Home Arts & Entertainment Art From beauty to the apocalypse – A showcase of Professor Schenk’s artworks...

From beauty to the apocalypse – A showcase of Professor Schenk’s artworks at GRCC

Hole 2 - Sometimes You Are Just So Broken (or broke) (Courtesy of Schenk)

By LJ Nicholson

Many people in life have seen the pretty things, but they also understand the darkness in the world around us. Expressing your feelings about the world, especially as an artist, is one thing that gives many of us a drive to impact people. 

Matthew Schenk is an assistant professor at Grand Rapids Community College, and has been teaching here for three years. While teaching a variety of courses each semester, he also is an artist that has been making pieces throughout his whole life. 

“I drew as a kid, but I (began making art) when I started taking classes here at CC, back when it was Grand Rapids Junior College,” Schenk said. “I graduated from Michigan State, and later attended graduate school in San Francisco so I could teach.”

Before receiving his masters, he worked in cartoons for Sony from the mid 1990s to 2003. He worked on a variety of animated projects from “Men in Black,” “Extreme Ghostbusters,” “Dilbert,” and a number of other cartoons. 

Animated cartoons and comics have always been an influence for Schenk and his works as an artist. 

“There are quite a few comic book painters from the ‘80s that I really enjoy. Like (works by) George Pratt and Kent Williams. I was fascinated by that stuff when I was a kid. I always wondered why they never put stuff like theirs in a gallery.”

Another influence of Schenk’s is Vincent Van Gogh. 

“I tell my classes that he’s the greatest painter that ever lived, and I tell them we can’t debate it because it’s true,” he said.

You can see Van Gogh’s influence in his pieces with the similar use of heavy brushstrokes with large applications of paint. The digital prints in his gallery showcase have a visual similarity to the comic book styles he said inspired him as well. 

His gallery show focuses on displaying pretty paintings that lead and develop into the “apocalypse” and its harsh visuals. Soft, warm brush strokes and color turn into dark and harsh feelings. 

“I loved the apocalyptic optics and visuals from comic books and video games,” he mentioned when asked about the choice of apocalyptic imagery. “Like the repeating use of the gas mask is a visual (motif) in many of my pieces. I want people to look at the paintings and say ‘Wow! That looks so cool!’ I’m inspired a lot by my mood mostly. Looking at current events, and a disgust of imperialism. That’s what a majority of the show is about.”  

When asked his advice for aspiring artists, Schneck said, “The students I see succeed the most professionally are the ones that draw all the time and work the hardest,” he said. “I wish students would listen to that. I root for everyone and I want them all to be successful. But you know when a student is going to be successful. Not because their work was the best quality, but because they kept working constantly. You have to work with purpose.” 

Schenk’s work will be on display at the Collins Gallery for the remainder of the Winter 2022 semester. The Collins Gallery is located on the 4th floor of Raleigh J. Finkelstein Hall, across from the parking ramp entrance. Copies of the Artist’s statement can be picked up at the gallery entrance. 

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