Crooked River Light House

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CRL Curator, Joan Matey featured in the Tallahassee Democrat.

Tallahassee Democrat 10/23/2011, Page F08


Joan Matey wakes up with creative ideas

Her miniatures chronicle absurdities

By Randi Atwood

Special to the Democrat
arrabelle artist Joan Matey is best known for her miniature assemblages — little cigar boxes full of intricate­ly painted figures and objects that depict, as she calls it, “the absurdities of human behavior.”

Her work’s unique mix of humor and genuine emo­tion attracted the notice of renowned physician Patch Adams, who bought her “Bye Bye Bi Polar Bear” piece for the lobby of his Gesundheit Institute.

“Art was kind of a com­pulsion for me since child­hood,” says Matey. “My parents were fighting all the time, so I grabbed paper and pencils whenev­er things got squirrelly.”

Mostly she created extremely detailed draw­ings, but also remem­bers producing miniature Indian villages in the dirt, using acorns and sticks and whatever materials she could find.

“I was probably inspired by ‘Tarzan’ and ‘Ramar of the Jungle,’ on Satur­day morning TV,” she says. “They always had these scenes of Indian vil­lages in that show. I was pretty inventive as a kid.

I remember that I rubbed all the fuzz off our living room carpet to use as hair for the people in the vil­lage.”

Matey’s compulsion (as she calls it) to create these miniature scenes has nev­er lessened.

“I make art about any­thing that bothers me,” she says. “If anyone does me wrong, I put them in a lit­tle box. It’s cathartic, real­ly, and people usually get a kick out it.”

A state worker for many years, Matey was infa­mous for her battles with the management. These became fodder for her “Who’s the Boss of You?”

assemblage, which resem­bles a briefcase filled with office workers, each of which has the head of an animal.

“Everyone in there is someone I knew,” says Matey. “I didn’t make the figu res look like the real people, but I captured their souls and made them into appropriate animals.” On the inside cover of briefcase are less-than­flattering descriptions of various types of bosses, and Matey usually leaves pads of Post-It notes and pens, so that people can write and post (anony­mous) descriptions of their ow n bosses.

That piece, along with some of Matey’s other artwork, is currently on display at the Center for History, Culture & the Arts in Apalachicola, in a show called “Women Folk: Thoughtful Creations from a Female Perspective.”

One of her pieces, called “For the Best,” is Matey’s tribute to suicide victims.

“Whenever I show that piece, I include a little vel­vet bag full of glass stones, with a sign that says ‘If someone you loved chose suicide, put a glass tear on the pedestal,’ ” explains Matey. “I always start with two for the two people i n my family who took their own lives, and by the time the exhibit ends, the pedes­tal is usually covered.”

She says that during the current exhibit, she noticed a group of inmates from the local jail looking at her artwork while clean­ing the gallery.

“The guard that was with them was kind of macho-acting, leaning back, and pretending at first that he wasn’t really interested,” she says. “But before he left, I watched him walk over and place two glass drops on the pedestal. It was really a very personal and great moment.”

Several years ago Mat­ey moved to Lanark Vil­lage and became the cura­tor for the Crooked River Lighthouse in Carrabelle.

Her first order of business — creating an annual fes­tival that incorporated art, music, dance and theater.

“October 28 is the birth­day of the lighthouse, so I thought we should do something with that, an alternative to Hallo w­een that would be magi­cal instead of scary,” she explains. “Of course, the lighthouse has this giant lens now, but it all start­ed out with just some guy holding a lantern, so we came up with the Lantern Fest. We have a lantern for every year the lighthouse has aged, like candles on a birthday cake. This year it’ll be 116 lanterns.”

Matey also works as an exhibit builder for the Car­rabelle History Museum.

Her current exhibit pays tribute to the SS Tarpon, a freight and passenger ship that sank off the Gulf Coast in 1933. The next will commemorate a small battle that took place on Carr’s Hill in the 1860s.

“The Yankees had ships patrolling the coast, including one called the Sagamore,” says Matey.

“It had a troop of ‘irregu­lars’ and they were look­ing for supplies, and the story is — and there are letters that document this — that a guy on the deck was hunting a duck, and the guy on the hill yel led, ‘They’re shootin’ at us,’ and there was all sorts of fire exchanged. It’s pretty cool. Who knew there was an actual Civil War skir­mish in Carrabelle?”

Between the lighthouse, the museum, and her many other projects, Matey struggles to find time for her own artwork.

“I have plenty of pieces in the making. I always had a lot of energy, and I’m a person who wakes up with ideas. I have a lit­tle pad by the bed to write them down,” she says.

“I’m grateful for the ideas, but when you’re the one who comes up with them, you’re the one who has to do them. Now that I’ve turned 60, I’d better get on with it, because I’m not getting any younger.”

For more information about Joan Matey’s art­work, visit www.joanmat­

Posted Sunday, 10/23/11, 12:26 PM - Comments - Category: News

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