Matt Geer is an American, Chicago-based artist dealing in a unique brand of bold, striking pop art.
I first became aware of Matt back in 2014, when I administrated a Facebook group for categorically bad artwork to be posted in, in which Matt posted his own work, violating our rules against self-promotion and good art. It was never clear to me whether he considered his own art bad or not, but it was clear to me he was great. I followed him and was constantly impressed by his work and prolific output.
From June to August of this year, I picked Matt’s brains about art and life for the following interview.
We hope you enjoy it!
Salvattore Beteta: Hey Matt
Matt Geer: ‘Ello comrade
SB: You know, I used to think you were from New York, due to your style.
I realized, I’ve been following you from afar for a while but I know nothing about you.
MG: well, I’m a 43 year old Leftist. I am a Chicago native, and I live in a Chicago suburb.
SB: Holy crap, another Dorian Gray! You look 22!
MG: Thank you – I don’t drink booze, or eat meat
SB: What was your first celebrity crush, if any?
MG: No – not really.
No celeb crushes.
SB: How is your last name pronounced, like “year”?
I was embarrassed to ask for a long time.
MG: No sweat. “Gear”, yes.
It’s why Dr. Cog is my alter ego.
I’m Mr. Geer – Literally, my initials are M.R. Geer
SB: Cool – Can you tell me more about these alter egos?
MG: It’s just an old ”tag” name.
People at the bar I work at also still call me that. I host the Creative Open Gym, so it’s an acronym too.
It’s an art club for adults every Tuesday night at the Outta Space bar.
We put out art supplies – People play music, or work on writing. It’s a night for beatniks.
SB: So how do you define “leftist”?
MG: I’m a card carrying member of the Communist Party USA, but I subscribe to many forms of leftist, anti capitalist, anti fascist thought.
Less harm should always be the goal.
As well as more liberty to the people.
End all capitalist exploitation.
SB: If you were suddenly mayor of Chicago, what would your first move be to stop the insanity – Violence et al?
MG: if I were mayor – First, no more drug arrests.
Also free public housing and rent controls.
Free school lunches, police oversight and accountability.
Free healthcare clinics, and drug treatment.
Free access to birth control and tampons.
We need more green space, public transport, etc. too.
SB: In other countries, we are usually shocked because we think every US state has free lunches at school! That’s what you see in TV and movies anyway.
MG: Well we should… agreed.
But if I were mayor, I would have a large collection of expert advisers – each with their own focus.
No one person should ever hold that much power. No one person has all the answers.
SB: Do you think revolution is possible without violence?
MG: Yes, I do. Only morons are calling out for civil war.
I’m an atheist too.
My passions in life are art, leftism, and atheism; and a better world for all – I am a dreamer, I know.
SB: That’s kinda why I wanted to interview you, because you’re a dreamer.
Speaking of dreaming and atheism, are you a pure skeptic, or do you have room for supernatural phenomena of some kind in your life?
MG: No evidence of anything super natural.
Science always disproves the ”super natural” in time.
SB: In different cultures, for example, and this is intersectional with gender theory, there are two-spirit people…
MG: Sexual preferences are fluid… gender is a construct.
SB: Do you believe in a soul?
We do not have souls.
SB: That idea personally makes me so happy I can’t believe it’s true.
MG: Wanting to believe something does not make it so. No proof. Hmmm.
Faith is not a path to truth… assuming truth is the goal.
SB: Belief is powerful though, do you agree with that?
MG: Sure, belief is powerful, it causes otherwise good people to do awful things, like mutilate the genitals of children.
I am not baptised, I was raised without faith or religion, so they all seem delusional to me.
SB: So let’s finally talk about your work.
MG: The work – Much of my work is broken up into series, each with its own rules.
I work spontaneously, never sketch it out, just attack the canvas or paper. I like paper because it’s accessible, and allows me to do smoother lines with the brush.
My background is in graffiti and street vandalism as a kid.
My influences were old comic books, and medical books.
I also put out zines from time to time. My last one was titled “Frenzy.”
I have lesser known, more contemporary work, but am most known for the stuff I sent you.
”Catastrophic colossus ” is a recent series from 2020.
SB: I’ve noticed and wanted to ask about how prolific you are – I saw a few comments asking for prints of your art where your response is always like “…if I can find it, sure!”
Do you never stop?
Furthermore, do you make art for yourself or do you have any sort of audience in mind?
MG: My work, ultimately, is for me. No audience really in mind.
On average, I paint 300-400 original works a year. I paint every day/night.
Prints…I have made them in the past, and maintain a visual record of all my work, so I can reproduce them if need be… but I like new work – Always.
SB: Oh yes – You’re currently in love from what I gather.
Would you like to talk about that?
Has love influenced your art in important ways?
MG: Yes, Karla, Dr. Wente, PHD…
She is my focus these days, we have only been dating for 6 months, but yes, I’m very much in love.
She doesn’t influence the work consciously, but who can say?
She does manage me now, allowing me to focus on creating the work.
She is an amazing musician too and is recording an album right now.
SB: What are your favorite tools of the trade?
MG: For most of my work, I use round liner brushes for my lines, and speedball acrylic ink.
Catastrophic colossus was made using sponges, brushes, acrylic on wood, then sanded.
Sometimes, for side works, I use other materials, and processes.
SB: Nice. You said Japan makes the best markers (or was it pens?)
… any particular reason behind that?
MG: I like to draw with these gel ink pens lately.
Just very bright, thick inks – They are just fun really
SB: In an article about you at Art Sheep – I first saw your Necrocolor series, one of my favorites.
I wanted to ask you about a quote of yours from the article:
”I’m a living ghost, surrounded by zombies on the planet of the apes.”
Do you still identify with that?
MG: Yes, that quote definitely still describes me.
SB: How many series do you calculate you’ve made?
MG: Ever – or this year?
About 2-4 a year. Each is anywhere from 12 to 160 works
We Never Learn – my longest running series since 2015 – there are more than 300.
SB: Can you tell me anything about Necrocolor?
MG: Necrocolour was inspired by They Live.
SB: I had wanted to ask if you are a Carpenter fan, I was wondering about that!
What’s the unifying theme, if any?
MG: Yes, of course, I am a fan.
It’s a satire of celebrity worship, and the hollowness of materialism.
SB: A bit of a shallow question: I love your personal fashion style.
How’d that develop?
MG: i’m an aging pretty boy – into goth n punk music.
I still wear eye make up every day since I was about 13.
SB: That’s beautiful.
Is there any planned meaning behind your female face paintings?
MG: Sorta – For a long stretch I was only painting men… People were like ”you never paint girls”, so I did the ”some girls” (are bigger then others) series.
SB: Have you ever encountered violence/harassment for the style you dress?
MG: Not in my 40s – but in my younger days – yes.
Balding is not really a style, ha.
I’m a pip squeek. The Chicago punk scene in the 90s was pretty violent, full of skin heads, and conservative jock types walked the streets looking to beat on ”fags” and weirdos.
SB: Nazi skin heads or straight edge ones?
MG: I mean neo nazis.
SB: Never had to deal with them myself.
You wanna say some words on this phenomena?
MG: Not much to say, people are still assholes, and fascists wear suits now.
SB: Do you find art is a good battleground against them? If at least making some of the viewers conscious.
MG: Art is the only weapon I have; and my big mouth.
I’m a shark in wolf’s clothing with a gun for a mouth, and a belly full of gasoline; and the house is on fire.
SB: I thought those were punk lyrics for a second!
MG: Everything I say could be, I’d like to think.
SB: I have to ask – Any influence from Warhol?
MG: He is an influence on our culture, sure, but other than that – not on me personally.
SB: Who are your favorite artists?
Are there any you would count as personal influences on you?
MG: I like artists like Tony Mel, Cleon Peterson, and Fred Stonehouse – but my art comes from my head, as a result of life – those are my favorite living artists.
…but they have little influence on me, I just like what they do.
My work, as I said, comes from life through my lense. I actively try not to be influenced by the work of other artists to keep my work pure.
I actually consider myself a neo minimalist – always boiling it down. Simplicity is beauty.
Too many artists seem to just toss a ton of shit on a canvas – so it looks hectic… I take the opposite approach.
SB: Can you tell me more about the comics?
I see a little bit of Keith Haring in your work, as well.
MG: I loved Savage Sword of Conan as a kid, as well as comics like David Boring, Yummy Fur, Tank Girl, etc.
Haring and I share a lot in common with our backgrounds and approach to art, but he really didn’t influence me all that much.
SB: Tank Girl is a masterpiece.
Any underground comix?
I don’t want to list comix I like, that was my childhood. as an adult, life influenced my work far more.
My art is about our lives. Or, more specifically, my life.
SB: How do you accomplish this?
I find when making art, absolutely everything I am exposed to is an influence.
Is there any “trick” to keeping your stuff separate?
MG: I can always appreciate the work of other artists, without it seeping into me.
I have my own toys in my toy box – dig?
What’s your favorite music?
MG: I grew up on underground subculture music, from hip hop to punk, to traditional goth.
Hip hop I like is anything by Kool Keith, MF DOOM, Czarface, etc. Sharkula is my man here in Chicago, and Robot Hilarious, but when people look at me – they most likely assume I’m just into goth music.
This month- been listening to Fela Kuti nonstop.
I also love roots reggae music, like Peter Tosh, Scientist, and Jimmy Cliff.
I have a lot of favorites. the core shit of course like Dead Kennedys, Crass, Circle Jerks etc. Stuff like Pink Lincolns, Screeching Weasel, Dwarves, Boris the Sprinkler.
The Cramps are probably top of my list honestly. They bridge that goth gap, like the Damned, but more rock n roll.
SB: I dig all the artists you mentioned except for the ones I don’t know (Sharkula and Robot Hilarious).
Do you recall the first record you bought?
MG: Robot Hilarious has all albums up on youtube – check it.
The first album I bought was Del – No Need for Alarm when I was 12. I had a ton of tapes of other shit – but that was the first vinyl record I bought
SB: Any moments from your life you wanna talk about?
MG: Life for me has always been a struggle with severe depression…
I was the only goth kid in my high school graffiti crew – then in my 20s got into the real high stakes world of art by showing in galleries in Chicago…been doing it ever since.
SB: Art is one of the best outlets to fight depression… when did you discover it?
MG: I been painting my entire life.
Been showing in galleries since I was 20.
I’m just another face on the tall totem pole.
Even as a child, drawing was an escape from the sad, violent world i grew up in. Still is… It’s why I am so introverted.
The world scares me, frankly.
SB: Likewise. I’ve never really understood it or wanted to understand it.
MG: Ever seen Chaplin’s speech at the end of “The Great Dictator.”?
SB: Of course!
It’s one of my dearest film memories.
MG: it echoes my feeling perfectly.
Sad that its still relevant.
SB: What’s your most said phrase?
MG: “Capitalism is exploitation”; or “Whatever’s clever.”
So that into this next question (and then we will be back to talking art, don’t worry): favorite movies, favorite books?
SB: Oh yeah, do you like sports?
Rep any sports teams?
MG: Fuck no
SB: Haha, I was just talking to my editor in Australia about how Peru just lost a decisive soccer game to them, and neither of us knew shit about the game.
MG: Yeah – Sport bores me.
SB: The clothes, how’d that happen?
MG: The shit I make?
Or the redbubble stuff I promote lately?
MG: The redbubble stuff is the hard work of my love Karla. I just provide the images.
The clothes I make, the black square line, just an old punk weirdo with a sewing machine and a lot of old t-shirts.
I love to sew, but i’m not advanced.
I just made a devil costume for a music video.
SB: Drugs – Waste of time or gateway to the universe?
MG: I used L.S.D. a lot in high school, and into my 30s…
Drugs are neutral, its how we use them that counts.
… but also, due to my ex, used crack and heroin… those drugs are mind killers. So is booze.
SB: Would you say those experiences were really influential in your work?
MG: Ever seen my painting “cool makes you drugs”?
SB: No! Would be good to include that with your answer.
MG: The idea is that ”cool” people are damaged people.
Trauma leads to drug use, not the other way around.
SB: Back to art – How’d you first think of reusing book/newspaper paper to paint over?
For many it would be sacrilege.
MG: Good question – the original idea was it’s like cave paintings from the future. Illiterate future cave tribal art after humanity destroys itself, hence – WE NEVER LEARN, the double entendre being that its over foreign languages, or text books.
So yeah, the original idea was like future cave humans drawing in old books, the relics of the past’s lost knowledge.
We never learn is a focus on humanity’s inability to learn from the past. It imagines the future inhabitants of an apocalypse ”cave paintings” on old books they can no longer read.
Ignorance is not bliss – It’s bondage to negative consequences
SB: How much do you sell your art for?
MG: it really depends on what series, where it’s at, size and medium
SB: And you believe in free culture, right?
MG: For the most part, but I’m also a commie, so nobody steals my labor value; but yes, art is not a commercial product unto itself
right, I do think you should make something for every person who hangs a painting of yours in their wall, for your effort, you know?
I send all buyers a special sticker, along with extra doodles and stuff when I send mail.
SB: Do you think any painting should be worth a price like $1000?
MG: Man – art is a luxury, I sell it for what I can get for it.
In a better socialist society, I could just give it away, and I would; but I have the capitalist boot on my neck.
SB: Ah, we all do.
MG: That’s why we all need to unite against the masters.
I’m an open book my man.
SB: Thank you for sharing your thoughts and art with the world!