Matt Saunders, the sixteenth recipient of the prestigious Rappaport Prize, describes his work as “moving from one form into another–a kind of translation.” He creates large-scale photographs without a camera by hand-painting photographic negatives onto linen. In the darkroom, he shines light through these painted fabrics onto photosensitive paper to create evocative, nearly abstract exposures. He often bases his compositions on film stills of iconic American and European avant-garde actors who have come and gone from the public eye. In his short animated films, Saunders similarly blurs the boundaries of artistic media, merging drawing and the moving images. He makes drawings on paper and plastic with ink, oil, casein, graphite, and toner powder. These in turn serve as the basis for color-saturated films of flickering abstractions interspersed with bursts of recognizable faces and sites. The effect of ghostly apparitions encourages contemplation about the ephemeral nature of recognition and memory in historic imagery.
"Matt Saunders is an outstanding recipient of the Rappaport Prize," notes John B. Ravenal, Executive Director of deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum. "Matt’s work was included in the 2012 deCordova Biennial and he has a longstanding connection with the New England art community—first as a student at Harvard and Yale Universities and now as a professor at Harvard. His work is innovative and thought-provoking, and offers a fascinating reflection on the intersection of memory, images, and history."


What does the prize mean to you?

"I can’t overstate the excitement I feel–and the gratitude–for this unexpected, wonderful prize. Twenty years ago I started visiting deCordova as a student, at a time in life that really opened my eyes. The deCordova in particular and Boston’s institutions in general were transformative for me, and I’m delighted to be back in the community and honored to be named in these ranks. Working life often feels like a crossroads. At this moment, this grant will truly enable new directions and new work. For all of this I am very grateful to the museum and to the Rappaports for their generosity."


Where is he now?

Born in Tacoma, Washington, in 1975, Matt Saunders lives and works between Berlin and Boston. Saunders received his BA from Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and his MFA from Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. He is currently Assistant Professor of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University. His work is in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Saunders’ work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions around the world including at the Renaissance Society, New York; Tate Liverpool, England; and 2011 Sharjah Biennial. He received the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award in 2009 and Prix Jean-François Prat in 2013. In 2012, Saunders’ work was exhibited in The 2012 deCordova Biennial.