Work samples

  • Perseus Slays Medusa (Lincoln/Douglas debate)
    Perseus Slays Medusa (Lincoln/Douglas debate), Oil on canvas, 78" x 52"
  • Civil War (Capt America v Iron Man)
    Civil War (Capt America v Iron Man), Oil and graphite on paper, 14” x 18”
  • Gang Tackle (Black v White)
    Gang Tackle (Black v White), Oil on canvas, 14” x 18”
  • Democracy (The American Way)
    Democracy (The American Way), Oil on canvas, 24" x 18"

About Matthew

Baltimore City

My path as a Baltimore-based artist started in Columbus, OH before going west to St. Louis, east to New York City and then joining the love of my life here in Charm City. It began with endless superhero drawings, followed by rigorous training at an art-focused high school, a concentration in painting at Washington University in St Louis and graduate study at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. My work has been exhibited along the way in the Northeast and Midwest. At each stage,… more

The American Way

These paintings start with subjects that exemplify the contradictions of greatness and terror which often occur simultaneously in America - Cowboys, sports icons, comic books, the KKK to name a few. Our imperialist history is portrayed through figures like George Custer, while Colin Kaepernick is referenced within a shadowy American football player taking a knee. Vignettes appear from the events at the capitol on Jan 6, 2021, shifting into heroic capes billowing in the wind. The tactile paint is meant to viscerally engage in the inspiring, brutal nature of the violence that affects us through history and "these difficult times". The past decade has laid bare the violent, racist character of our country, as if it was not plain to see underneath the cape and cowl of America. My view of the American character is muddy in these waters...gritty, beautiful, horrific. As heroes and villains, these figures intertwine with the American mythology of superheroes, inspired by Greco- Roman and Norse dieties. My attraction to this power belies domination and subjugation cloaked in patriotism, and patriots as flawed heroes. 
  • Protest Wrapped in the Flag (Kaepernick takes a Knee)
    Oil on canvas, 20” x 16”
  • Democracy (The American Way)
    Oil on canvas, 24" x 18"
  • Justice? (The American Way)
    Acrylic on manipulated image printed on canvas, 14” x 9”
  • January 6 (Speaker's flag)
    Oil on paper, 16" x 12"
  • Super Woman (Annie Oakley)
    Oil & graphite on paper. 12" x 9"
  • George Custer (Thor at Ragnarok)
    Oil on polypropylene, 12" x 9"
  • Custer’s Last Stand (Thor at Ragnarok)
    Oil on polypropylene, 40” x 26”
  • Untitled (Cape/Hood)
    Graphite and Acrylic on paper
  • Grand Wizard (Dr. Fate)
    Oil on giclee canvas print, 11” x 8”
  • Grand Wizard (Dr Fate)
    Oil on giclee canvas print, 11" x 8"

(America)n Football

Sports, similar to art, can both reflect and progress (or regress) the society in which they exist. American football, especially in today's America, provides an apt metaphor for brutality, racism and entertainment wrapped in the flag and a mythology of violent glory. 
  • American Football (Pray for Us)
    Oil on manipulated image transferred to canvas, 16" x 12"
  • Gang Tackle (Black v White)
    Oil on canvas, 14” x 18”
  • American Football (Blood Sweat & Tears)
    Oil on paper, 12" x 16"
  • Untitled (stiff arm)
    Oil, acrylic & ink on paper, 16" x 12"
  • Superhuman effort (stiff arm)
    Oil and acrylic on photo-transfer on paper, 16" x 12"
  • Backyard Football (after Nancy Holt)
    Oil on manipulated image printed on canvas, 8" x 11"
  • Untitled (Kaepernick and the American Flag)
    Oil on paper, 16"x 12"
  • College Football (Amateur Athletics)
    Oil and graphite on board

American Olympus

  Comic books are America’s secular mythology. Across a diverse cross-section of our culture, more people are familiar with Superman’s origin story or the members of the Avengers than the Odyssey or the Stations of the Cross. And yet there is so much these reflect (or directly steal from) older and other cultures of mythology and history-turned-to-myth. I aim to create sincere and compelling images exploring how these mythological stories overlap, confirm and contradict our past and present narratives of America.

 The superhero paintings and drawings begin with the form and metaphor of powerful figures. The concepts of freedom, cultural dominance, masculinity & conflict are reflected in these depictions of flawed heroes. I want the painting or drawing medium to garner a direct emotional response; a vibration between striking imagery and a gripping, visceral surface. 

 
  • Apollo (Son of Krypton)
    Apollo (Son of Krypton), Oil on canvas, 24" x 18"
  • Apollo (Son of Krypton) [detail]
    Oil on canvas, 24" x 18"
  • Perseus Slays Medusa (Lincoln/Douglas debate)
    Oil & acrylic on canvas, 78" x 52"
  • Study - Lincoln (The Ancient One)
    Graphite on paper, 12" x 9"
  • Study - TR (Bull Moose)
    Graphite on paper, 12" x 9"
  • Warrior-Preacher
    Oil and watercolor on polypropylene, 60" x 82"
  • Battle for America (Capt America v. Hulk)
    Oil on polypropylene, 26" x 40"
  • Battle for America (Capt America v. Hulk)
    [detail] Oil on polypropylene, 26" x 40"
  • Battle for America (Wonder Woman v. Superman)
    Oil on canvas, 84" x 94"
  • Study - Wonder Woman (Breaking Chains)
    Graphite on paper, 12" x 9"

American Olympus II

The continuation of "American Olympus" - paintings and drawings inspired by mythology, history and superheroes. My fascination with these subjects lies in both their dynamic form and their cultural significance as a common mythology for Americans. Since superhero origins are rich with connections to past cultures and the mythologizing of history, it was natural to find them intertwined with historical persons & deities. For example, Black Lightning (one of the first black Superheroes) merges with Muhammad Ali, a superhero and courageous pioneer in the superhuman sport of boxing. Andrew Jackson, in other works, is represented as Ares, a diety of war in Greek mythology. Whether Jackson is a hero or a monster (he opposed the abolition of slavery and was responsible for a policy of Native American removal from their lands) is partly dependent on how you view American history & war, and Ares by extension. 

The works operate with various levels of ambiguity – some drawings appear quite straightforward in their realism, while in other works the act of painting blurs the identity or action of figures partially or entirely as abstraction and painterly surface become equal subjects to depicted persons and events. Many of these works were presented at the solo exhibition “American Olympus” at Project 1628 in Bolton Hill. 

  • Incident in the City (Black Lightning)
    Oil on polypropylene, 40" x 26"
  • Incident in the City (Black Lightning) - detail
    Oil and acrylic on polypropylene, 40" x 26"
  • Study for Black Lightning (Muhammad Ali)
    Graphite on paper, 12" x 9"
  • Study for Black Lightning (Muhammad Ali)
    Graphite on paper, 12" x 9"
  • Ares (Old Hickory)
    Graphite on paper, 11" x 8"
  • Ares Slaying Tecumseh (Jackson's Dream)
    Oil on linen, 24" x 18"
  • Hephaestus (Mr. Miracle)
    Oil on paper, 20" x 20"
  • Illegal Alien (Martian Manhunter)
    Oil on paper, 40" x 30"
  • Nuclear Prometheus (Firestorm)
    Oil and acrylic on canvas, 86" x 53"
  • Middle-Eastern Mystic (Dr. Fate)
    Oil & acrylic on canvas, 114" x 86"

White City

The White City (1893 Chicago World’s Fair) buildings are a rich formal and allegorical embodiment of America’s incendiary relationship with race. Created to evoke shimmering white marble, the facades were actually fashioned out of cheap and temporary white stucco. The structures meant to symbolize America’s ascension to a level of world power were essentially houses of cards. These paintings and drawings re-imagine the White City and American themes at the turn of the 20th-century. Political and social leaders such as Theodore Roosevelt and Buffalo Bill are central figures. These men reshaped America - espousing masculine (Caucasian) dominance, military might, and a dominant relationship with nature. I paint their triumphs and failures as simultaneous parts of complex, real men - neither complete sinners nor purified saints. This series is rooted in the tradition of history painting but seeks to excavate and emotionally attach to history and its present manifestations.

  • White City (Fire)
    Oil on panel, 40" x 50"
  • White City (Arch)
    Mixed media on vellum, 11" x 14"
  • White City (Court of Honor)
    Mixed media on paper, 20" x 26"
  • Study (African Safari)
    Mixed media on paper, 11" x 14"
  • Perseus Slays Medusa (Lincoln/Douglas debate)
    Perseus Slays Medusa (Lincoln/Douglas debate), Oil on canvas, 78" x 52"
  • Study (Theodore Roosevelt)
    Graphite on paper, 11" x 8"
  • White City (Columbian Tribute)
    Mixed media on vellum, 36" x 24"
  • Study (Rough Riders)
    Oil on paper, 10" x 14"
  • Study (Rough Riders)
    Oil on canvas, 12" x 9"
  • Buffalo Bill
    Oil on canvas, 78" x 52"

Invisible Champion: Jack Johnson

I began Invisible Champion: Jack Johnson as a series of work exploring a figure who embodied attributes and contradictions exemplative of America - strength and courage in the face of intense, almost unimaginable persecution; a violent and misogynistic personal life; brashness, ego, and a desire for celebrity; and the ability above all to do amazing things. Our collective memory forgets his greatness as the first African-American champion. He was the Heavyweight Champion of the World in a day when that title equated to the world’s strongest and toughest man. For this man to be black was a cataclysmic paradigm shift for American society (and the white race worldwide). In the work, Johnsons’ opponents (The Great White Hope) as well as the title (a nod to Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man) show a few of the varied references that the work contains outside of Johnson himself. I sought to explore the beauty and physicality of the boxing ring,  concepts of race and heroism, and the parallel fight and dance of art-making, all intertwined with the courage and failures of Jack Johnson.

  • Jack Johnson
    Oil on canvas, 24" x 34"
  • Johnson v Burns
    Watercolor on polyproylene, 46" x 60"
  • Johnson v Burns [detail]
    [Detail]. Watercolor on paper mounted on board, 46" x 60"
  • The Great White Hope (Jim Jefferies)
    Oil on canvas, 78" x 60"
  • The Great White Hope (Jim Jefferies) [detail]
    Oil on canvas, 78" x 60"
  • Shadowboxing
    Watercolor on paper, 24" x 30"
  • Drawing for Invisible Champion: Jack Johnson
    Graphite on paper, 9" x 12"
  • Jack Johnson v. Jim Jefferies
    Charcoal on paper, 20" x 26"
  • Untitled (Boxers)
    Mixed media on photocopy, 11" x 8"
  • Untitled (Boxers)
    Mixed media on photocopy, 8" x 11"

Artist's Book - Invisible Champion: Jack Johnson

An artist's book of drawings, paintings and words compiled from sketchbooks, literature and collaged works of art centered on my investigations of Jack Johnson. Imagery varies from historical photography to re-imaginations of events and situations from Johnson's life, career and the American atmosphere surrounding his championship. 
  • Book Cover
    Printed artist’s book, 11” x 8.5”
  • Page spread (Boxers) - “Invisible Champion: Jack Johnson"
    Printed artist's book, 11" x 17"
  • Page spread (Johnson v Burns/He Would Have Been Lynched Very Quickly)
    Printed artist’s book, 11” x 17”
  • Page spread from "Invisible Champion: Jack Johnson" Artist's Book
    Printed artist's book, 11" x 17"
  • Page spread from "Invisible Champion: Jack Johnson" Artist's Book
    Printed artist's book, 11" x 17"
  • Page spread from "Invisible Champion: Jack Johnson" Artist's Book
    Printed artist's book, 11" x 17"
  • Invisible Champion: Jack Johnson [book page]
    Graphite on paper, 14" x 11"
  • Page spread from "Invisible Champion: Jack Johnson" Artist's Book
    Printed artist's book, 11" x 17"