|TOM OF FINLAND FOUNDATION|
OVER OVER THREE DECADES OF DEDICATION TO PROTECTING, PRESERVING AND PROMOTING EROTIC ART.
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
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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“…I named what I thought was an enormous sum. Without blinking an eye, he gathered up my life work and handed me the amount I asked for: $70… I didn’t expect more. Remember that homosexuality was forbidden in most of the Western world; so all those businesses were illegal, black market. I knew that they wouldn’t have paid me more anyway — or so I believed then.” — Tom of Finland