Matthew W. Littekenmwlitteken@nni.com
As a tangible item, currency is one of the most ephemeral things in the external, practical world, constantly redefined in relationship to its fluctuating value. Regardless of its fickle nature, money is an essential constant in society. As consumers, we use money as the mediator for such things as physical sustenance, pleasure, and status, all of which may be described according to shifting individual or societal value. Money has become such an integral part of our consumer-based existence that the motif of currency is commonly used as a symbol of value or purchasing power. We are bombarded with its imagery, especially within televised advertising, printed coupons, and journalistic illustrations. Even with technological substitutes for money, paper currency —actual, physical money—is still plainly capable of evoking delight and mystification.
My work investigates the notion of consumerism through the exploitation of money and value in multifaceted projects that incorporate the iconography and motifs from U.S. currency, generating a dialogue about the interplay of both spending practices and value assignments that penetrate our daily experiences. I examine the role of these assessments through both color theory and subject matter, challenging viewers to reconsider the value systems so deeply embedded in the American psyche in the consumption of goods and services, but is directly tied to the human desires, fancies, and whims in our post-industrial consumer society. The decorative elements speak to a number of issues surrounding societal assessments, particularly in relation to home improvement, public art, and art as commodity.
The thrust of my work is to provide viewers with the ironic sense of the sublime as related to the dry motif of money, while raising issues of artistry, value, and pictorial worth. What do we value (monetarily, conceptually, or aesthetically)? For what reason, and to what end? By what standards are these judgments made? In context of the critical assessment and consequent taste of the viewer, I regard my work, not as the answers to these questions, but rather, as the inquisitors.