Gazing upon his childhood bedroom walls, Matt Zacharias’ inspiration had already begun before he ever became an artist. The posters and the photos that adorned his room would follow Zacharias to Detroit for his first solo show this summer.
Zacharias, 45, a Washtenaw Community College Digital Arts instructor, showcased his latest works this summer at Detroit’s Re:View art gallery on West Willis Street.
Entitled, “Childhood, Boyhood, Sonic Youth,” the display was well-received, according to Zacharias who was satisfied with the end result of his labor.
“I was really pleased,” Zacharias said. “It was really successful. There were a lot of people there and I got very positive feedback.”
The gallery’s owner, Simone DeSousa seeks out artists throughout the area to be represented exclusively in her gallery. Zacharias was asked to join the gallery as a featured artist in 2010. His summer show was also his first solo exhibition. Featured artists have a solo show every two years at Re:View.
“We were thinking about an abandoned space, a renegade type thing,” Zacharias said. “I’m glad that didn’t happen. It’s much cooler at a real gallery. I’m really happy to be represented there.”
Formerly a member of three-piece art collective AWOL, with friends Greg Fadell and Peter Wardowski, Zacharias was discovered by Sousa along with Fadell, who was also given his own solo show at the gallery earlier this year. Originally studying film at the University of Michigan, Zacharias joined AWOL in 1996, refocusing his efforts to the canvas.
“Pete and Greg introduced me to photography and painting,” Zacharias said. “These were new mediums I had ever tried before. 2D works of art are really just biggie-sized storyboards for movies. All mediums overlap like this. It allows me to recognize more potential to play.”
Largely consisting of photographic images taken from Zacharias’ childhood memories and interests, the pieces shown comprise his musical tastes and interests growing up. To Zacharias, the work represents the early development of his personality.
“It’s really a recreated version of my bedroom wall,” Zacharias said. “It’s a sort of coming-of-age story. I don’t actually play with GI Joes anymore, but I feel like those years are sacred windows, feeling around in the dark, figuring out who we are. That show really deconstructs the building blocks of how I forged my identity.”
The show ran from June 9 to July 7.
An Emmy-award-winning film instructor, Zacharias played guitar as a teen in several local punk bands. As the years wore on, he said, he began to associate creativity with failure. Disenfranchised, Zacharias joined the military. When the Gulf War broke out, Zacharias applied for Conscientious Objector status and was discharged by 1993.
“It (the military) was a disaster,” Zacharias said. “When the war began, I decided it wasn’t my thing.”
Returning from the military, Zacharias finished his film studies at U-M and worked for television station, PBS from 1999 until 2011. AWOL began to splinter a few years later as the three members were being pulled in different professional directions, according to Zacharias. He began teaching at WCC in the Fall of 2006.
“I learn so much from my students, it’s really true,” Zacharias said. “There’s an amazing, talented body of people at WCC. That kind of energy is contagious. It’s totally shaped me as a person and an artist.”
Zacharias’ work ethic and creativity are embraced by his fellow employees at WCC as well. Julia Gleich, an employee of the college’s graphic arts Production Center, attended the show and was impressed at the film instructor’s penchant for media conversion.
“We were all very intrigued to see that he does more than video,” Gleich said. “He can do anything, definitely someone to watch in the future. It’s wonderful to see faculty out in field as well as teaching it.”
According to Gleich, the college has begun tentative plans to purchase some small pieces from the show for display on campus.
“It’s nice to have faculty art represented on campus,” Gleich said. “All of us on campus who know him went to the show. We are very supportive of each other.”