Getting to know Matilda Rodgers
Australia-based artist and model Matilda Rodgers tells us about herself:
I’m not a risk taker. Everything I do has to be planned, considered, thought through. I hate doing anything that has an element that’s out of my control. I’ll never sky dive, or even bungee jump, because there are just too many things that can go wrong in my mind. This is probably linked to my fear of there not being anything after we die, but I’ll avoid talking about that so I don’t get emotional and anxious on you. I know I’m way more likely to die in a car crash than sky-diving or bungee jumping, but I feel more in control when driving. I’m not so obviously putting my life on someone’s or something’s hands. I’m always the one wanting to make the plans so I can be in control, as it makes me feel more confident and at ease that things will get done. It’s not that I don’t trust people or want to be in charge necessarily, it’s more that I prefer to know exactly what is going on. I can’t just go with the flow; spontaneity is not my thing. I can’t just ‘figure it out later’. I need to know well in advance what is happening, so I can make plans. I think this is a positive and a negative trait. Positive that I can trust myself that everything has been thought through; negative that if something goes wrong, I can get very stressed and not know how to deal with it, I can’t some up with alternatives and I can shut down. Like the time when I made pizza for my family. I had set aside all the time for the dough to rise and bought all the yummiest topping ingredients, but when I went to transport them to the oven, they had completely stuck to the bench. I freaked out and gave up, because I had wanted to make a perfect dinner for everyone. It hadn’t gone to plan, and I couldn’t think of a Plan B. Luckily Mum saved the day, however I really need to work on staying calm and being open to other options in situations like this. I need to be ready to work out a Plan B.
Art is something to focus me, keep me grounded. My work is very detailed and requires a lot of precision, which I think subconsciously helps me keep my mind on track. When I am working on a drawing, the drive that I have to perfect every detail transcends into my every day life. I am more motivated and don’t find my mind wandering off to places it doesn’t need to be. It also, in a similar sense, allows me to get all my ideas out of my jumbly, over-thinking brain, into something a bit more comprehendible and refined. However, it can be really difficult then to refine my ideas and get started on my work when I have way too many ideas. I like to think my art can be interpreted by people who view it in many different ways. I aim to leave the meaning somewhat ambiguous, so people can project their own experiences, feelings and understandings onto my work. When one of my artworks was featured in the Brisbane Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) for the Creative Generations Exhibition, it was so interesting to see what other people made of my work, considering there was no statement with it. Viewers gaining their own meaning and being able to reflect on their own situation when viewing my work is my goal. I don’t want my work to just be appreciated for its realism. I want it to affect people, challenge people, help people.
Modelling is harder than you’d think. When people find out I’m a model, they always make comments about it being ‘easy money’. Although it is definitely a more glamorous job than most, you can’t just rock up, stand around for photos, and get paid thousands. You have to constantly be at your best with your physical appearance, skin looking perfect, body at its best. You are poked, pulled and prodded by hair and makeup artists on every shoot. You have to rehearse walking up and down for the runway over and over again in the most uncomfortable clothing and shoes, trying to keep a natural face and walk while the shoe strap is digging into a blister on your toe (true story). You have to deal with rejection after rejection from casting agents and still try and tell yourself you’re good enough. You have to try not compare yourself to the girls who booked the job over you and wonder what they have that you don’t. It’s so hard to stay positive sometimes. You have to remember when you get rejected that it’s nothing against you personally, you just weren’t what they were looking for at the time. And occasionally you’ll land a job and everything will be all good, and then you won’t get anything for a long time. There are just so many highs and lows. It’s difficult on so many levels that are very different from a regular job, but most people don’t see that. I suppose that’s also due to social media. We only post the highlights of our life, and that creates a false sense of reality. This is totally fine, but it can be dangerous when people are comparing their own lives to what they see on other people’s Instagrams. Wishing you had someone else’s life when you only see the highs and not the lows is so dangerous to people’s self esteem. I could post heaps of photos going to castings for jobs that I may not have landed, and people could just assume that I am booking heaps of jobs when I might not be. It’s all kind of an illusion, that I’m not sure I’m okay with. Obviously no one wants to post the bad parts of their life all over the internet for everyone to see. But I think everyone should remember that what you see isn’t necessarily always real.
I’ve never seen Dirty Dancing, among many other classic movies. It’s shameful, and I apologise deeply. I’ve just never got around to it. It took me 16 years of my life to see Titanic (though I will admit, now I’m obsessed). I guess I’ve never been much of a follower, didn’t always get into the trends or do whatever everyone else was doing (apart from when I was a young impressionable tween). While you shouldn’t blindly follow people, I think there is also a danger in completely alienating yourself from what is trendy or popular, because you are closing yourself off to things you might really enjoy. There’s a difference in doing what ‘everyone else’ is doing and just liking what you like. I know some people would never ever buy from a brand that is popular purely because it is popular, even though there might be something there they really like. And by doing that it can make me feel embarrassed or ashamed for liking something like that because it’s what everyone else likes. And apparently that’s bad. I might enjoy a pop song, but it’s not because everyone else does, it’s because I like it. Drawing inspiration and enjoyment from different things, the trendy and the quirky, makes people unique. And I hope that with everything I do it is always uniquely me.
I spend too much time taking pictures of and hanging out with my dog. As we speak, he is sleeping on my bed next to me. My big labby is my best friend, and I love him to pieces. Despite being half way through his life and far from a puppy, I still think he is the cutest thing. Unfortunately, he seems to be quite camera shy. I am certain he knows when I am pointing my phone at him, and always moves at the exact moment I am about to take the photo. He is not one of those dogs you can face swap with or put that cute doggy filter on. But he is always there for me when I need a cuddle, or someone to cry or talk to without judgement. When I was younger, I would go outside to his little den under the house and sit with him an cry if something bad had happened. It’s so incredibly comforting having a pet who is always there for you no matter what, even though they can’t understand you or talk back. If I could choose a super power, speaking to and understanding animals would definitely be up there. You can probably guess that I was obsessed with Dr Doolittle back in the day. I don’t want to say I’m a crazy dog lady, but if I had the money I would totally have like 10 labradors and golden retrievers. You can basically bribe me into anything with the promise of cuddles with a labrador puppy.
Home is probably my favourite place. I am such a homebody, and value the company of my family so greatly. I plan things around being home to see my parents home for work or if I’ve told Mum we were going to watch a movie. It’s probably because we are a very tight-knit family, and we’ve always done everything together. We aren’t one of those families who come and eat dinner whenever they’re free or in different rooms in the house, we always have to eat together around the table. We all go together to my brother’s basketball games, and I feel bad if I miss them. I am so grateful to have such a close, supportive family. I always would rather do something at home with people than go out somewhere, which I think its mostly a comfort thing. I can get really nervous going to new places and meeting new people sometimes, which is probably why I prefer to do things at home or at places I know well. I just have so much more fun and feel so much more relaxed and myself when I’m at home. I’m not one of those people who has that burning desire to travel and go to new places and see new things. Don’t get me wrong, I have destinations I’d love to visit, but I don’t have that wanderlust that some people feel so strongly because I just love being at home.
It might surprise people to learn that I don’t like nachos. I know. Every time I mention it to someone I get gasps and shocked looks. I swear everyone in the whole world loves nachos apart from me. I’m just not a big fan of certain aspects of the meal. I really dislike the cheese when it cooks onto the chips and goes all hard. It’s like the crusty top of a lasagne; everyone fights over it, but I absolutely despise it. I also don’t enjoy the taste of salsa. I don’t mind like a bean and meat kind of deal, but that salsa from the jar is just not cool. I sound like such a picky eater, but nachos are the bane of my existence. Because basically everyone in the whole world loves nachos, I have to go through all of this when I shock people with the ‘I hate nachos’. People really don’t understand how someone could dislike the most favourite meal in the world. I send my apologies, but unfortunately I can never give my support to nachos. If you could just give me the nacho chips and guacamole I would be happy.
In the future I hope to have a direction for my life. At the moment, I have so many different things that I am interested in doing, but no real burning passion. I love drawing and creating art, but I can’t help thinking I should be getting a degree at uni. I started my Communications degree in Public Relations last year, but took the year off this year because I wasn’t sold on it. I didn’t hate it though, so now I’m wondering if I should continue it next year, or risk trying something different. I can be scared of change I guess, as I touched on before. I hate deviating from the plans or decisions I have made, even though it might be best for me to do so. I guess I just get scared that it won’t work out. I am so jealous of my friends who have known what they wanted to do basically their whole life. It’s so much easier having a goal that you know you want to achieve, and working out the pathway around that. For me I feel like everything is up in the air right now. I find it hard to commit to art because it can be hard to make a living from it. But if I were to go back to uni, it would be hard for me to find time to draw in between study. And modelling can also be such an unreliable career. Really, I’m praying for some kind of epiphany. I am hoping to wake up one day and just know what to do. It’s unlikely, I know. And I know there are plenty of people in the world who don’t know what they want to do with their lives. But one day I hope to figure it out. An hopefully sooner rather than later.
Interview by Bobby Townsend