Bay High grad Matt Deibel creates sculpture with purpose
“Proud” and “impressed” describe the experience of walking into Kent State’s Oscar Ritchie Hall Uumbaji Gallery on Friday, Nov. 15. In the midst of the quiet, sensitively lit gallery, talking with two visitors, was former Bay High School student, Matt Deibel, surrounded by his art that could challenge professionally recognized sculptors. The exhibition, “An Allegory of Life and Death,” is part of Matt’s Master of Fine Arts studies with KSU professor of sculpture, Paul O’Keeffe.
Matt graduated from Bay High in 1998. In 2001, he traveled to Italy, walking the same roads, he states, “that Caesar had commissioned, absorbing the visual aesthetics and grandeur.” It was Michelangelo’s Pieta and Sistine Chapel that awed him in Rome. In Florence it was the painting of Botticelli, the “grandeur of the Duomo, Brunelleschi’s dome, and Ghiberti’s doors on the Baptistry.”
An undergraduate degree in art education and political science precede Matt’s graduate studies in sculpture. His current work reflects upon his experiences, including his four years as a Marine with two deployments to Iraq. The installation of his work spoke professionalism from the moment we approached the gallery door.
“We promised we would never walk away during fight” was composed of four areas of light sand on the floor, close to the gallery entrance. Each area was unique and contained a word, such as Father, Brother, Son, U.S. Marine – men of the war, written in Arabic with a darker sand. Being a time-sensitive work, as we were there on the last night of the exhibit, a gentle trickle of sand from a ceiling tile above fell upon the sand forms on the floor, slowly causing the words to obliterate. It also caused the viewer to stand in thoughtful admiration for the creative process and the message.
On the wall to the right were hanging three solemn, black fabric pieces – shrouds symbolic of the Niqab, Hijab or Burqa – in Matt's piece titled "You left without saying goodbye." Beautifully cut into the fabric were sensitive negative shapes, including the Arabic words for Mother, Sister, Daughter.
The third work, “Please Mom would you pass the mashed potatoes,” was a series of strong, spiral structures formed of cow dung patties, referencing the organic fuel source used in Iraq. Its title describes a common American moment – sharing a meal – that could be challenging for a mother and son to share in Iraq.
From Matt’s artist statement, “These pieces are not a commentary on the military actions, rather they are a documentation of the loss of life generated by warfare. Warfare is the ugliest side of humanity.” He continues, “This body of work … is annotating a voice for those silenced individuals unable to leave a mark or pass a message to defy time.”
A viewer experiencing this body of work by Matt Deibel leaves the gallery recognizing that Matt has and will continue to leave many marks that will rattle the silence.
Marge Widmar is a retired Bay Village art educator.
Westlake Resident; Westlake-Westshore Arts Council; Retired Bay Village School District Art Educator