Matty Guiliano ’14 takes up residency at PCA&D-York
Wednesday, September 21st, 2022
Over a body of orange-red and moss green, spikes of seafoam green and purple give Matty Guiliano’s fantastical cacti a prickly flair. Stripes of blue wrap around petals of pink, white, and yellow, and tiny turquoise, yellow, orange, and white balls soften the overall impact.
In fact, the whole sculpture is soft, a deceptive juxtaposition of a spiky subject and cushiony materials that, together, “let me mess with the binary of things,” the artist says.
Through this autumn, the 2014 PCA&D Illustration alumnus will be serving as an artist in residence at PCA&D-York, a pop-up location the College opened across the Susquehanna River last spring, to explore and bring programming to a new community. In his role, Guiliano is working not only on his own sculptures, but also on helping to draw people into the studio space and enable more interaction with passersby and visitors from the local community.
PCA&D-York also has a valuable advantage that Guiliano is using to literally expand his art:
“I’m trying to go bigger now,” Guiliano says, and the South Duke Street location also gives him room to start making more of the materials he uses. Trays of cosplay foam pompoms that form detailing on his sculptures line the work table drying, while towering wire-and-cardboard framing — the very beginnings of a sculpture in progress — lies along one wall. Against the opposite wall, a 3D printer sits, ready for experimentation. A separate space out back gives Guiliano room to paint the giant cacti with a watered-down mixture of housepaint: “almost like dyeing them,” he says.
“The space makes working at this scale possible,” Guiliano adds, noting that, for an artist, free studio space and the time to think about and work on projects is a huge advantage.
Before & after the PCA&D years
Growing up there was very little doubt, the artist says, that he would pursue a creative life. “I started painting classes when I was 5,” he says, “and my parents always knew I wanted to be an artist. They supported it.”
Guiliano only really started experimenting with his soft sculptures after graduating from PCA&D with his Illustration BFA, he says. With the help of former Dean of Students Pam Richardson, he says, he also had taken Fine Art classes whenever he could. “She was an absolute sweetheart and really wanted to see me succeed,” Guiliano told PCA&D back in 2020, “so she helped me take courses that were more my speed after rediscovering the direction I wanted to continue in to finish the undergrad program at PCA&D.”
“I was in a show in Philly after graduation with watercolor pieces,” he says, “and I needed something to ‘connect’ all the things on the wall.” He created corner pieces for the frames, he says, liked how they looked, and so “started working in the round and capitalizing on (the idea).”
The process of building his sculptures begins with sketches. That basic design begins to take on 3D dimensions as the artist cuts cardboard to go on a wire frame and form the basic shapes of the sculpture. It’s wrapped and “sculpted” in foam, before the final painting and detail work begin.
A few vibrant botanical color studies by Guiliano line the walls of PCA&D-York — “as saturated as possible (with color) is what I go for,” the artist says — but much of the rest of what he’s working on is for a large-scale Philadelphia commission he can’t discuss due to a non-disclosure agreement.
Guiliano is also working as one of five PACE (Public Art Community Engagement) artists in Lancaster. The grant-funded program supports a cohort of local artists as they make temporary public art projects in Lancaster city. He soon has an exhibition coming up at Frankin & Marshall College’s Phillips Museum of Art and, soon after that, the Philadelphia commission will be unveiled.
It’s a busy, busy time, Guiliano acknowledges, adding that “even at PCA&D I was always applying to shows: I never stopped hustling, is what I’m trying to say.”