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OVER A QUARTER CENTURY OF DEDICATION TO PROTECTING, PRESERVING AND PROMOTING EROTIC ART.

DISPATCH FALL 2002

REMEMBERING MATT

MATT, the all time great erotic "Wrestling Artist" is gone, and we are all poorer for his passing. The artist, who was born Charles Kerbs, died of pneumonia this past March 2002 while hospitalized for heart bypass surgery.  

Matt created this drawing for the
Permanent Collection as a tribute to Tom

From his earliest years, Charles had a gift for drawing—houses, horses, people—all the usual kid’s stuff. But as time went on, he discovered he really, really liked drawing men. It all came together in his mid-teens—the power of the male image, the perfect proportions of the wrestler’s body, the electricity of men in physical contact, and his own awakening need to capture and celebrate his discovery on paper.

As an avid devotee of Physique Pictorial in the mid-1950s, Charles was inspired by the early presentations of Tom of Finland, Harry Bush, Art Bob, and others. At 16, Charles’s images were first published in Grecian Guild. A decade later, with extreme trepidation, he submitted his portfolio to the late Bob Mizer of the Athletic Model Guild. Mizer loved the work and another stunning AMG "discovery" was launched. Indeed, legend has it that it was he who first suggested that a pseudonym like "MATT" would be especially fitting for this young master of "men-on-the-mats." The name stuck!

In the years that followed, the newly christened MATT’s powerful renderings of wrestlers, cowboys, leathermen, and servicemen appeared in every major publication of the leather, S&M, and fetish community. With book cover-art, illustrations for short stories and novels, comic strips, calendars, and posters, his genius has delighted millions. A comprehensive 80-page overview of his work titled RASSLERS, ’RANGLERS & ROUGH GUYS: The Erotic Art of MATT was published in 1997 by Brush Creek Media.

MATT’s first bar show was at the Galley House in New Orleans in the early 1970s. In the mid-’70s he exhibited at Stomper’s Gallery as well as the Leslie-Lohman Gallery, both in New York City. He was featured at the Pantheon of Leather ’95 in New Orleans, and at the Tom Of Finland Foundation’s Erotic Art Fair in 1995 and 1996.

For all of MATT’s genius and time devoted to erotic art, few would have guessed that this was only a portion of the talented and versatile man behind the name. In addition to his MATT-work, Charles Kerbs also designed Mardi Gras costumes, executed numerous murals in New Orleans, drew comic strips for the local gay press, and wrote plays—scores of them! According to Jeff Johnson, surviving partner of 18 years, MATT was better known in New Orleans and New York City as Charles Kerbs, playwright, rather than his erotic nom de plume. He cut his teeth in Manhattan’s Off-Broadway theatre in the 1960s, and was well established in New Orleans’ theatre as well. Indeed, Charles had just finished some very successful projects there when he was diagnosed with the heart problems that eventually led to his death.

In the years before he died, MATT had begun self-publishing numerous print portfolios and adult comic books which were snapped up by an ever-growing mail-order clientele. Jeff Johnson has vowed to continue making these materials available to the legion of MATT admirers. Inquiries should be addressed to JEFF JOHNSON at 903 Spain Street, New Orleans, LA 70117, or via e-mail to Danv96@aol.com.

Charles Kerbs was a gentle giant, a quiet, unassuming powerhouse of creative genius and energy. The man may have left us, but his spirit lives on in MATT.

     —The Hun


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© TOM OF FINLAND FOUNDATION 2002


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THE LOUVRE
“I know my little ‘dirty drawings’ are never going to hang in the main salons of the Louvre, but it would be nice if — I would like to say ‘when,’ but I better say ‘if’ — our world learns to accept all the different ways of loving. Then maybe I could have a place in one of the smaller side rooms.” (1991)
— Tom of Finland