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Artist Work

Desert Butterfly
Polaroids/Mixed Media, Cigarette Butts on Canvas
45.5x65.5 inches
Matter The Sky
Polaroids/Mixed Media on Canvas
Looking For John
Polaroids/Mixed Media on Canvas
This is Your Map
Polaroids/Mixed Media on Canvas
24.5x35.5 inches
Burned paper (collected cigarettes), Mixed media on Canvas
33x44.5x5 inches
Via (Detail)

Artist Information

Baltimore City
Artistic Category

Visual Arts

MSAC Individual Artist Award (IAA)

Artist Statement

Photography is just the beginning when I use a nearly extinct Polaroid SX-70 camera as the first tool for my many layered photo collages. My inspiration sometimes comes from the actual world where the documentation of experience serves as the foundation of the collage, or I can be inspired by dreams, or a response to an enviroment or a memory or an emotion. Though inspiration sets the piece, I let my camera guide me. Laid out in large multi-image canvasses to small one-image pieces, I peel the Polaroid film from it's encasement and alter the images through a variety of applications. I etch into the emulsion. Using charcoal, pencil, ink transfers, markers, paint and a number of other mediums, I alter the image front and back. By grouping the images, the collages grow from their manipulation, always keeping the ubiquitous Polaroid grid as anchor. Going in a new direction inspired by a trip to Egypt, I am currently putting a body of work together that consists of burned paper, mostly collected cigarettes, to compose rustic, delapidated and crowded city scapes. "Via" is one of the first pieces in this series. I was raised in a log cabin in Ketchum, Idaho. I currently reside in Baltimore MD. Matthew Kern

Artist Bio

I was born in Fitchburg, Massachusetts in 1970.  Raised in Phoenix, Arizona until I was 10 or 11, then spent the remainder of my youth south of Ketchum, Idaho.  When I was able to, in my early twenties, moved to Seattle, Washington, on my own and in pursuit of Art School.  Quickly realizing that I could not afford schooling, I started to teach myself photography through books and experimentation.  After working with photographers such as Lance Mercer and Charles Peterson as a photo-assistant, I began to make a living shooting predominately in the music industry.  While working for magazines and doing album art, I began to use 1970 Polaroid Sx-70 camera, the first of which I found in a thrift store for 5 dollars.  At that point, Polaroid was still producing the now gone Sx-70 Time Zero and I started making collages and fitting the Polaroid's together in grids.  When the white masking is removed, access to the emulsion side of the image allows etching, ink transfers, and several other techniques to create alternative imaging with the photographic images themselves.  After 11 years in Seattle, I moved to New York, living in Brooklyn at the start and concentrating on creating journal style books, which hold experiments, ideas and memory keepsakes, and these Polaroid/Paintings, which deal primarily with childhood nostalgia.  Living in such a cultural hub, I began to travel.  Spending large pieces of time in Cuba, Mexico, India and various other locations, the craft of journal making branched across into my "Paintings" and vice versa.  Having a bulk buying contract with Polaroid helped me build a cache of film and also provided me with a heads up for first dibs when Polaroid discontinued manufacturing any film.  I still work from this cache of film to this day.  After working this way for over 10 years in New York, I moved my studio to Baltimore 6 years ago and continue to experiment with process.  Inspired from a trip to Egypt, I began creating large and medium size works of art made mainly out of collected cigarette butts.  The compositions depict old, rustic and crowded cityscapes using distracted and muted colour and design.


In additon to being nominated twice for the Grand Gala and Exhibition "LUX" at Maryland Art Place in 2012, I received an Individual Artist for Photography by the Maryland State Arts Council the same year.


More work can be seen at


matthew Kern