Jul 13, 2011

Meeting Mat Tomesko: The Artist of Main Street panels: Look Long & Look Good

by: Anonymous

At the 2011 Manayunk Arts Festival, 30 mural panels were premiered along Main Street. The project is called “Look Long & Look Good” created by artist Mat Tomezsko. He sat down for a Q & A session with me, Mercedes, for the Mural Arts blog.

Q. How does it feel to have your murals on Main Street for today’s event?

A. Its feels great! There are a lot of people around [and] a lot of support and exposure. It’s a good initiation in the neighborhood. A lot of people think it’s [my project] is a part of the event but when people come back to Manayunk, they’ll realize it’s a permanent installation and a part of the neighborhood, a new face that’s like a permanent commitment to the arts.

Q. What inspired the overall design of each mural panel?

A. Well, the overall design came from the Manayunk Bridge. All the arches are very distinct and you can see them from pretty much everywhere in Manayunk. Those arches were the inspiration for the curved patterns and stripes in the paintings. Walking down the canal, the arch of the bridge is completed into a circle with the reflection of the water, so I just started playing with the idea of reflection. The circles are moving in opposite directions so it’s all based on a circle and different configurations. They are all reminiscent of one another and by having this variety and basing it off of one simple idea, [everything comes] together. As you walk around, they remind you of one another and it teaches you how to approach each painting. There’s an element of familiarity every time you look at it.

Q. Who are the people in the murals?

A. For half [of the images] I went to the historical archives at the Roxborough Branch of The Free Library. I went through old publications, old albums and photos of Canal Day. The Canal Day celebration that used to [occur] in Manayunk every year ended in the 1980s so it was like a cultural spread; it’s a document showing the change in Manayunk and the everyday person who [participated in Canal Day] each year. Also, a lot of them were people that I met on the street that thought I they were interesting and represented an aspect of Manayunk that needs to be shown [to the rest of the world]. So, [whether it was] the sort of person that lives in Manayunk proper, Main Street culture or the canal culture, I wanted to represent different faces of Manayunk in contemporary life. I worked with the children at the Manayunk Arts Center. I taught them abstract art and they painted their own backgrounds and I painted them on top of their own paintings. That’s where the kids came from.

Q. A saying that Mural Arts often uses is “Art Ignites Change”.  How do you feel your mural panels will ignite change in the area?

A. Well, I can’t really say what effect my painting will have on the community but I would hope that it sort of gives them a sense of pride and identity. That picture of Esposito right there, it’s a monument to their neighborhood. He was one of the main forces of contemporary Manayunk. He developed Main Street and was born and raised in Manayunk and represented everything the neighborhood was within his lifetime. It’s like giving Manayunk its hero. I hope it makes people more aware of their own culture and helps them to take pride in it as well as acknowledging the diversity of its past and the many different kinds of people who live here. It’s not a homogenous place. It has a lot of different things and is going through lots of changes. I hope that the education would benefit people in general. I don’t know if it is a huge change but maybe just a subtle one.

Q. What was your favorite part about making the mural panels?

A. Just immersing myself in the culture, learning, and being able to use what I learned and combine it with my own thought and ideas about art. Combining my own reality with the reality I found around me into the project was great. Maybe that’s selfish but working on it all was fantastic and the exploration process was amazing.

As told to: Mercedes J. Lee, intern

To Learn More: http://tomezsko.blogspot.com/2011_06_01_archive.html

Last updated: Jan 27, 2016

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