Like so many of us, Tallahassee native Matthew Forrest was unclear about his career goals when he first came to Florida State University. After one semester, he left school and began to work full-time, eventually earning an associate degree in graphic design. Ten years later, he is completing his BFA in studio art within the College of Fine Arts.
“As a returning student who waited a decade after completing my AA to finish my bachelor’s degree, I hope that people will be inspired to pursue their dreams, no matter their age or what obstacles may stand in their way,” Forrest said.
While at FSU, Forrest has worked closely with Keith Roberson, an associate professor in digital arts, and Carrie Ann Baade, a professor in painting. Both were crucial mentors in his studies.
“As an art student, Matthew (aka Briteso) studies pop art and popular culture in order to understand what makes an image powerfully iconic,” Baade said. “His work often draws from images in cinema, TV and sports.”
Baade said that in addition to his easel paintings, Forrest is an up-and-coming street artist.
“Street art is a natural fit for him because he works diligently to abstract form, thereby creating something bold that you cannot easily look away from,” she said.
Roberson said Forrest has been an exceptional member of the BFA program.
“He has worked hard to explore and incorporate human perception and cognition,” he said. “He has also embraced several new technologies while developing his own personal aesthetic. I’m excited to see what the future has in store for him.”
Throughout his time at Florida State University, Forrest has had an almost perfect 4.0 GPA and has earned Dean’s List honors multiple times.
“FSU has provided me with the tools I need to discuss my work,” Forrest said. “Art history classes, rigorous critique and reviews have prepared me to speak confidently about what I am trying to accomplish through my work; I am grateful for that.”
Equally important to Forrest has been using a studio and installation space at the Carnaghi Arts Building (CAB).
“CAB has been incredibly valuable to me as an artist because I can explore and grow my practice in a semi-private setting away from distractions,” he said. “My studio is a home away from home, and I could not imagine life without it.”
Forrest has always been interested in community engagement through artistic expression by continually honing his artistic process and concepts.
As a part of my public art practice, I have been able to leave my mark by creating unique visual and cultural experiences that are equally accessible for everyone while beautifying our community.
— Matthew Forrest
“As a part of my public art practice, I have been able to leave my mark by creating unique visual and cultural experiences that are equally accessible for everyone while beautifying our community,” he said.
In the spring of 2019, Forrest served as Float Chairman for the Springtime Tallahassee 20th Century Krewe.
“As Float Chairman, I spearheaded the design and production of our Krewe’s float, costumes, music and choreography,” he said. “With our theme of Super Mario Brothers, the float was a crowd favorite at the 2019 Springtime Tallahassee Parade.”
In the summer of 2020, Forrest had the opportunity to work with Cat Family Records, a local, independent record label, to create a large mural in Railroad Square Art Park.
“Working with their CEO, Scott Bell, I designed a concept based around technology and art that features a large spaceman and an ode to Michelangelo’s ‘The Creation of Adam,’ in which a robotic hand has replaced Adam’s,” Forrest said.
Forrest painted the mural over a few excruciatingly hot weeks in July and August, along with Bell and several other volunteers.
“It took a lot of hard work and planning, but it was absolutely worth the effort,” he said.
This past spring, Forrest participated in a live painting of Osceola, a Florida State symbol, and auctioned it off for the Mentors for the Kids (MFTK) Foundation, which was founded by FSU alumnus James Coleman to provide mentorship and support for youth throughout North Florida.
This summer, Forrest will create a series of murals in Tallahassee’s Railroad Square Art Park with the help of an FSU IDEA Grant. This new series of large-scale portraits will depict local heroes of Tallahassee and the surrounding area that have impacted the art community.
“This project will allow me to learn more about my community and contribute to the cultural landscape of Tallahassee while exploring the spaces of painting, public art and digital art,” he said.
He also will be developing an augmented-reality version of the murals that will bring the two-dimensional art to life and make it appear to be three-dimensional when viewed through a smart device. This virtual space will provide more information related to the heroes that are depicted in each mural.
Forrest’s first mural will feature Nan Boynton, the founder of Railroad Square Art Park. He is currently conducting research to decide who else will be part of this series.
“What is exciting about creating murals and public art is the open availability — there are no barriers for people to experience the work,” he said.
For Forrest, painting and drawing are extremely therapeutic — a form of meditation.
“When I am done and have manifested an idea into reality, that feeling of accomplishment is unparalleled,” he said. “Another huge motivator has been the birth of my daughter. She means everything to me, and I want to make the world she grows up in a little bit better than it currently is.”
This spring, Forrest received the Ann Kirn Award from the Department of Art, which will provide him with funds to continue his studio practice throughout the summer.
“Quality art supplies are expensive, and I tend to make larger pieces, so not having to worry about how I will pay for the materials is a huge relief,” he said.
Following graduation in spring 2022, Forrest will focus on his studio and public art practice and attend graduate school to pursue an MFA.
“I would like to be a professor one day,” he said. “Through my practice, I combine contemporary and traditional art forms with the hope of furthering a collective understanding of human nature and the semiotics of American culture.”
When asked if he had advice for other students, Forrest said to take criticism, both good and bad, with a grain of salt. Feedback on your work is wonderful, but you can’t please everyone. Be true to yourself and your creative vision, he said.
“Ultimately, it is the relationships I have made along the way,” Forrest said. “I have met so many wonderful students and incredible artists, not to mention staff, professors and other members of the community.”