Q&A with Matthew Palladino

Q&A with Matthew Palladino

Newsletter from August 18th, 2023 - Q&A with Matthew Palladino, hosted by SW founder Nikolaj Honoré.

N: Today I have the upmost privilege and pleasure of asking the great Matthew Palladino a few questions. We'll touch on a variety of topics including our upcoming edition "MOTHS", his thoughts on creating a deck of cards, his life in Bolivia, and more. Now, please enjoy.


N: Playing cards serve a wide range of purposes and can evoke many different associations. If anything, what comes to mind when thinking of a deck of cards?

M: I suppose I think of both cardistry and gambling when I see playing cards. I remember the artist Tauba Auerbach did an artist deck through her small publishing studio Diagonal Press that I always admired.


N: Your watercolor pieces often take the shape of large, intricate compositions involving great depth and a multitude of elements. What were your thoughts on creating something so small?

M: The watercolor work originally started off very small, so it seems natural that they would be displayed once again on a smaller scale. The medium has constrictions that make it easier to go small rather than big. So the large watercolors I do I think of as many small moments interacting.


N: Moths seem to have found a stable home within your work, how did they first find their way to you?

M: My sister in law turned me on to moths. I don't really have any hobbies and she was a birder originally who also got into moth watching. With bird watching, there's a lot of getting up very early, going to a remote local, it involves a lot of patience. But she just set up a white sheet and a high power mercury bulb in her backyard, and when it got dark, the moths would descend on the sheet. When I was able to see them up close, it was truly exciting. Their patterns and colors were unlike anything I'd ever seen. Like an alien artist was showing you their work. That's what got me hooked.


N: You are currently based in Bolivia. Coming from the US, how has living there influenced your work?

M: I moved to La Paz, Bolivia three years ago, which is 3,600 meters above sea level, and the first thing that struck me was the sky. Something about there being fewer molecules to scatter light at higher elevation I read, but it looks different. Somehow grander, closer, but more expansive, more epic. That crept its way into the work. The next thing that caught my attention was the cacti and succulents. It's a high desert environment up here, and it somewhat reminded me of parts of southern California where I've spent a lot of time. But just like the sky, the plants seem different here, possibly due to the elevation and the intense UV rays. They seemed more epic, more ancient, more alien. My wife also has a beautiful collection of cacti and succulents here that act as models for me. That's why they have become the focus of my painting for the past couple years, trying to capture that indescribably alien element to the cacti and succulents. There are of course some interesting moths that come visiting as well.


N: What do you think about cardistry? 

M: I don't have much experience with cardistry. But when I was young, a family friend who was a visual artist was also very into magic. I know cardistry is different from card magic, but I was mesmerized by his card handling and close up magic skills. Because he was also an artist, I think I've always connected the two.


N: The edition includes 18 of your moths which all display a range of unique attributes. If you had to pick a favourite, which would it be?

M: Cercropia moth, Gaudy Sphinx, and Harris' Three Spot are some of my favorites.


N: A good collaboration should bring perspective, and allow for something unique to be created, that either participating actor wouldn’t or couldn’t have made individually. What was your experience making the edition, and what is your takeaway from this collaboration?

M: I enjoyed the experience and Small Wonder was a pleasure to collaborate with as you are clearly committed to quality and detail as am I. I look forward to seeing the cardistry videos using the Moth cards, fluttering around like the real thing.


N: A big thank you to Matthew for taking the time, and a big thank you to everyone reading this.  

- - -