Photos courtesy of Matt Werner

Arizona’s largest and longest-running artist studio tour, Hidden in the Hills, returns for a 27th consecutive year during the last two weekends of November: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, Nov. 17-19 and Nov. 24-26. Coordinated by the nonprofit Sonoran Arts League, this year’s free, self-guided tour features 164 artists at 41 studios throughout Cave Creek, Carefree, and North Scottsdale.

Peoria resident and wood sculptor Matt Werner is looking forward to his fourth year in the tour. Werner sculpts people in a realistic style, with each sculpture telling a story. Whether he’s sculpting people in action, sitting quietly, reflecting, or in other everyday moments, his ultimate goal is for the viewer to find their own story in the piece.
“I’m a positive-minded, non-cynical person. I see people as engaging, amusing, beautiful, joyous, and noble characters in life’s panoply. People are simply the most interesting part of the show,” Werner says.

A native of Philadelphia, Werner was a teenager when he discovered an appreciation for art.

“I often visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and one day, I found Auguste Rodin’s “Burghers of Calais” installed on the parkway adjacent to the museum. I had never seen anything so powerful. After that experience, I had a wholly different perspective on what art could be,” he says.

After earning degrees from Franklin & Marshall College (BA, Geology) and Pennsylvania State University (PhD, Geology), he pursued career work in geology consulting. In 2004, he started a gradual transition to a second career as a sculptor. In June of 2012, he finally was able to step out of his previous career in science and become a full-time sculptor.

Werner works exclusively with hard woods, such as maple, oak, walnut, mesquite, and alligator juniper, and he prefers to use dyes to enhance his stories with color.

“I prefer hard woods because they are durable. I use dyes to help bring out the grain in the wood,” he says.

He enjoys seeing how people react to his work, especially when they feel a personal connection to a piece.

“When folks see my sculptures, they see snapshots of people—like themselves—who are doing things that they have done—singing, dancing, sleeping, striving, running, praying—people living. It’s as if they see movements and moments from the show of life,” he says.

Werner has been trained in classical figure sculpture by Ben Hammond, Hal Stewart, Lincoln Fox, Vala Ola, and Rick Casali. He is also influenced by renowned artists.

“I admire the sculptor Bernini for his sense of movement and composition. I admire Rodin for his impressionistic abbreviations of human forms, and I favor the illustrator Rockwell for his loyalty to the nobility of common women and men,” he says.

A past-president of the Arizona Artists Guild (AAG) and past-chairperson of the AAG Sculptor’s Group, Werner will exhibit his work at Sylvia Fugmann Brongo’s Studio No. 35 in Cave Creek during the artist studio tour.

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