Spotlight on Matt Haffner: Inspiring students through photography
By Michael Ruther
Assistant Professor of Photography Matthew Haffner is quite the hardworking artist. He earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Akron and his Master of Fine Arts from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. As he comes from a background of graffiti, creating commissioned work through the right channels was an enlightening experience for him.
Haffner has found a lot to love about KSU. In particular, he enjoys introducing students to artists and artistic concepts that they otherwise might not have known about. He has also found the helpful and cooperative in his creative endeavors. Above all, he likes to teach. “I like the process of inspiring students. To me, that’s what is amazing about teaching art. It’s seeing that spark in a student’s eye when they finally get ‘it’—when concepts and techniques meet and take off in their mind.”
He has a signature style that promotes a “dirty, cheap and fast” effect that is inspired by graffiti, comic books and popular culture. His teaching methods incorporate readings and discussions of theories and concepts that students can then apply to the production of their art. Haffner has a wealth of information on self-promotion and contacts within the art community. What he wants most for his students is for them to leave with a sense of inspiration, and for many of them to become professional, working artists themselves.
In addition to teaching, Haffner’s responsibilities include working on several committees and helping students organize exhibitions off campus. He emphasizes the need for an artist not only to produce art, but to get art on public display. He introduces his students to venues of alternative space, such as the Eyedrum Gallery, Beep Beep Gallery, and Young Blood Gallery and Boutique, all of which are great spaces for emerging young artists, according to Haffner.
Senior art major Geoffrey Smith describes Haffner as “one of the hardest working artists I know, distinctive and unique.” Senior art major Amy Yochum adds, “He gets you to really think about your work and what you’re doing, whether or not you subconsciously know what it is you’ve created. He has this plethora of knowledge of random things you might not connect to your work until you step back and he suggests it.”
Besides having more than a decade of teaching experience, Haffner also has significant experience as a working artist. He is best known for his public art installations and paintings. He has an almost constant stream of shows and exhibitions that take him to a number of locations, including New York and Philadelphia. Haffner’s biggest accomplishment to date is an upcoming solo show at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Atlanta. He states, “It is the best work I’ve ever made in my life. Having a solo exhibition is a huge accomplishment by my age. It is by far the biggest career jump for me.” He also received a Foundation Award from the Kennesaw State University Foundation for a public art series called “Serial City,” which incorporated murals at thirteen different sites throughout Atlanta.
When Haffner is not teaching, he is working on his art or spending time with his family. During rare moments of relaxation, he enjoys reading novels. He explained his attraction almost exclusively to novels because he likes “something born out of imagination.” He also likes comic books, as they are a source of inspiration for his art; in particular, Haffner enjoys Frank Miller and Mike Mignola and Vertigo and Image titles.