Mural by Assistant Prof. Kathleen Eastwood-Riaño commissioned for Philadelphia Museum of Art collaboration

. . .

Tuesday, January 24th, 2023

A mural by Assistant Prof. Kathleen Eastwood-Riaño now on display in Philadelphia is a study in “collaboration” with one of the 20th century’s great artists, Henri Matisse.

It’s also a study in producing great work under tight deadlines. 

Matisse Under the Table is Eastwood-Riaño’s contribution to a partnership between Philadelphia Museum of Art and Mural Arts Philadelphia, which bills itself as the world’s largest outdoor gallery. Five artists were commissioned to create five murals inspired by the museum’s current exhibition, Matisse in the 1930s.

After visiting the exhibition and discussing it with curator Matthew Affron, the five artists, including Eastwood-Riaño, were then tasked with using Matisse as a jumping-off point in their own creative processes. 

“We did a walkthrough of the Matisse exhibit with Matthew, and it was pretty exciting to be in the museum when no one else was,” Eastwood-Riaño says. And then, she says, she had two weeks to pull together her finished work, which now can be seen in Philadelphia at 1102 Ludlow Street, a block off Market between 11th and 12th.

“Matisse Under the Table” mural by Kathleen Eastwood-Riaño.

The process

“I definitely like a deadline,” Eastwood-Riaño says with a smile, but even for her, two weeks to complete a high-profile project was a little nerve-wracking. 

Armed with images she took while touring the show, the painter went home to her studio “and made a bunch of paintings and drawings I didn’t like at all, for about four or five days,” she says. Faced with that block, “I felt like I needed to loosen up, so inspired by the drawings in the show, I turned to charcoal sketches” and some digital work. “My work tends to have a lot of layers, so I started thinking about what made sense for layering, while keeping my working method.” And she turned to the first painting that had jumped out at her, from her first walk through the exhibition, Odalisque with a Tambourine.

Eastwood-Riaño’s next challenge was to figure out how to get Matisse’s color palette to work with her own. “Layering helped,” she says. “The colors that pop through are his, and mine are layered on top.” In an interview with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Eastwood-Riaño says she “literally put a Matisse painting beneath the painting I was doing of my own kitchen.” Once the work finally started to flow, she told the museum, “it was pretty smooth sailing from there — and it was a fun surprise; it really took me out of my comfort zone with my work.”

Once her piece was finished, in early December, it was turned over to mural organizers who created the final large-scale version for display. 

Eastwood-Riaño, who teaches 2D design at PCA&D, isn’t sure how long the mural will remain at its Philadelphia home. Matisse in the 1930s is on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through the end of January. 

PMA interview