YOU & ME | 2022 – Present

As a latchkey kid of 80’s America, I often turned to mass media, where my own family role models were lacking; hoping to gain experience, comfort, or knowledge that was not offered in the home. Over the last decades I have learned that everything I inferred, without guidance in those formative years, was less reality and more a representation of that era. In the past decade I have begun revisiting some of that desire-based work to re-contextualize it. My work expresses societal pressures that are part of the human condition, the drive to be – beautiful, a good child, parent, spouse, artist, or person – and how sometimes we fracture under the pressure. I explore the medium of photography through physical and digital manipulations, often incorporating mixed media, and investigating materially with the photographic surface.

Throughout my career I have used female beauty to investigate male desire and longing. What began early on as a wish to look clearly at my aloneness and desire for connection, has evolved into a re-visitation of these themes using both my early photographic archive and mediated online imagery. I grew up in a reasonably repressive culture/family with a father who was a Reverend, and where conversations of sexuality/desire were nonexistent. My father also made things, beautiful things for his parish. He designed and knit the kneelers for the Church, sewed his own chasubles and screen-printed original church retreat T-shirts. My love for making objects is inherited from my father in the same way that his taboos became desires. 

Visually, I engage with mass culture representations of female beauty all too common in the fashion industry or pornography that they parallel religious iconography. Utilizing a variety of photographic, materials-based approaches and an ever-expanding visual vocabulary, I attempt to understand inner narratives, cultural materiality, as well as my own masculinity and feelings of vulnerability. I deconstruct the female form using pop culture and mass media iconography as a way to understand my own desire. Body language and its relationship to vulnerability, power, sexuality and voyeurism in our culture fascinate me. Both materially and conceptually in my work I seek knowledge about relationships. Strategies such as layering and digital assembly, mixed media, slicing and masking all explore divergently, the constructed, fractured male self, and a tension between taboo and acceptance.

Beauty in conflict – Curator Statement
Matthew Dols’ photographic and artistic perspective is not just one of observation. It is a study of beauty in conflict – an artistic conflict and an inner one. His new works create an amalgamation of two artistic mediums into one unified expression assembled in layers of thin paper, figurative photographs, and gilding.
The exhibition presents a different and unique approach to the art of photography. This is not a traditional photographic exhibition which documents or shapes reality. The photographic figures, which are at the center of the works, are just an initial point of departure. Once printed on handmade and fine art papers, the printed image undergoes a process of folding and the addition of numerous layers of thin semi-transparent paper that allow the viewer to sense what is under or beyond the transparency.
The novelty offered by Dols is more fundamental. It combines photography with the art of paper itself. Photography is just one of two paths of image research: it is the starting point for the study of the image breaking and fusion as something new, which is more psychological – a depiction into the artist’s conflicted mind.
The texture of the layers of paper covers the exposed figure and hides the vulnerable sensuality underneath. The works simultaneously hides and reveals new aspects of the body. Sometimes a part of the figure is uncovered. Sometimes it completely disappears behind the layers of paper, which in a contradictory manner draws attention to the act of concealment.
Dols describes the inner conflict in his words: “I am a walking contradiction; I desire both to be guarded and vulnerable.” Therein lies the beauty and curiosity that the artworks create. They clearly express these contradictions: the exposure, which can indicate security, confidence, or protection and the cover and concealment, which subtly reveal the vulnerability and search for a deeper understanding.
The folds of the paper are like wounds which cut the beauty. They are sharp and unwavering – hurting the figure and the paper – reshaping our feelings through the deconstruction of the known and the recognized, by constructing a new beauty in conflict.

– Hagai Segev