This girl contains multitudes. We love her for the ways she is always exploring and evolving even while remaining the sweetest, kindest and funniest soul in town. Our latest Friend of Dawn, Mattea Perrotta, is an artist in many mediums. She’s a Venice native, which seems few and far between these days in the city of angels, but she’s also a world traveler. Recently she’s had residencies in Louisville, Kentucky, Marrakech, Morocco, and Tondela, Portugal and exhibitions at MAMA Gallery. Her aesthetic is refreshingly authentic, just as her personality is uniquely genuine and sincere. Though she is so completely her own unique individual, you can tell that her stability is not because she has closed herself to outside influences, but rather that she has embraced the eclectic, bizarre and sometimes dark realities of this world and has sorted through them and brought parts of it all into her own being. She’s honest and hilarious and her creativity and passion for what she does is magnetic. Needless to say this girl’s been busy working and traveling the globe, but we found some time to catch up and we want to share our little chat with you. It’s a good one we promise - Mattea's genuine beauty and spirit will bring you back from where ever you are, lost at sea with the phonies.
Story and Interview by Miwa Sakamoto
Best and worst memories of growing up in Venice?
Any moments spent at the beach with my family. I remember my father would wear his baby blue bodybuilding speedo, lather his skin with tanning oil and layout like a starfish for hours on a king sized bed sheet with my mom. My parents’ friends that lived across the street from us were very French. They had hammocks in every corner, we spent a lot of time between houses. I remember all of us piling into their little motor boat in Marina Del Rey and getting stuck at sea because the motor had fallen off. That was a funny day, I don’t remember how we got back, but we managed. My sisters and I had a simple childhood, it was the best. I feel really lucky to have that experience of growing up in such an artistic community, being exposed to so much culture and eccentricity really transpired who I am today. Although it was still a rough neighborhood at the end of the day. I remember I almost got kidnapped my first day of Elementary School, I’ll never forget it. I still have a vivid picture of the man’s face and what he smelled like.
What’s life like now for you that you have your own place on the East side?
East Los Angeles is amazing. I’ve moved a lot since I moved back to LA five years ago. I found myself back in Venice, but the gentrification made me bitter and restless. I headed north to Topanga Canyon for three years and really loved isolating in the mountain and spending my time off surfing. It was an important period for me to focus on myself and my paintings. It’s definitely my favorite place in LA, but as much as I resonated with Topanga, I wanted to keep moving and try something new, so I moved East. The history of the Eastside is really special having so many secret pockets of architectural homes and buildings that really inspire my work. I love the influence of the Hispanic and Chinese culture. I live at the end of Echo Park, a few blocks from Chinatown, I really enjoy taking afternoon walks and immersing myself in those older surrounding neighborhoods.
What is your creative process?
It’s different each time. Sometimes I can execute exactly what I visualized in my head, but that's very rare. I usually start off with one idea and paint over it a few times with gesso and end up with something entirely different.
When you sit down to paint, do you know what you’re going to paint before you start?
I sketch everyday. It's my warm up before I start painting. I usually take elements from drawings I like and turn them into a painting in some form, but I also paint over pieces all the time. I stop painting when it feels right.
Your portfolio is very diverse, are there any materials or methods that you prefer?
It inevitably evolves over time. Oil paint has been my primary medium since art school. I will always prefer to work in oil paint before anything else. It’s romantic and delicate. I like creating a melodic rhythm between the brush and the canvas, it’s like their dancing with each other.
Who are some artists that inspire you?
Agnes Martin, Sophia Vari, and Carl Andre. And my friends, Julian Smith, Robbie Simon and Matthew Correia.
Was being an artist a deliberate career choice, how did it happen?
To a degree, yes. I always knew I wanted to be working with my hands. I was always creating something. I was a loner in high school and found solstice in my art classes. That’s when I decided I wanted to pursue as career path of being an artist. I want to make paintings for the rest of my life, it’s the greatest love of my life. I feel very lucky, my parents have always been really supportive of my creative passions.
What's your next project?
I’m prepping for a handful of shows next spring in Europe. I’ve been hiding in the studio making new paintings for those, it’s been maddening and fun all at the same time.
Where can people find your work? Is it for sale?
I’m represented by Mama Gallery in Los Angeles. You can find and purchase my work through them.
If you had unlimited funds, what projects would you undertake?
Large scale bronze sculptures and large scale oil paintings. I love working with a large scale, and the idea of bringing my paintings to life in a 3D form makes me very excited. I’d like to have them coexist in the same space, creating a little dialogue between all my work.
Why did you decide to go to UC Berkeley?
It was always my "dream school" growing up, but I also knew I wanted to go to art school. I went through a big hippie phase when I was about 13 and started learning more about the 60’s. I actually remember coming across some photos of Joan Baez playing at Sproul Hall for a Free Speech Movement Rally during the early 60’s and what a special time that was in California history. Berkeley contributed to something larger than itself, it was an epicenter for political events during that time. I loved the idea of being apart of that, all while getting an art education. I liked that the art department was more conceptually based than technical. My professors gave me a lot of freedom to find my voice.
Besides academics, what did Berkeley teach you?
How to be a more patient human. It’s a cultural melting pot and you’re faced with a lot of stereotypes. I learned how to acclimate and find a way to coexist with people I wouldn’t normally surround myself with. I considered going to a proper art university, but I didn’t want to solely subject myself to art students. I would go crazy. You need a healthy balance. I remember studying in the foreign exchange dorm just to digest the sound bites of all the different languages.
Give us a tour of your favorite (secret?) spots on and around campus?
The Anthropologie basement in Kroeber, the Environmental Design Library, Thai Temple Brunch on MLK and Cafe Colucci. Nabolom Cafe, but I think it closed a few years ago...
What’s something that only a Cal student would understand?
Avoid Sproul at all times and Telebears is corrupt.
What are you up to when you aren’t at the studio?
Underwater a lot of the time. I spend a lot of time alone. I really enjoy it. Living in Los Angeles you’re forced to drive everywhere. My car is my second home. It’s like my horse, it’s liberating driving around and getting lost in new neighborhoods. I usually have my film camera in shotgun ready to shot whenever I find something that catches my eye.
What city inspires you the most?
A breakfast of champions is...
Sunny side up eggs and a cheap cup of coffee.
What are 3 things that can seduce you?
He should know.
What are 3 things you can’t live without?
The sea, the sun, lavender oil.