Matthias Pliessnig (MFA 2008) builds sculptural furniture that looks like wooden representations of mathematical equations. Ironic, because math class was the last place he wanted to be in his Nebraska high school.
He escaped the academic classrooms of his mostly conservative and unsupportive teachers for the art studio where the art teacher encouraged his interest in drawing and painting.
"When we started talking about art school, it seemed like a really good move," said Pliessnig, who has spent his life moving around the country – New Orleans, Houston, New Jersey, Colorado, Nebraska, Rhode Island, Madison and now Philadelphia.
The Kansas City Art Institute caused Pliessnig to change his focus from illustration to sculpture and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) refined his interests in wood, metal and furniture.
The boatyards of Rhode Island inspired the rest of his college and graduate studies, and the work he has done ever since. Pliessnig and a college friend even scavenged boat graveyards for parts that he brought back to the studio.
“I never did anything with the boats at that point, but I always had a love for boats and furniture,” he said. “The idea of travel was always on my mind – the idea of movement.”
Pliessnig spent his time at RISD learning about the connections and interactions between humans and objects, but he finally built a boat when he came to UW-Madison.
“Everything came together in terms of understanding boats: how they're put together and how they work, and then I was bringing that back to furniture,” he said.
Since 2004, his work has been featured in numerous magazines from American Craft to Forbes Life. He primarily works on commission but has exhibited in the 2009 traveling exhibition, Transformation 7: Contemporary Works on Wood, and at the Smithsonian Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. in 2011. The Renwick Gallery and the Museum of Art and Design in New York own his pieces. He received a prestigious 2010 Unites States Artists Fellowship funded by the Knight Foundation.
Pliessnig loves the water, the ocean and the possibilities that lie in its open terrain.
“Right now, my dream is to find property that's on the water where I can have a studio and live and work in the same compound,” he said. “After moving around so much, I want to find the right place to settle for a bit.”
photo courtesy Matthias Pliessnig