The crowd at Thinkspace this past Saturday was packed tightly into the gallery and overflowed out onto the sidewalks. Friends, family, and supporters of the artist Matt Doust came to see his latest pieces in an exhibition titled “Final Works”. The show gets its title from the sad fact that the artist met his untimely death last month, and these are indeed the final works of the artist. Doust was a very personable man who would use his charm to woo women and convince them to model for him. His likability can be observed by the mass of people who showed up to support him. Matt Doust painted portraits. Primarily, he painted portraits of women. Beautiful women. These large scale hyper-realistic paintings provide striking imagery that demands immediate attention. The first instinct is to view the work in its totality from afar. From a distance we see the figures, whose poses and expressions range from serene to melancholic. The work then invites us in to take a closer look, and we notice the more painterly details. What from far away looks like a perfectly made freckle, up close is exposed as a simple singular brushstroke. It is tempting to say the women portrayed are “expressionless” because of their deadpan stares either directly towards the viewer or slightly off into space. However, even serious looks on their faces can give off an expression. Two of the models wear large sunglasses, which makes them more difficult to read. It seems as though some portraits openly invite the viewer to look into the soul of the model, while others are trying to hide something. There is a sense of voyeurism in the paintings. The viewer looks straight on and the model either looks away or stands her ground and looks right back at us.
There are artists who are adamant that their work stands for itself and any interpretation of it should be done with information gleaned from the work itself. Other artists create a narrative for themselves, and their work is read in the context of that narrative. I did not personally know Matt Doust, but I think it is safe to say that he falls into the latter category. His art was a reflection of his passion, for both painting and women. Included in the exhibition is an “installation” of the artist’s tools and materials taken from his studio. There is an unfinished painting as well. This embeds into the exhibition the narrative of the artist who surrounded himself with art, and died doing what he loved. “Final Works” was the Doust’s first posthumous show, and it is likely not his last. It will be interesting to see how his tragic death will impact the narrative of his art in years to come.
Words by Noé Gaytán