Garden City Artist-in-Residence to Create 100 Drawings, 30 Paintings in 24 Days 

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Courtesy Matthew Gray Palmer

Washington state-based artist Matthew Gray Palmer is preparing for the creative equivalent of the Boston Marathon. When Palmer takes up his post as artist-in-residence at Surel's Place in Garden City on Monday, March 4, he'll embark on an impressive artistic journey, creating a total of 100 drawings and 30 paintings over his 24-day stay.

Palmer learned the speed-creating technique from fellow artist Marsha McAllister who, like him, lives and works in the San Juan Islands. He said it's a method of uncovering feelings and inspirations that may have been masked by his usual, more cerebral process of artmaking.

"You get to this point where you start to exhaust the repetitive patterns that you rely on and get to discover some new information," Palmer said. He's calling the project Alluvium: Sifting through the Sands of Selfhood, and said he'll be "looking at different aspects of selfhood and what it is to be here, and be embodied, and be a body."

  • Courtesy Matthew Gray Palmer
Though perhaps best-known for the stone, wood and metal sculptures of animals that he crafts for public art installations, zoos and national parks, Palmer settled on painting and drawing as the best methods for channeling "free-flow inspiration" while he's at Surel's Place. He made the decision with both speed and the space in mind.

"Angle grinders and welders don't really work at Surel's," he joked.

Instead, he'll spend 12 days drawing with charcoal and neutral-toned pastels on brown medium paper, followed by 12 days painting with acrylics and oil bars. It's an indulgent break from his usual rigorous schedule of commissions, which he said are more about making enough money to stay afloat than they are about passion.

"I'm fortunate to be able to do what looks like art to most people who visit my website, but there are definitely some [projects] that are more rewarding and more satisfying than others," he said, recalling that he once created a sculpture of Dave Thomas for the corporate headquarters of Wendy's. He added, "I'll do just about anything ... the idea was to buy myself time."

In becoming a Surel's Place artist-in-residence, Palmer is following in the footsteps of his brother, percussionist Chuck Palmer, who stayed at the art studio in August of 2018. (In fact, both brothers are musical, though Matthew gave up playing bass regularly after damaging his hands sculpting stone.) Like his brother before him, Palmer will engage with Boise's art community through multiple events during his residence, appearing as part of an artBus tour on Thursday, March 28; giving an artist talk at Surel's Place on Friday, March 29; and sharing the secrets of his speed-drawing/painting exercise in a workshop on Saturday, March 30. Check out Surel's Place's website for the full calendar.

Following his stint in Idaho, Palmer will head to Oklahoma to finish a bronze sculpture of life-sized hippos intended for the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
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