The Art of Now
The Dixon pulls out all the stops for this one-of-a-kind show.
(page 3 of 8)
As a junior high school student in Amory, Mississippi, Greely Myatt had his first “show” at Elmore’s Five & Dime. “A friend made Batman,” he says, “and I made Robin — a life-sized papier mâché sculpture.”
Since then Myatt has fashioned countless works of art from anything he lays his hands on — metal and wood scraps, mattress springs and washboards, window frames and aluminum signs, most of them found objects.
“People will call me when a tree comes down so I can use it in wood carvings,” he says. “And they’ll give me stuff they see discarded, some of it handy, some not.” He likes objects with a history, “the idea that someone else has started it and I’m using it in a different way.” The more scarred and scratched an item is the better. “They’re more interesting than new,” says Myatt. “Not always, but often.”
Though he first studied history in college, he had always liked art and his inspirations ranged from comic book illustrations to the works of Benjamin West to impressionist jigsaw puzzles. “It wasn’t so much the art itself of the puzzle,” he says, “but assembling small pieces to make a large piece or whole.”
With an MFA from the University of Mississippi, Myatt came to Memphis in 1989 to teach at the University of Memphis. He appreciates his connection to the school, its students and faculty, and the exchange of ideas and fresh points of view it offers. “It’s not good to lock yourself in a room,” he says, then adds with a laugh, “though at times I like that too!”
Over the years he has garnered numerous honors and grants, and in 2009 enjoyed a 20-year retrospective of his work that was shown at various galleries around the city. The idea for the show came from Hamlett Dobbins, another well-known Memphis artist who is also featured in “Present Tense.” Dobbins took his first art class under Myatt and as a result switched his major from biology to art.
“That 20-year survey was very gratifying, with all the support not just from the art community but the whole city,” says Myatt.
While’s he’s best known for his sculpture, he emphasizes that “I make things because they need to be sculpted, not because I’m a sculptor. I am an artist. Collages, paintings, drawings — they’re all part of it. ”
Asked what he considers his best work, he says, “Whatever I’m doing at the moment. Right now I’m building shutters for my mother!”