Although it might not seem intuitive, Matthew Castellano looks to and thanks the local skateboarding community for leading him to art. And although the Miami native didn’t necessarily have Little Rock on his radar, he’s glad he made the stop.
“In 2010 I went on this long road trip where I drove from Miami to Canada … and I went back through Arkansas,” he remembers. He stopped off to visit his grandparents in Northwest Arkansas and fell in love with the place.
“There was a really bad ice storm and I stayed to help … I had never run a chainsaw before and it was cool because I had never seen snow either,” he says.
He stayed on working at a hotel before moving to Little Rock with a friend, attempting to find his niche. He says, “When I moved here I rode my bike around – I didn’t have a car.” He picked up his skateboard, something he’s always loved, and began making friends – which ultimately landed him a job.
“There’s the older skateboarders that have jobs and professional careers, and that lead to me getting a job at Heifer International,” he recalls. From there, Castellano worked in kitchens for a while, but didn’t feel like he was doing the “grownup thing” properly.
“I was working in the kitchen and I took a step back to work in retail at ART Outfitters,” he explains, “I love helping people … and I learn so much every day.”
Working at the store has opened his eyes to new processes and new ways of creating. “My brain is always going,” he laughs, “I’m always doing three or four things at a time,”
You’ve likely seen his work around – minimal scenes sporting the humanoid figure his friend once dubbed, “The Little Dude,” which he’s been drawing for four years now.
“He was kind of a blob once, but it’s amazing to see how he’s developed. I’m exploring humanity – it’s man versus civilization – whether they’re coexisting or struggling against each other,” he says.
As for the mostly black and white, minimal scenes the Little Dude appears in, Castellano says, “I feel minimalism is the way I can express myself best … Somehow I can take this chaotic world down and open it up with simplicity.”
As a transplant, Castellano has a lot of love for the local scene. “I really like it here, it’s easy to talk to people because there’s a sense of Southern hospitality here. … Everybody looks out for each other.”
In the future, he wants the scene to be even more of a community and he wants to help it progress. He says, “I’m the outsider that’s pushing all those Venn diagrams of artists, trying to get everyone to meet.”
Part of his way of doing that involves running a show opening Jan. 22 at Gallery 360. Ice Box 2 is in its second year, and Castellano aims to give emerging artists a chance to show and meet other artists. This year’s exhibit is going to be bigger than the last, and includes an installation or two, along with other works.
When not curating shows, networking with local artists and skateboarding, Castellano keeps creating. “I try to get my hands on everything – screen printing, oil painting, everything – the Little Dude is going to be everywhere.”
Check out more of his work here