For painter and animator Matt Bollinger, art is all about self-expression. Even the pieces that seem outside the realm of possibility are in some way reflective of his experiences.
This is especially true of “Apartment 6F,” the animation Bollinger showed at his talk on campus last Monday, which portrays an alternate reality; a neighbor invites the artist to a housewarming party where he is drugged for use as a sacrifice in a satanic ritual.
Despite some fictionalization, the story was inspired originally by Bollinger’s anxiety about interacting with the other residents of his apartment building while his wife was out of town teaching.
“I actually had neighbors slide a note under my door inviting me to a housewarming, and I was totally creeped out,” Bollinger said.
Bollinger started crafting hand-painted stop motion animated films in 2015. He first experimented with animation as an undergraduate student at the Kansas City Art Institute where he double majored in painting and creative writing. The impetus to return to the discipline came from Bollinger’s frustration with the restrictions imposed by static media on his ability to convey a story.
“All of my work has some narrative component,” Bollinger said. “Even the works that seem like I’m just staring at the ground were, to me, reflective of a narrative continuum.”
Important to Bollinger’s narrative is telling the story of his family.
For example, the work entitled “about midnight, Saturday,” features two cars positioned perpendicularly. The driver’s side door on one of the cars hangs ajar and snow blankets the house and trees in the background.
In the work’s original installation, the voice of Bollinger’s father, Chip, emanated from within a sculpture and described a story Bollinger grew up hearing. Understood in its entirety, the work tells the story of his father’s stabbing on Christmas Eve, 1970 in an incident of apparent road rage.
“I think the strongest artists are ever more themselves in the work,” Bollinger said. “The strongest artists are always finding ways to better express what it is that is there within them.”
At the same time, Bollinger acknowledged the extent to which other artists shape him and his work.
“I think all art is a kind of synthesis of influence, whether it is who you are speaking to, who your friends are, what you see or the whole depth and breadth of art history, not to mention the history of film, literature and pulp novels for me,” said Bollinger. “The particular things that I’m interested in, the assemblage of all that stuff seems to be what makes me, me. I like that my work has a relationship to other artists, I think that’s important. There’s a danger in feeling that we’re all isolated, separate and so distinct. We don’t come out of a vacuum.”
Filmmakers David Lynch and Agnès Varda, and novelists Elena Ferrante and Karl Ove Knausgård are among the inspirations Bollinger mentioned on Monday evening.
“I don’t think I mentioned a single painter, which is kind of indicative of how I think,” Bollinger said with a chuckle after the talk.
As such, it makes sense that combining his interests in creative writing, music and painting is a natural synthesis for Bollinger.
Bollinger believes that art should be inspired by personal passion and joy. For this reason, he often finds his projects to be all-consuming.
“I work every day,” he said. “It gets into all the crevices of free time.”
Bollinger’s work is available on his Vimeo account and website.