Artwork by Matt Cotten

Artist in Focus

I spent my childhood in Binghamton NY walking along the creeks and riding my bike in the alleys behind boarded-up shoe factories. Those were the good times.

I was also very sick with severe asthma that required long hospital stays where I was confined to an oxygen tent. My days were spent drawing on comic strips and the condensing moisture in the plastic tent would cause the marker colors to bleed across them. I incorporated the naturally occurring forms into my stories. This was the beginning of my art-making process.

My mother, a designer, and proprietor of a studio/gallery ensured that art, architecture, music, and theatre were part of my upbringing. I was inspired by the wonderful artists who visited her studio.

While studying ceramics, I learned about the meditative force of sculpting as well as the natural strength of spontaneous mark-making. I later performed in a multi-media street circus and created giant processional puppets, temporary chalk murals, and light-based installations. These experiences inform my art to this day.

Walking in downtown Tucson where I currently live and have my studio allows me to explore symbols and traces in the urban landscape. These shapes along with figurative imagery from photographs reflect the imprint of modern life and nature that permeates my work.

For me, each painting is a witness of time, space, and artistic energy. I know that a painting has reached completion when it captures attention from a distance and tempts the viewer into an intimate space that in turn requires time and energy to see and experience.

Matt in Focus



Master of Fine Art, Painting and Drawing, University of Arizona

Bachelor of Fine Art, Ceramics, Northern Arizona University



Group Exhibition - Steinfeld Warehouse, Tucson, AZ, 2017
Group Exhibition - University of Arizona Poetry Center, Tucson, AZ, 2012 

Group Exhibition - Museum of Contemporary Art, Tucson, AZ, 2010
Solo Exhibition - University of Arizona Poetry Center, Tucson, AZ, 2010 

Arizona Biennial, Tucson Museum of Art, Tucson, AZ, 2005 & 2009
Invitational - University of Arizona Museum of Art, Tucson, AZ, 2004 & 2005


Weed and Seed Grant, Mask/Puppet Workshop, Tucson, AZ, 2005 to 2009

Mini-Grant, Gruff Project, Tucson Pima Arts Council, 2006
Project Grant Award, Ancestor Project, Tucson Pima Arts Council, 2004 to 2006



Regan, Margaret. “Imagined Places” Tucson Weekly, April 29, 2010
Daly, Diane. “The Mausoleum Project” Downtown Tucsonan, January, 2007, issue 56: p.18

Bodfield, Rhonda. “Revelers’ Puppets Tell Personal Stories” Arizona Daily Star, October 2, 2003, p.A1

Anderson, Judith. “What’s Doing in Tucson” New York Times, October 29, 2000, Travel section: p.1



Adjunct Instructor, School of Art, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, 1997 to 2009
Art Instructor, Museum School for the Visual Arts, Tucson, AZ, 2008 to 2011
Adjunct Instructor, School of Architecture, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, 2001 to 2004

Adjunct Instructor, Department of Fine Art, Pima Community College, Tucson, AZ, 2002 & 2003

Assistant Scenic Painter, Arizona Theater Company, Tucson, AZ, 2010 to 2012
Public Chalk Artist and Mentor, Tucson I Madonnari Collective, Tucson, AZ, 2005 to 2008

Mural Painter and Coordinator, Third Hand Art, Stone Curves Mural, Tucson, AZ, 2000 & 2001


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