Featured Artist: Nicole Hope Matthews

Editor’s Note: Don’t miss Nicole’s exhibit closing at Vintage Wine Bar, 129 S 13th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107, on Tuesday, July 14th.

Age: 31

Hometown: Norristown / Philadelphia

Current town: Narberth

Job description: Senior Web Coordinator (I lead the web department in a marketing company, my day job) / Fine Art & Wedding/Portrait Photographer (I’ve been taking fine art environmental portraits of artists and light painting photographs for over a decade. I began a partnership at New Leaf Photography capturing weddings, events, and lifestyle portraits in 2006).


Upcoming projects:
Exploring the rawness of my work. Expanding my ever-growing portfolio.

Describe your work.

My work is a combination of two of my passions, painting, and photography.

Sometimes emotions cannot be put into words, for me, they are painted with light.

When I began working with light painting, I could not have predicted it would lead me to the self-portrait narratives through which I express myself today. I began using this technique on still lifes until the spring of 2006 when my grandmother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. After I returned home from the hospital, I found myself alone in my West Philadelphia apartment and this time when I took out my camera, I decided to turn it on myself. I have continued to create self-portraits to portray various stages in my life over the years.

Before the photograph is created I start with an overwhelming emotion, then the camera is placed on a tripod and set up to take a long exposure. Once this is complete, the lights go out, the camera is set to capture and I place myself into the scene. The only visible light is that which comes from my penlight, which I use as a brush to paint in various details sometimes streaming through different colored gels. Although these images look digitally enhanced, I create them within the camera, during a single exposure.


What themes and concepts does your work generally revolve around?
Self-portraits expressing feelings, such as isolation, loss, longing, endings, new beginnings, freedom, and change.

What materials do you work with?
I use the following:
• Small penlight or flashlight with a black cone to control the light
• Colored gels to place over the light on occasion
• Other colored lights on occasion
• Matte black non-reflector to block the light from creating lens flair
• Camera (Canon EOS 5D or 6D)
• Camera shutter cord to allow the camera to take as long an exposure as needed
• Tripod
• Darkness

What are you currently working on?
Inspiration for my next emotion purge into art, and settling into my new home.


What’s your art background?
My art background is routed in painting and photography. Light painting is a way for me to combine both passions.

What’s been happening in your life?
My daughter and I just moved out of the city to Narberth, PA. Settling into a new home and being the best mom I can be.

What’s next for you?
Working towards expanding my growing body of work. Seeing where my latest life-experiences translate into art.

Describe your current state of mind.
Diane Arbus said it perfectly: The thing that’s important to know is that you never know. You’re always sort of feeling your way.

What’s inspiring you?
Change. Life. Emotion. Being a woman in a world made for men.

Do you have any exhibits coming up/ or past exhibits you’d like to mention?
I have a closing of a show at Vintage Wine Bar, 129 S 13th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107, on Tuesday, July 14th.

Is any of your work political?
Not quite, but as women’s rights become a stronger subject in the political scene I feel that I must speak out.

What are you trying to communicate with your art?
I am trying to communicate emotion.

What is one of the biggest challenges you face as an artist?
Having the energy at the end of the day to fire up my camera and spill my all into the camera.

How has the meaning of your work changed over time?
I developed a stronger grasp on the concept and could filter my efforts in a particular direction.

What do you dislike about your work?
That I need complete darkness to create my work.


Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
I think writing. Poetry is another expressive medium that I’ve delved in but never took seriously.

What is your dream project?
I’d like take my camera off road, into nature. The woods, at night, with no one around.

Do you collaborate with other artists?
Yes, with shows in particular. I would like to strengthen ties with local female artists.

Favorite artists and why?
Joel Peter Witkin – his composition is amazing and his work is breathtaking when you look beyond the subject matter (cadavers).
Dean Chamberlain – He is the king of light painting. Nothing beats his environmental portraits of psychedelic pioneers.
Van Gogh – I’ve always been a fan, or at last I can recall as far back as 9 years old falling in love with Starry Night.
Vermeer, Caravaggio – It’s all about the light.
Escher – The lour of pattern, repetition, and accuracy is mesmerizing.
There are too many to name.

What are you reading?
Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Favorite authors, fiction: Sergei Lukyanenko, Paulo Coelho.
Favorite authors, nonfiction: I dig a good biography, but my Janson’s History of Art book gets the most use.
Favorite comic strips/ comic books/ graphic novels? Persepolis

Your website(s):

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