by Laura Sidsworth
This is part 1 of 2 a part series about Sanger artist Kathleen Mattox. Watch for part 2 in next week’s issue.
Several years ago, I took up writing again – which led me, recently, to Kings River Life Magazine, and Lorie Lewis Ham, its Editor-in-Chief, and publisher. For the past several months she has given me assignments on articles to produce, several of which originate within Sanger, California.
My current task was to interview a Sanger artist by the name of Kathleen Mattox. I do not do a Google search, to clarify facts, proper spellings, and the like – until after I have interviewed my subject – I want my first impressions to be my own.
On the day of my appointment with Kathleen, I was setting up other appointments from home. In going through business cards in my purse, I came across a small card that I read from time to time when it lands in my hands. I read it again, found it inspiring once more, and placed it on an easel in my newly redecorated art/music room…for motivational purposes!
I had gotten the card from Aaron Mullins’ studio in Clovis, California. Mullins is a fine art photographer who offered it to me as I admired it. It read, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Act as though it were impossible to fail.” Dorothea Brandt, 44.
And so I drove to Sanger, arriving in front of a red-bricked building I had just been in front of a few weeks prior; having left Jitters on Seventh Street, driven one block North to Eighth Street, and paused just a bit as I drove past the energetic store front. I marveled at being back at the same building that I had made a mental note to stop back at in the future, now that the future moment was here, so soon, arranged by someone else!
Inside that building, which houses Mixed Messages Art Galery, I met Kathleen Mattox, and was given a tour of her 600 square foot shop. Briefly she told me the history of the 1940-built house, at first a residence for a family of six! It then morphed into a Beauty Salon for roughly 20 years, and now pulsates with colors and charm as an art gallery/shop. Mattox said some people still remember it from their youth when they used to visit the Salon with their moms!
Kathleen, born in Fresno, but practically a Sanger native with 25 years under her belt and a passion for the small city, showed me art work and various items created by mostly local artisans. I found out that she had not really planned to be an all-out artist as she most definitely is now, but rather obtained her Masters from Fresno State in social sciences, with a minor in music. At the time, she needed to round out her courses, so she took five art classes with such notables as Darwin Musselman, B.J. McCoon, Charles Chestnut, and Robert Herlitz.
She had learned the basics in art, but then began her journey as an elementary teacher in Fresno Unified School district and wife to Roy Mattox, mother to Meghan Mattox. She completely set aside painting and dabbled in calligraphy, stained glass and quilting. Meanwhile, she became a vice-principal, and then a district coordinator for 30-plus schools within F.U.S.D.
When she retired from the school district, she returned to an inherent love of art and has been prolifically painting since the year 2000. “Retired” from one career, she seems fully committed to her second career, as an artiste!For the last four years, she has managed her shop most days, Wednesday’s through to Sunday. She is the President of the downtown business association, and drums up and implements ideas for bringing shoppers to downtown. Kathleen is the facilitator of the Sanger Art Hop scene, held the last Saturday of the month at various locales, including her own gallery. She is also currently working on writing/creating an Artist Residency Program for Jefferson Elementary, and so has been brushing up on the Classics again. She hosts and teaches workshops, as well as works with current students.
Did I mention she plays the 2nd Oboe, a type of woodwind instrument, and is a member of two bands who plays for community events? Apparently, musical talent runs in the Mattox family as well. Daughter Meghan plays the bass guitar, once winning Fresno’s Guitar Wars when she was just 14, the first girl to ever win and also the youngest to ever claim the title! Meghan plays in three bands in L.A., where she resides. Kathleen’s husband, Roy, plays the French Horn in the same bands as his wife, as well as two others, besides arranging and composing music.
Kathleen had never been in retail before, and while finding it “an interesting challenge,” she seems to have found the ability to imbue her love for, and style of art into many creative ventures:
During an ArtHop someone from the Audubon Society noticed her poultry drawings and commissioned her to do two different works – “Birds of the Garden,” and “Birds of the Ponding Basin,” the latter installed as a plaque at Cottonwood Park in Clovis, California.
Kathleen has produced a book with a cousin, Wyatt Figueroa, who put poems to her paintings, Paintings and Poems, A Cousin Collaborative (2012-2013).
She created a painting to be sold as prints for the 10th anniversary of the Valley Girls Ride (just this past October.)
She has turned her artwork into giclees, posters, prints, postcards/notecards, calendars… and a deck of playing-card-sized mini art pieces, complete with motivational quotes, one of which I already had in my possession, and had placed on my own easel just that morning!
Kathleen has a masterful way with color, pulling together all kinds of design elements, utilizing symbols, numbers, words and imagery to invoke joyfulness, and bring playfulness to each piece. She says she likes happy pieces and creating motivational art which in turn makes her happy, knowing her paintings bring joy to others.
As I noticed more and more elements come to life in one particular painting, Kathleen remarked that some owners of her work tell her years later that they still are discovering different aspects within her paintings.
She is one of those women that you wonder how she does it all – and I was so taken with her and her shop that I was shocked to realize I had spent three hours just chatting and drinking in all the different art pieces!
There will have to be a Part Two to this story, as there is just SO much more to share. Until that time, please stop in if you would like to meet her yourself or just browse her wonderful store! For inspiring, motivational, unique gifts of all kinds – visit Mixed Messages Art Studio/Gallery/Classes at 1310 8th Street, in Sanger, California.
Open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. till 6 p.m. You can also find Mixed Messages on Facebook.
Kathleen Mattox may be contacted at kathleenmattox@gmail[dot]com or 559-905-3517.