All together now, let’s gently close our eyes and conjure in our collective imagination Leonardo da Vinci’s exalted Italian Renaissance painting, Mona Lisa. I suggest this particular art megastar for its wide recognition among readers, and for the purpose of discussion. 

Imagine first, the sitter’s three-quarter profile pose. Let’s visualize her eyes; that enigmatic gaze, which lore suggests follows you around the room. Now visualize her mouth; a benign, sensible smile that renders observers curious and slightly uncomfortable. You may also recall the centre part in her hair, or that she is nearly devoid of eyelashes and eyebrows, and how she sits serenely with hands crossed in calm repose. 

Apart from these much-critiqued features, could you also describe the background? Can you recall an imaginary landscape receding from the sitter high on her perch, depicting a winding path, rugged terrain and foreboding distant mountains? What colours come to mind? And ahhh, here’s the thing: how did the experience of seeing this painting make you feel

It’s a tricky task to be the viewer, the audience of art. There are as many ways to experience the interchange as there are artworks in the world. I once stood in front of Gustav Klimt’s monumental ‘The Kiss’ at the Neue Gallery in New York City, and promptly burst into sobby, snotty tears upon seeing it for the first time. My reaction was so deeply visceral, so utterly non-rational, that all the descriptions, reviews, critiques, statistics and statements in the world were mortally defied by my spontaneous, rapturous response. 

The general tendency to look quickly at art, to move along from piece to piece in a museum or gallery, deprives us of the opportunity to fully engage with what we are seeing, to process feelings effectively, and to better understand the essential relationship we as viewers have to art. 

In her article ‘On the Brain’, (Canadian Art, Winter 2019) Sally McKay contends, “For people who are new to looking at art, the fact that they might not be deeply moved or emotionally gratified while experiencing an art museum can feel like a failure – of the artist, or, worse, a failure in themselves for not ‘getting it’.” 

As laypeople and casual observers, the pleasure of looking at art is not derived in “explaining” a piece, but wholly in allowing oneself an “impression”, without the distortions or preconceptions that exist in our minds. Rather than attempt interpretations about content, which helps make art manageable, we can opt for, as Susan Sontag urges, an emotional instead of intellectual interaction. 

Care to give this new approach a try? You’re in luck. 

April 6, 2019 is International Slow Art Day, an annual worldwide movement to encourage looking at art s l o w l y . 

Find a participating venue in your area at and register (free) online. Rather than racing through the Uffizi, or LACMA, your new assignment is to select only 5 works of art, and then spend five to ten mindful minutes looking each one. You’ll be amazed at the transformative power of the exercise. 

Wellness experts around the world increasingly recognize the indisputable health benefits of spending slow, personal time with art – to the extent of even prescribing museum visits to thwart illness. 

So the next time you find yourself wandering through a gallery or art institution, make a promise to engage with intention, take more time with a few select works, check in with your reaction and feelings, and observe without judgement. 

You just may be happier and healthier for it. 



img_1648 (1).jpg


alex tan

Meet Matte Black’s very own, Alex Tan. At only 23 years old, Alex has figured a lot of important life stuff out, fast. Born and raised in Ohio, Alex was on track to become an Engineer and/or soccer star. With special to the timing of technological innovations, serendipity came into play and led Alex to taking photos on his iPhone as a hobby. After dabbling, he ended up taking a trip to Chicago to shadow a mentor who was shooting a campaign. Filling his spare time knocking on doors of local shops and cafés, Alex started creating custom content for fun money. Flash forward to today, and he’s here, working with us in LA as an Art Director. (Chelsea offered him a job after he was interviewed on our podcast last Spring). He's Co-Founder of MOUTHWASH, shoots on the regular, has been featured as a unique creative on VSCO and Twitter... it seems that there’s little he can’t do. When you meet Alex you can feel his energy. He's got a spark in his eye. He’s just getting started, so look out (and read more about how he got here in this inteview).

— Gaelan Simpson, Managing Editor SSR




They’re inevitable, so we might as well chat about it.

Hello, got a question for you: have you gone full rage after seeing an advertisement? Not because it was lousy or poorly shot or just, you know, bad. No, not like that. Rather: because the message was a bit much? It brought up a polarizing topic you, the consumer, think corporations and brands should really just gloss over? Or maybe it brought up a negative aspect of society. A human shortcoming even. Those sorts of things. 

— James Royce, Writer



The Robert Mueller devotional candle

As marketers and strategists, we often talk about how our clients’ products and services are going to create meaning in their consumers lives. This exploration of how people relate to products in their world is a critical part of our process to develop compelling storytelling. But, let’s be straight; in a world overflowing with stuff can any one product truly inspire meaning in people’s lives anymore?

— Megan Abramson, Strategy Director

Becca Esopenko0483.jpg



Indulge me for a moment. 

All together now, let’s gently close our eyes and conjure in our collective imagination Leonardo da Vinci’s exalted Italian Renaissance painting, Mona Lisa. I suggest this particular art megastar for its wide recognition among readers, and for the purpose of discussion. 

— Peppa Martin, Founder of Truth + Beauty




The title: How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation. My coworker slacked this article to a group of us a few weeks back. I didn’t open it. There was no need to.

News of Nudes Nettles Amazon Nerd

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos made a post about how people are trying to leak his nudes this week. That’s a real sentence. This is a real story. This is another reminder that the reality simulator crashed back in 2012 and things have just been glitching since. Why’s this happening?

Screen Shot 2019-02-12 at 10.11.57 AM.png