Only a few of the dioramas will be up at the Dec. 12 event, but Hebert hopes that he’ll have enough useable submissions afterward to put a diorama in every one of the cabinets.
“It’s a bit more of a roll of the dice, but I like that,” says Hebert when asked if he thinks he’ll have enough useable stories from the community to complete the piece. “That’s why I wanted it to look like Stonehenge, because I imagine that was a huge gathering place for that community. Hopefully they’ll gather at this one.”