Sculptor. Artist. Innovator.
Matthew J. Leavell
Matthew J. Leavell is a self taught, delightfully eccentric Mobjack, Virginia (Mathews County) based artist currently focusing on the creation of sculptural work in steel, cast iron, wood and glass. He primarily utilizes salvaged and recycled materials, preferring raw materials that bring their own history, character, and soul to a new work of art. Born and raised in a small mid-western town, Matthew briefly attended college at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Indiana, majoring in theology. Matthew spent his summers as a young man traveling in Latin America, volunteering with an NGO in the Darien Jungle region of Panama, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. He soon found himself disillusioned by his experiences with modern organized religion, left college, and embarked on a meandering, decade long journey of self discovery. Matthew struggled through his early adult years, seemingly unable to wring enough creativity out of any of the projects or career paths he applied himself to. Striving to find himself, he once restored and lived on a vintage sailboat, built a 2200 square foot custom home singlehanded, worked as an electrician, a contractor, a real estate speculator, and eventually owned and operated a small custom carpentry and fabrication business. All the while he pondered, ruminated, evolved, and created art in a myriad array of mediums and scales, simply because he knew no other way to exist. Simple repairs often evolved into elaborate, detailed works of functional art. The personal value of a project was not measured by it's practical or financial significance, but by it's potential for creative expression. This ramshackle assortment of life experience, work ethic, creative angst, experimentation, and exposure to a variety of trades, crafts, and art forms have culminated to create a truly unique artist uncommonly capable of bringing artistic concepts on nearly any scale to fruition.
Matthew's work is often created using recycled, salvaged, and upcycled raw materials which bring their own unique history and character to a piece. He sees an abandoned or discarded piece of rusted steel as a literal representation of a broken life, or of an abandoned dream, project, or relationship. Salvaging such materials and through hard work, inspiration, creativity, and persistence creating an entirely new and beautiful work of art, is not only a personally fulfilling process, but one that stands as an analogy of the nature of life in general.
Matthew's sculptures benefit from his background in the trades, where structural stability and durability were of utmost importance. Matthew renders and finishes concepts while actively taking into account the manner in which the elements, as well as the public, will likely interact with the finished and installed piece. Originally based in the coastal city of Wilmington, NC, and now residing in coastal Virginia, wind and salt air are the primary challenges that Matthew must contend with when creating metal art intended for outdoor installation and display. Matthew's sculptures are free standing and welded or otherwise attached to heavy steel baseplates which can be buried and/or staked to earthen substrates, or bolted to concrete, stone, or other footings specially prepared for the purpose. The finishes on Matthew's pieces often consume as much time and financial resources as the physical construction of the piece itself. Colored pieces are first ground or sandblasted to provide an acceptable substrate for the finishing system to adhere to, before being coated with a two part epoxy primer that bonds not only to the substrate, but to itself as well, creating a literal waterproof shell around the metal piece. The topcoat is Dupont's legendary Imron 3.5 HG finishing system, a two part urethane topcoat used in marine, aerospace, and heavy equipment applications. Imron has long been regarded as one of the most durable, longest lasting finishes available, and can realistically be expected to provide years of color retention, corrosion control, and durability, if not decades. Where clearcoated steel or iron are desirable, Peacock Lab's Permalac and Permalac 2K are used as a direct to substrate clearcoat that preserves the appearance of polished or patina enhanced surfaces. Permalac is an industry leader in DTS finishes used on works of art rendered in bronze, copper, steel, and iron. The 2K product line that Matthew uses on his clearcoated pieces is intended for use in direct immersion applications such as when a piece is placed in a fountain or pond, and is thus well suited to any outdoor environment. Through diligent research, trial and error, and a near fanatical attention to detail, Matthew has developed techniques and resources to ensure that his work is of the utmost quality, and will remain beautiful for years to come.