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Meet Matt Haffner and Laura Bell

Today we’d like to introduce you to Matt Haffner and Laura Bell.

Matt and Laura, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Matt: We met in grad school. I was doing photography and trying to be a conceptual artist. I would see Laura sitting on the fire escape of her studio smoking hand-rolled cigarettes at the end of her day of making work. I was immediately intrigued. After finishing school, I wanted to move to Atlanta to be close to my son, who lived here and be an active part of his life. Laura and I were early on in our relationship, but she came with me and we started to make a go at being young artists in Atlanta. I got an opportunity to have a solo show at the former Youngblood Gallery, of graffiti based work that I was making at the time. That show led to an emerging artist award and another solo show through the Forward Arts Foundation. This was a good start to the regional art world paying attention to my work. Later I got residencies with the Hambidge Arts Center, a grant and solo exhibition with MOCA Ga., a big public art project with Atlanta Celebrates Photography, and representation with White Space Gallery. It has been a lot of work and steadfastness, but I have become a well-respected artist in the community.

Laura: We moved to Atlanta after grad school and worked to make connections in the art world. People like Marianne Lambert and Susan Bridges were especially instrumental in supporting our work.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Matt: The road to being an artist is never smooth. Mostly that has to do with your own inner struggles and frustrations with what you make. The creative process is filled with boredom, doubt, feelings of inferiority, but is peppered with fleeting moments of believing your a genius and a rockstar. That being said, I love to engage in the creative process and I never give up. I will never go away.

Laura: It has not been a smooth road and we have made many sacrifices for our work. However, the creative process is an integral part of our lives and has brought us many opportunities. I know for myself, I will never not be making something.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
Matt: I am probably best known for my large scale, mixed-media installations that I’ve done for Atlanta Celebrates Photography and for the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia. But, I often slide from one media to another. I’m currently working on a documentary photography book project, but also make cut paper works, sculptures, paintings, drawings, and site-specific artworks. I’m a bit of an enigma and hard to pin down as the guy that does that one thing. Once I troubleshoot something or figure out the concepts behind something, I need to move on. I get bored very easily.

Laura: I am a mixed media artist and my work is constantly evolving and changing. My muse has always been nature and natural forms. It is something I find to be an endless source of inspiration. I have examined this subject using drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, sewing and embroidery, cut-paper, among other things and I don’t see myself ever losing interest in it.

We are both artists who use a variety of media. We are independent artists but sometimes work together on collaborative projects.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
Matt: I don’t believe in luck, karma, or the spirits of our ancestors watching out for you. I believe in making the best possible decisions you can at the time and if things don’t work out, you simply move on. No regrets. I think we both have been fortunate to have gained some level of notoriety for our work and earned a place in the regional and national art scenes. Luck is not a factor. The trends in art are sometimes kind and sometimes fickle. Hard work, determination, and just never going away are owed more to our success than anything else.

Laura: While I don’t write off luck or other unseen forces as being non-existent, being an artist is largely dependant on hard work and self-motivation, it is also about making connections, taking risks, and also taking advantages of opportunities that present themselves.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Forest McMullin (portrait of the two of us), All other images courtesy of the artists and White Space Gallery

Getting in touch: VoyageATL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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