Menton J. Matthews III also known as ‘Menton3’ (or one of his other many aliases like Sunday Munich, Avis, or Saltillo) has captured the attention of the comic book industry with offerings like IDW’s Monocyte or The Memory Collectors as well as his upcoming art show, Katabasis, or even his recent successful Kickstarter project Lust with collaborators Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith. Matthews has tapped into the darkened dream-scapes of the comic book industry’s collective consciousness and he has seduced our imaginations with imagery that is both haunting and beautiful. His talent seems boundless, in fact. You see, he’s not just an amazing artist; he’s also a talented musician who plays the cello, viola, violin, guitar, drums, piano, and bass, along with a number of electronic instruments.
I contacted Matthews to investigate his process as an artist and to peel back the shroud of mystery surrounding one of the industry’s most unique artistic voices.
FreakSugar: How do you tap into your own subconscious mind to benefit your work? Is this a linear journey or do you have a more personal approach to this connection when you are creating art?
Menton Matthews III: I meditate everyday and then there are certain days of the week that I have picked out during certain hours of that day to meditate for an extended period of time. I would say that it is definitely not linear. There are many facets that it goes through. I personally believe that time is a very different thing than what we call duration. Duration is kind of like the point that we are moving through in time and in time I do not think anything moves. I think the subconscious and the unconscious kind of live in that area , so I don’t think all the information and all the symbology comes up in a linear pattern. I do think that it comes up in a way that can teach me but linear doesn’t necessarily apply to it.
FS: Your body of work is darkly ethereal and also naturalistic. How difficult is it to balance these two constructs? How do you attempt to avoid creating images that might seem cliché?
Matthews: Well, I don’t really care if somebody perceives an image I do as cliché so I think that is a really good place to start. When creating, I try to do the best I can at painting what I see. I think if I try to make something that I think looks cool I would be doing a disservice to the people that might enjoy my work. I think the most important thing with the creation of art is to attempt to remain self honest of your own work and not trying to make it into something you think someone will like. There are certain artists I will try to stay away from seeing their work, but outside of that I don’t really care if somebody perceives it as cliché or not. I mean don’t get me wrong, there are times where people will say something nasty about my work and it hurts my feelings. I do care what people think about it and I am trying to communicate things. I think I meet a lot of people who come out of art school who are absolutely obsessed with whatever they are doing has to be an absolute unique thing unto itself that no one has ever tapped on before and I think you can spend an awful long time trying to do that. In music you’re never going to put two notes together that haven’t been put together before and I think art is the same thing but the two notes that are put together can be put together by you and I think seen through your eyes. That makes them by their very nature unique, if you’re very honest. I guess the easiest way to answer your question is to say that I try to be as honest with myself and the things I see as I can be.
FS: How has man’s iconography changed your personal aesthetics and your perceptions of the world in terms of the art you are creating?
Matthews: I’ve studied iconography, iconologia , symbolica and alchemy my whole life. I think it changes a lot of things because you’re able to read people a lot easier from the clothes they wear, to the cosmetics they use; I think it’s as silly as I know why you picked out that car or that color of car. A lot of them have symbol sets embedded within them and they’re saying something about themselves, in my opinion, subconsciously. I think being able to read in that way, the world around me, I do try to present that at times in various works where I am trying to explain where this particular person is coming from, or what they’re doing at the time or the symbol sets they are. I think learning that kind of stuff does give you a different perspective on the world and I don’t think there’s any way, if you are to remain honest to the work, that it’s not going to influence the work in some way. I can not necessarily point at one thing in particular and say it affected me this way but it is very much an important aspect of the work I try to do.
FS: How are you challenged in terms of pushing your own limits as an artist?
Matthews: I am absolutely never happy with a painting. I guess there’s been a few that I have sat back in a chair and said, “Okay, that’s finished.” but I really never feel like any of them are finished. I do have a tendency to want to redo many of the paintings I have done and I think in certain ways I am so bad at redoing them they look like different paintings.
FS: Do you ever revisit any of your older work and want to revise it or do you walk away from a project permanently once it is finished?
Matthews: At a certain point, you just have to stop and say that’s enough and you know honestly if I am confused I ask my art rep and friend, Kasra. We have a secret code, if I say the word eyes, I need eyes on this, it basically means will you tell me how you’re perceiving this and what you see. He will come into my studio and we will talk about a painting for hours before it’s dry. There are definitely times where he says, for example, “the chin on this, there’s something off here” and we will go in together and fix it, or change or mess with it and go back and forth with it. It is actually a lot of fun and, without Kasra, I think a lot of the paintings that I do would be very different. He has been an enormous help and being able to trust someone in that way and have that intimate of a relationship with him about my art has been an absolute amazing thing to have.
FS: How do you utilize your own life experiences to fuel your creativity? Can certain emotions or life experiences be transformational?
Matthews: Of course. Again, going back to the honesty, if you are not painting what you are feeling or what you are going through, I think you are being dishonest. I would say everything I go through, literally everything generates images and I pick and choose which ones I want to manifest onto canvas or panel but I do not think there’s any experience I go through that doesn’t give me some kind of imagery to play with and maybe in times meld within the other images and try to see why I melded those or how those combine.
FS: Meaning certain emotions or life experiences can be transformational…
Matthews: I think the cliché thing to say is “Life imitates art” but I really think art imitates life and it’s a symbiotic, parasitic relationship where art can show us different ways of thinking and put different archetypes together out here in the way it doesn’t happen anywhere else outside of dreams. Our experiences definitely generate those.
FS: You seem like you’re constantly being productive. What are you working on currently?
Matthews: I am working on paintings for KATABASIS, the solo art show I am doing at the Last Rites Gallery in New York next week. It is my first solo art show running from April 19 until May 24,2014. I am going to be working on is another Saltillo album called KATABASIS after that. I have another project that is coming up that I don’t think I can talk about yet. Unfortunately, it does not look like I am going to be doing any comics this year yet. There is just a lot of other stuff going on and a lot of other stuff I am interested in doing. Steve Niles and I have been batting around some ideas and I would like a chance to work with him again. Chris Mitten and I have been talking about a comic we’ve want to do together, and I’ve been talking with Riley Rossmo. Both of those guys I love and I’d love a chance to work with them. So there are a lot of different projects, though the main thing I am working on next I cannot talk about yet, but there may be information about it soon.
FS: What sorts of comic book projects would you like to work on that might take you outside of your artistic “comfort zone”?
Matthews: You know, that always goes back to Bill Sienkiewicz for me. I will never get this opportunity but I would love to do The New Mutants. Just because when I grew up with Bill doing The New Mutants, I was absolutely in love with the comics. I would get them from a Walgreen’s in Tupelo, Mississippi like a religion when he was doing them and I would read letters in the back of comics where people were saying, “You’ve ruined this series…” and “You’ve destroyed this…”. People really hated what he was doing and I was shocked because of how much in love with it I was and I always looked up to him for that. He did not compromise and he kept doing the same thing. I would really like an opportunity to do something like that, not necessarily piss people off, but to have a trial in my life where I am doing something that I believe in in that regard and that other people are terribly against but I keep doing it. I think that that’s the kind of insanity that makes me very happy.
FS: What are some styles or themes that you have not experimented with yet but want to?
Matthews: The New Mutants, I would love to do. I would love to do anything involving more Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I grew up with those guys and being able to do those covers was really great. Honestly, anything really, I have actually begged IDW to let me do a My Little Pony cover and they haven’t let me do it. I love being challenged in that way, pushing the envelope, I love trying different stuff. I have a great time doing that.
FS: To close, which shows are you attending this convention season?
Matthews: This year I don’t think I am doing too many conventions. There is C2E2 Chicago, Wizard World Chicago and New York Comic-Con and that’s basically it. I have a lot of other stuff I need to do that will require me missing other shows. Next year, if I get invited again, I would really like to do Emerald City Comic-Con really bad. I would also like to try Mega-Con in Orlando. I am hoping to do a lot more shows next year, hopefully I will have a little bit more time.