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Matthew Dutton, 29, creates mixed media sculpture and art.


Music Man: Dutton plays drums, bass, horns and guitar but he can't read music.

Favorite movie: "Labyrinth."

Ink story: He has a tattoo of a vertical hash mark on his leg. He and wife Maria planned to get one every year but never followed through.

Mythical creature: If he could be an animal, he'd be a Pegasus, because he likes horses but wants to be able to fly.

Superpower: Dutton's superpower of choice would be the ability to stop time, "because then I could get all these crazy ideas actualized."

Matthew Dutton doesn't like to be idle.

"I don't like to sit around and do nothing," said Dutton, 29. "There are too many things I want to do and only so many hours in the day. I've got about 20 projects going on at all times."

He is an artist -- currently featured in AVA Gallery's "Fresh" exhibition -- and the arts specialist at Rock City Gardens. He helps create thematic backgrounds and props for celebrations and restores the attraction's antique gnomes.

Born in Winter Park, Fla., Dutton moved to Chattanooga as a teenager and now resides in Hixson with his wife, Maria, his high school sweetheart. They have been married for seven years and have a son on the way. Dutton is painting robots in the nursery because his wife thought their son would like them.

Some of his work, he said, is inspired by another child, his sister Amy, who was killed in an accident in 2001. She was 4 years old.

"A big storm came, and this tree crushed our house and landed on her," said Dutton, who was 18 at the time. "It was a freak accident. Everything was gone, and she was gone. I wasn't there. Then this person who was so innocent and pure and only had wonder and curiosity about the world was just gone."

He describes a lot of his recent work as being "playful" and childlike. He has included children's toys -- stuffed animals and dolls -- into some of his work.

"It's possible all my latest work is (inspired by Amy)," he said. "I don't necessarily know exactly why I'm doing something, but later on it reveals itself to me rather than me trying to hammer out this thought."

Q: How do you classify yourself as an artist?

A: I don't like to pigeonhole myself to one particular genre. I do a little bit of everything. You can be specialized in one medium, but I like to try to specialize in everything as much as I can. There's still a lot of stuff I'm learning, but I'm getting better at tons of different things. Right now, I'm sculpting more than I'm painting, but that doesn't mean I'll sculpt forever.

Q: How did you decide to be an artist?

A: It's just something I've done my whole life. My earliest memories are drawing comic books and dinosaurs and monsters. I've just always been making things, so it's something I kept developing, and it's turned into a profession of sorts.

Q: What inspires you?

A: I get inspiration from a lot of things, everyday things. I'll come up with ideas in my dreams and create them. I get inspired by popular culture, movies, fantasy and sci-fi stuff. Artists inspire me, even local people. I see their ambition to create, and it propels me to a place where I want to keep creating too. It's not in a competitive manner but in a feeding off each other's energy kind of way.

Q: How do your life experiences affect your art?

A: It's almost as if the way the work happens would be a collaboration of subconscious things. I've had some moments that have been pretty pivotal, and I find myself working subconsciously from those.

Q: What would a piece consciously inspired by your sister look like?

A: I have made one. It was an experimental piece. It was for a class. It had a baby's head, and you could open it, then there was a tree inside that was spinning and a music box with lights in it. The head was on a stack of kids books. All of the titles had something related to my memory of that night. The head was on an alarm clock that was (stopped) on the time I'd heard about the news.

Q: What do you look forward to teaching your son?

A: Everything. A lot of stuff I learned when I was a kid, like going in the woods and fishing. I don't want to say "you have to be this," but I want to expose him to a lot of different things, definitely music and a lot of cultural things.

Q: If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

A: Probably in the woods, away from everything. I like people, and I like society, but doses of it. ... Somewhere out in the woods I could create large sculptures and not have to worry about being in the way of my driveway.