Matthew Chase-Daniel is one busy artist. During the past ten years he has participated in over sixty exhibitions around the world. He works in a variety of mediums: photography, photomontage, drawing, plant-based sculpture, concrete, and clay.
Chase-Daniel’s work goes beyond the obvious, pushing the viewer to really look in order to see. When his work is “fresh,” he guards it closely, showing it to very few people until it has “ripened.”
Like a scientist, a spiritual seeker, or a philosopher, I am searching for a deep understanding of the workings of the world that surrounds and captivates me. My studio is a place of experimentation and investigation, as much as a venue for introspection and self-expression. Each medium presents a different path to me. Creating sculpture from wild plants engages a different part of my body and mind than making photographs does. My aim is that the group of processes and mediums, taken as a whole, helps me to further my explorations in all parts of my body, mind, and spirit. My finished work is inseparable from the metabolic process I am engaged in during the creation. By engaging my full self, themes that are taken on as personal become universal.
My Pod Sculptures explore the human-plant relationship. I’ve taken naturally occurring plant forms (primarily seedpods) and recreated them on a vastly larger scale. The final forms are co-created by the plants themselves. Some materials bend more then others, or grow larger, or branch in a different pattern. While designing and building these sculptures, I’m engaged in a dialogue with the plants. What result are sculptures that are not only visually engaging, but also a source of connection for the viewer with some larger force, an evocation of an archetypal form. Different viewers see different forms in the same sculpture. Some see a pea pod, some a boat, or a nest, a cocoon, or a whale. This effect on the viewer is a result of my dialogue with the plants. When I create forms on this primal level, results are neither abstract nor rigidly representational, but natural and universal.
My Pole Sculptures are ephemeral collections of natural wild-collected materials hung from the tops of long poles, set vertically in the earth. They are prayers. I search out and collect abundant proliferations of life forms—gourds, grasses, pinecones, leaves, shells, potatoes, wool, or vines—and string, ball, or bundle them according to their natural form. High atop the poles this abundance is revered, a natural altar and a prayer for continued wellbeing of the local community. It’s also a signpost, or a flag, proclaiming an alliance with the natural world for all to see. Over time, wind and rain, ice and sun, transform the materials and they fall to earth—rejoining the landscape, spreading both their organic matter and a prayerful intention for fecund vitality.
I’m working in my photographs to understand how we really see. We need time to get to know a place. The brief exposure of a photograph doesn’t resonate with my experience of being and seeing. So I take the time to shoot many photos over several minutes or several hours. And not all in one rooted spot. I crouch down and look closer at what intrigues me, scan the horizon, wade in the water, climb a tree, or walk up a path to know the spirit of the place. Later, I recompose a portrait of the landscape using the captured glances and observations. The result is a distillation of an experience, an elixir to communicate the elongated experience of seeing.