“The Heart of Homecoming,” by Matthew Rice

October 11, 2013 at 11:54 am 1 comment

homecoming_mateo_bluPenn State football-player-turned-artist Matthew Rice ’05 knows that some people might look at his newest painting, “Heart of Homecoming,” and wonder why there are only five lines in the stitching on the football. Real footballs, of course, have more.

The reason is simple—deceptively so.

“I think very deep when it comes to the things I’m creating,” he says. “I wasn’t thinking how many lines a real football actually has. I dedicated five years to Penn State. In my vision, I see each stripe as a level of dedication, a level of transition that I went through not only as a person, but how I started my whole artistic journey.”

Rice—known professionally as Mateo Blu—knows that not everyone will see the same thing in his painting. And that’s exactly how he wants it, not just with this work, but with everything he creates.

“I may set a certain mood,” he says, “but there’s a natural balance that has to happen within each person. You see your own thing. It’s not so much that I paint a box, or I see a box. You may see yourself, a level of your life, a transition in life. You may see the simplicity of colors, you may see a pattern, or something you can respect because it’s different. At the end of the day, that’s what I shoot for.”

Rice, a full-time professional artist since his NFL career ended in 2008, began working on “The Heart of Homecoming” about three years ago, as he thought about the level of loyalty he has to Penn State and the level of connection among Penn Staters. He likes working on several pieces at once—“it balances out my thoughts”—and this piece evolved over the years. He says now, “It’s about understanding our true identity, who we are, vs. what one person or the media can predict.”

But he created the painting, he said, so that it would relevant beyond Penn State football, or even Penn State. “Everyone has their own homecoming, a connection they have,” he says. “It may be a homecoming to a family reunion. Or to a family dinner.”

Rice can’t be here this Homecoming weekend; he’s in the middle of what he calls a “grand tour of murals,” painting giant works in Baltimore; Lubbock, Texas; San Marcos, Texas; Tuscaloosa, Ala.; and Oklahoma. He’s in Tuscaloosa now, painting a mural that’s 40 feet long and 8 feet tall at a complex called The Avenue. He describes the work as “a Mateo Blu meets Roy Lichtenstein kind of abstract.” You can check out the work in progress on his Twitter feed.

But you can see “Heart of Homecoming” from 6 to 9 Friday night at Damon’s, and if you stop by State College Framing Company and Gallery from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, you can order a print of the work—Rice will personally sign them—and speak with a Mateo Blu representative about buying the original. And the first eight customers will get a 9×12 giclee print of “Heart of Homecoming.” There’s also a raffle for another Mateo Blue print, “In Virum Perfectum,” that you can enter at either location. Rice’s representatives will work to get you the print before you leave town.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

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