True Performance Art—Larger than Life—Courtesy of Matthew Statz

Posted in Feature, Music, Second Chance, Visual Art

MattStatz-red-2 inch w-boxBY MARTHA McCARTNEY*
Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
September 10, 2014

If Matthew Statz was nervous at the thought of being watched while painting a large scale mural on a public street, it certainly didn’t last.

Statz was eight years old when his parents realized that the images he was drawing were not being traced and they enrolled him in art lessons. He continued taking art classes throughout his school years and, after his graduation from South Whidbey High, he earned a degree in art from Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon.

His skill with large-scale projects has been an asset to the Whidbey Island theatrical community. He’s painted sets for Whidbey Children’s Theatre and for Whidbey Island Center for the Arts.

Matthew Statz at work on Django mural, 2013   (photo by Somer Kreismen)

Matthew Statz at work on Django mural, 2013 (photo by Somer Kreismen)

Whidbey Island Center for the Arts commissioned an outdoor mural of Django Reinhardt for DjangoFest NW, which is held annually in Langley. In just five days during the summer of 2013 Statz completed the large-scale painting of Reinhardt and a group of musicians.

“I couldn’t believe the number of people who stopped to chat. Some people stood and watched for what seemed like hours. I was surprised and touched by the community support,” Statz said.

“I heard the most amazing stories from people who watched. One little girl wanted her photo taken. A South Whidbey Transit driver told me that she had been fascinated by the transition. She drove back and forth past the painting during the entire time and was finally able to stop and let me know what fun it was to see the progress.”

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The new backdrop in process for 2014 DjangoFest NW (photo courtesy of WICA)

The backdrop panels behind the musicians who play for the DjangoFest NW concerts are also his work and he’s adding a third panel to that venue this year. “Patrons like to make clandestine recordings of gypsy jazz concerts and later post them on YouTube,” said Stacie Burgua, Executive Director of WICA. “We always know if it’s from DFNW because Matt’s painting is in the background. It’s become iconic to our festival!”

In addition to the 2013 mural, WICA commissioned Statz to do an additional painting this year. This year’s painting is being incorporated into a poster and promotional merchandise for the 2014 DjangoFest NW. The original painting will be sold at an auction with a portion of the proceeds going to WICA.

“I’ve done a lot of research and reading about Django Reinhardt,” Statz said. “He was a man who faced many hardships. He depended on music for his living and then was burned in a fire. Instead of letting that be his downfall, he retrained himself to play and was forced to use a completely different method. He was quite a guy.”

Statz works in oils and loves painting both landscapes and people. While in college he painted a series of thirty students he didn’t know. For each portrait the model sat for about four hours. “You would not believe the things people will say after that amount of time. It turned out to be a socially fascinating project as well,” Statz said.

Inspired by the works of Edward Hopper, Cezanne, Degas and John Singer Sergeant, Statz uses very saturated colors and bold strokes in his paintings. He has painted several landscapes of Whidbey Island capturing the windswept and vibrant natural settings.

"Whidbey Island"  Painting by Matthew Statz  (image courtesy of the artist)

“Whidbey Island”  Painting by Matthew Statz   (image courtesy of the artist)

Matthew Statz is currently living, working and painting in Seattle. He can be reached at

*This article is an expanded version of one that appears in the Fall printed edition of Whidbey Life Magazine, now out in stores around the island (click here to see a list of stores that carry the magazine). It can also be ordered online by clicking here.

Time-lapse Video

Watch a 3-1/2 minute time-lapse video of Matthew Statz creating the latest backdrop panel that will be used behind the performers in this year’s DjangoFest: CLICK ON THE LINK: This video, created by Tyler Raymond, Technical Director at Whidbey Island Center of the Arts, has been provided exclusively to Whidbey Life Magazine courtesy of  WICA and we appreciate their generosity.

Image at top: Matthew Statz working on backdrop for 2014 DjangoFest NW  (photo courtesy of WICA)

Martha McCartney is a poet, photographer, mixed-media artist, persistent gardener and candle-maker.


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