Matt Ziolkowski specializes in making intricate fine art with tools generally associated with the home — duct tape, hair, sticks from bushes, glass, wire, found objects, and house paint. He is easygoing and often sports the glazed smile of a professional surfer.
"I used to use insulation spray foam for sculptural purposes but it is so messy and toxic that I've taken a break from it," he says. "I have worked with a lot of materials but only because they catch my eye. Being a construction worker, I tend to look at those types of materials as possible mediums in my art; the hardware store is like my Dick Blick or Utrecht."
I met Matt Z, as he's commonly known in Detroit's music community, not long after moving to Detroit last year, when a mutual friend suggested Ziolkowski help me in working on my house in Hazel Park. Ziolkowski plays in Tyvek and his band Mountains and Rainbows are one of the best psychedelic punk bands around. As you might notice in his answers, Ziolkowski does suffer from a condition called "dad humor" — for which, sadly, there is no known cure. Ziolkowski is "in [his] 30s and from Jackson, Mich., an all-American city."
Metro Times: Did you study fine arts?
Matt Ziolkowski: I did not study fine arts, but I know a guy named Art Fines. We were study buddies in the seventh grade.
MT: When did you first start making art seriously?
Ziolkowski: I'm not sure I ever started making art seriously, or if I always have taken it seriously — but I have always made art.
MT: What's similar between making fine art and doing music?
Ziolkowski: Making art is similar to making music in that they're both expressions of a charged motivation that you somehow come across at a particular moment.
MT: What is your art-making process like in general?
Ziolkowski: It's simple — if motivation comes, I try to stop what I am doing to get busy working. Motivation is sometimes like an elusive lover, so you have to take it when you can get it.
MT: How did you first start to make works with duct tape?
Ziolkowski: I've always loved duct tape. My family was raised fixing and mending everything with it. I first started using it as a medium about six years ago.
MT: Why is this show all of birds — what's the idea behind it?
Ziolkowski: This show is all birds because ever since I was a child, my father told me I should try visualizing myself as a bird. He would then make a beautiful bird-chirping noise and anyone who was within earshot would turn around in wonderment. This was heavily repeated throughout my life, almost a mantra. And I thought it was funny.
But recently, I started to think about it in a spiritual context and the bird visualization changed. A bird, when in flight and with its wings open, it reaches its maximum potential and its possibilities are endless. So too, when our wings are open to the world and to ourselves, our potential is at its maximum point — our true self. The show title Birds of Pray came from the idea of bird visualization and some of the earlier birds I made had prayers that were hand-written and tucked inside a hole of the bird's wing. Also, I get really excited when I see birds of prey.
MT: Have you worked with wood much before?
Ziolkowski: I have been collecting and working with wood since I was a kid but nothing of this magnitude outside of my day job.
MT: What's the latest news with your band?
Ziolkowski: Mountains & Rainbows just recorded a double LP, which is coming out on [Thee Oh Sees' frontman John Dwyer's label] Castle Face. Also, expect a lot of new stuff from Tyvek, including more touring.
MT: What's next for you in terms of your visual work?
Ziolkowski: Next, I hope to do a series of Sasquatch woodcuts, inspired by a tree off I-75 that looks like a Sasquatch waving. I recently lugged home a giant hallowed piece of wood from the desert. It looks like a cross between an elephant trunk and a Mastodonian body part. I am quite excited about this and may find a way to figure it in with the Sasquatch.
Birds of Pray, a show of woodworks, is on display at the UFO Factory until Wednesday, June 24. UFO is open Tuesday-Sunday, 4 p.m.-2 a.m.; 2110 Trumbull St., Detroit; facebook.com/ufofactorydetroit.