Charlotte Artist Matthew Steele Brings a New Face to Providence Road
The 100 block of Providence Road is now an exhibition space for public art with the addition of new large-scale wall sculpture, Santé, commissioned by Charlotte Skin and Laser from Charlotte-artist, Matthew Steele. Offering both a detailed and fractional survey of the human form, Matthew Steele’s installation connects the viewer to the building from a distance. While the undulating form greets visitors at the point of entry with a more personal view that rewards the viewer’s interaction with a rich visual experience.
To build the massive wall sculpture, the artist started with a digital rendering of a solid three-dimensional form which he “sliced” into horizontal and vertical planes. The piece functions much like an architectural element to the building, rather than just a sculpture, so Steele teamed up with Robby Sachs, who works in the Fab Lab at UNC Charlotte’s College of Art + Architecture, for design assistance and prototyping. To address logistical and technical issues like weight and wind load, Steele also worked with structural engineer, Joe Matrulli of MStruct Engineering, PLLC. Each plane was then cut from one of 150 sheets of aluminum composite using a CNC router by Andy Tripp from Components by Design. The rigid yet lightweight material was then finished by Fine Grit owner, Katie Schindler, with automotive paint to provide the dynamic copper tones of the sculpture’s surfaces. Specifically, Katie used Akzo Nobel’s basecoat, metallic basecoat, and clear coat, to achieve the radiant and glowing topcoat.
Over the course of several weeks, the artist began assembling the three-dimensional puzzle into fifteen different manageable sections within Hodges Taylor’s former gallery space. Over 10,000 nuts, bolts, and angle brackets were added during this laborious process. Last week, Steele teamed up with the tireless installation crew, Gallucci Studio, based in Greensboro, NC, who transported, hoisted up, and affixed each of the 15 sections, one by one, to the Charlotte Skin and Laser’s building facade using custom brackets and a refined French cleat system.
Santé originated from an idea by Charlotte Skin and Laser’s owner, Dr. Elizabeth Rostan. When asked her motivation for commissioning this artwork, Dr. Rostan replied, “My motivation and purpose behind adding this image was twofold: Firstly, I wanted it to reflect our business motto—We help you look and feel your best – and to represent that we value and take care of the health and beauty of our patients. Secondly, I wanted to respect and appreciate the neighborhood and community where Charlotte Skin and Laser lives—one whose landscape is changing dramatically. It was important to me to not only preserve a building that was built in the 1970’s and maintain its historical charm, but also to bring art and a landmark piece of outdoor art to an area that is quickly becoming defined by brick towers. I was truly committed to supporting a modern work of art crafted by a local artist that would beautify our city of Charlotte and add to its unique landmarks.”
The conversations on the design process and fabrication for this piece began nearly a year ago and sprung from a relationship between two South End gallery owners: Hodges Taylor’s Lauren Harkey and Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art’s Sonya Pfeiffer. When Pfeiffer was approached by Dr. Rostan with her vision for a large-scale installation, Pfeiffer quickly reached out to Harkey based on her affinity for public art projects. Harkey and Charlotte-based artist Matthew Steele turned the concept into reality.
The sheet material, once flat packed onto a single pallet, now extends more than 20-feet in length and in sections, spanning 13-feet high and 8-feet deep. The hard geometry of the building is softened by the organic form that wraps around the facade. The artist was mindful in creating an engaging work of art that could be enjoyed by people on their commute, pedestrians on their walk, and visitors to the building as the unique dimensionality of the shape offers each viewer something new depending on their distance and site-line.