Theme Week: Ryan Matthew

It took a rare specimen (pun absolutely intended) to make me consider dedicating a theme week to an individual rather than a concept. I found such inspiration in self-taught artisan, jeweler, collector, TV personality and master of osteological works Ryan Matthew, who was kind enough to give me a tour of his personal collections.

His home is more of an experience than a standard place of residence. More finely curated than the vast majority of museums I’ve visited, each room is saturated with rare artifacts from bygone days: skulls, articulated skeletons, pickled specimens, taxidermy, metal work, antiquated devices…a collection too vast to be cataloged or justly represented in a mere blog post.

Ryan has transformed his Brooklyn apartment into a wonderland of glass-domed treats, flora and fauna. With remarkable ambition and dedication to his craft, he has created a veritable oddities empire.

I personally feel very much at home surrounded by the rich history of human remains and ephemera. These objects are the time keepers of our ingenuity and foibles. Every surface was adorned with fascinating creations, brilliant artistry, milestones of medical and cultural evolution, misguided inventions, and unfortunate accidents of birth. Every item tells a story, and many of them also carry colorful anecdotes of acquisition (never a dull moment when dead things are one’s trade!).

The myriad skulls in the collection possess various anomalies: interesting ossifications, deformities, etc. These are not the bleached, pristine craniums of med school lectures. These beauties have character.

Well, every piece has character.

This colorful baby doe reminds me very much of Iori Tomita’s work.

What home decor would be complete without a giant jar of human teeth?

Perhaps it’s just the way my warped mind works, but I think this piece would be fantastic in an ad for headache medicine.

Owls have always been one of my favorite creatures…

This baboon gentleman is now poised in front of a human skull under glass, gazing upon it in contemplation; an utterly perfect tableau.

The back room contains a number of curiosity cabinets, all fully stocked and beautifully arranged. It was impossible to take it all in at once, and I rapidly developed a kind of Oddities Attention Deficit Disorder due to the delightful overwhelm. These displays require extensive exploration.

One closeup:

I really wish I had more detailed photos of that room and cabinet contents. I could get lost in them for at least a few weeks…or until someone dragged me away and reminded me to eat and sleep.

Getting the tour…

I was lucky enough to to have two wonderful photographers capture these images for me. Many thanks to the lovely Sara Gage (whom I look forward to working with and posting about in the future) and Sergio Royzen (still life virtuoso!).

Check out Ryan Matthew’s website. We have so much more to cover this week…

9 Responses to “Theme Week: Ryan Matthew”

  1. Thank you Dana! Once again, you’ve made my day, or week in this case. I look forward to more of your discoveries.
    That is truly amazing, Ryan!
    I love this post!
    Thanks again.

    • shewalkssoftly Says:

      Anytime, Jo! I’ve learned so much about the Seattle art scene from you and Marlow…glad I can introduce you guys to things as well!

  2. WOW!
    Can’t believe you got a tour!

    Incredible post.

  3. Ryan is so creative and interesting. I’m happy to see he is getting some much-deserved media attention.

  4. WOW! you are so lucky! i LOVE homes like this – the furnishings and the fantastic musuem-like quality way of displaying his passionate interest in science (and bones). this reminds me of that show Oddities. I wish there were more people like this.

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