The Time Covers of Arthur Hochstein, Pt. 4: Matt Mahurin

The Time Covers of Arthur Hochstein, Pt. 4: Matt Mahurin Tomorrow night, our Wednesday, October 27 SPD Speakeasy will feature former Time art director Arthur Hochstein discussing 1000 Covers: Thinking Inside the (Red) Box. Arthur was the art director at Time for 15 years, where he designed 1000 covers, and he'll be discussing the good ones (and the bad, and the ugly) and much more. (Your editor hates that cover? Arthur's been there. You all loved it, and the public hated it? Arthur's done that. Need to figure out how to manage all that? You need to RSVP for this. -- The Editors.)

As a run-up to the 1000 Covers evening, we've asked a number of photographers, illustrators, and designers who collaborated with Arthur on Time covers to discuss their work and the process involved. For this fourth installment, we solicited comments from artist Matt Mahurin, who illustrated many memorable covers for Arthur over the years. (Bonus! Mahurin will be introducing Arthur at the SPD Speakeasy. -- The Editors.)

(Above) Time, March 14, 1994. Art director: Arthur Hochstein. Illustrator: Matt Mahurin.

SPD mahurin.jpg(Left): Time, August 29, 1994. Art director: Arthur Hochstein, illustrator: Matt Mahurin. (Right): Time, November 29, 1993. Art director: Arthur Hochstein, illustrator: Matt Mahurin.

Matt Mahurin: Getting a job from Arthur is always a kick. Often during the course of just chatting about life and work, Arthur would mention the cover he was working on, and then out of the blue, offer a casual "Wanna give it a try?"

For the cover assignment for "How Man Began," Arthur already had a couple irons in the fire, one being an anthropological sculptor who specialized in creating three-dimensional representations of Early Man.

As with every other job I have done with Arthur, I knew before I even started the he would have my back --both by encouraging me to push things, yet keeping an eye on the big picture.

After our initial chat about the job, it was clear to us that there was no point in me competing against someone who made their life's work by faithfully rendering our monosyllabic ancestors--so I decided to do my best to capture that glint of what was to come for this early model of the Homo Sapien product line.

I use myself as a model for many of my images, and whether it had been A Nuclear Terrorist or Sigmund Freud peering out from below the Time masthead, a caveman would be no different.

As I began the assignment, I took a picture of myself on the terrace of my New York City apartment by all-too-easily channeling the primal vibe of my cave-dwelling bros.

I then used Photoshop to tweak my features--the greatest challenge being to stay faithful to my reference material while also retaining my subject's aliveness. Finally, to give a bit of the feeling of everyday life 1.5 million years ago, I decided to add a little wound to the cheek--maybe from a brush with a saber-toothed tiger, or even more perilous, a pissed-off cavewoman.

The printed image survived the Friday night Time gauntlet and became one more printed and collated collaboration with not only one of the best art directors in the biz, but one of my best friends.

An accomplished illustrator in his own right, as well as a cover line writer without peer, Arthur understands and loves the magazine business from the ground up--and whether keeping the prying eyes of editors at bay or offering that perfect creative suggestion, Arthur is unwavering in both his enthusiasm and expertise as to what is needed to deliver a job well done.

A few weeks after the issue was published, Arthur sent me a large print of the cover--and when I looked closely into the eye of Myself-as-Caveman, I could see that glint of what was to come for this ancient being...the skyline of Manhattan.

What makes a great art director is that delicate balance to both challenge and support the image makers to do their best work. Arthur possesses these qualities in abundance--along with an extra heaping of humor and humanity that is immune to the pressure and pace of a weekly closing.

Simply put, if you want to know how to have a challenging, fulfilling, high-profile, prosperous career...and sleep well at night, just follow Artie's lead.

Arthur Hochstein: I have never encountered a greater disconnect between the perception of an artist's work and the reality of what that person is like in real life than with Matt Mahurin. His work, for years, was seriously "dark." I mean, like getting-4 a.m.-phone-calls-from-666-types-and-devil-worshipers dark. He taps into the collective subconscious, but expresses his insights with a lyricism and beauty that have made him the envy of other illustrators, photographers and videographers. But as a person, Matt is one of the funniest, brightest people I've ever met. As an illustrator, image-maker, bacon-saver and friend, he is sui generis; there is none other like him, and there never will be. In terms of professional and personal courage, and willingness to evolve and grow without sacrificing his core principles, talent, and considerable belief in his work, he is absolutely unmatched.

Matt and I had a unique relationship at Time; sometimes he was the first person I called, sometimes he was the last. It depended on the circumstances and the particulars of the problem at hand. During different editorial regimes, he was up, down, in and out. But he never gave up because he believed in the specialness of Time magazine. So when he had to adapt his style, or alter the quintessential moodiness and darkness of his imagery, he was always willing to give it a try.

Whether it was "How Man Began," or "Is Freud Dead?" or the Nuclear Terrorist (for which he wrapped a shower curtain around his head), I was consistently amazed by the sheer weird appropriateness of the pieces, and wondered what deep recesses of his brain he had to delve into to produce these images. To this day I don't know, because he has no formula, and he follows his own muse. I guess that's what they call art.


Related stories:
The Time Covers of Arthur Hochstein, Pt. 3: Gregory Heisler
The Time Covers of Arthur Hochstein, Pt. 2: Joe Zeff
The Time Covers of Arthur Hochstein, Pt. 1: Tim O'Brien
Arthur Hochstein's 15 Favorite Time Magazine Covers
Speaker Series: 1000 Time Covers: Thinking Inside the (Red) Box

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