Matthew Pleva has both a recognizable face to many in Kingston and a portfolio of memorable, creative work that’s some of the best stuff Kingston has to offer. Pleva is a very interesting guy and it was a pleasure to get to interview him after having it on my “must do” list for a few years now.
Morgan Y. Evans: How long have you been a Kingston resident? What is your earliest memory of the city?
Matthew Pleva: Born and raised in Kingston. Earliest Kingston memory? 1. Going to the children’s library. 2. Going to the Sunset Drive-in on Route 28. 3. Splitting my chin open at the city pool.
You have been a big part of the community and people are used to seeing you as a bouncer at Snapper’s, the most legendary proud little rock ’n’ roll dive bar in the city. What are some of the best parts of being part of the Snapper’s team for you that made you keep doing it?
The fact that anyone is welcome there, just as long you act like a human being. Sadly sometimes people find that difficult.
You are an accomplished artist with a very specific, recognizable style. You usually work small on extremely finely detailed pieces, and of course also did a huge O+ mural by the Peace Park once, one of the more popular ones. You have your own shop. What have been some of your favorite pieces to do over the years, be they movie-based tributes or other subjects?
As for the murals, the Peace Park mural will always have a special place in my heart, as it was the first, but my mural at the Hudson River Maritime Museum is more dynamic to me and its panoramic proportions fit with my overall stylistic choices. With my smaller, regular work I still love my piece “Robots!!!” and a Moby Dick illustration. But when it comes to the dioramas I love them all in their own way.
What do you think about the current direction of the city? How does it feel to live here and have a family life on the day-to-day basis?
There is a lot going on that is really amazing these days. And there is some real garbage stuff that is happening at the same time. More people, more problems. I hope that some compromise can be found. There is so much more going on now then there was when I was growing up. I really don’t want to see things go back to the way they were in the late ’70s and ’80s.
You have an art show coming up, correct?
Yes I do. I haven’t felt the need to have a show in the past few years, but I am excited about my new project of repurposing vintage Betamax video tapes, using them as frames for my pieces. It is titled “Be a Betamatt Star.” It is a one day pop-up show, Nov. 9 at Arcane Video, 728 Broadway here in Kingston. It is a perfect place to show them as it is an actual video store.
You have always struck me as a “treat people how you would like to be treated,” pretty reliable type. Having seen a wide variety of the folks Kingston has to offer, how do I put this … do you feel like your average Kingston person is a good or bad person? [Laughs].
People are going to be people. Have good days and bad. Some are going to be good and some are going to be bad. It is your choice who you surround yourself with. I would say that the good outnumber the bad in town.
What are some of your favorite neighborhoods or locations in Kingston?
Well I grew up and still do live near Uptown and claim it as my own. So there is that. I think that Ponckhockie, way down Delaware Avenue, is a hidden gem. As a father to a 5-year-old, I am getting to really enjoy all the parks in the city again.
As an artist yourself, where do you draw the distinctive line between graffiti art and straight up vandalism when you see it around town?
Ah, graffiti. I like a lot of the fully fleshed, and well-executed pieces I have seen around town. My favorite is not in Kingston proper, in the underpass adjacent to the parking lot at Aldi’s. The big cat. What I completely abhor is the relentless amount of tagging that happens throughout the city. They are like a dog pissing on everything in sight. It’s such a waste of time, both executing and then having to clean it up, which is almost impossible to keep up with.