EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH ARTIST MATT MYERS AKA ERONIN!
Suki. 16x20, watercolor, 2016.
Thanks for doing the interview Matt. Can you give the readers some background information about yourself?
You're very welcome, and thanks for featuring me; I'm greatly honored to be in Carpazine!
First off, let me say I use the name 'Eronin' when I do my Erotic art, which is a hybrid of Erotic-Ronin. If I do normal art that is less risqué, I just use my own name, but sometimes it's a thin line.
I was born in 1960 in the suburbs of Niagara Falls, New York, in a middle-class family, with moderate views on religion and politics. Pretty normal, but I will say my parents did allow me to stay up late watching horror movies and curfews didn't seem to exist, likely because they were out drinking and dancing all weekend, which probably fostered a sense of a less-restricted life, to explore and fantasize. My oldest sister also had wild parties while my parents were out, with booze and teenage sex in the house, also helping to foster rampant fantasies at an early age. By age 16 or 17 I had Playboy and Penthouse subscriptions delivered right to my parents’ house!
I'm basically an Outsider artist, because my interests are in erotica and most of my efforts go in that direction, which is counter-culture compared to what most art galleries represent. I got into erotica much later in my career, I think as Japanese cultural influences spread across the world in the 90's, and I was swept up in anime, video games, manga, hentai and JAV (Japanese adult videos).
When did you decide to become an artist?
I don't think it was a conscious effort, I just knew from an early age I had more interest in drawing than most of my classmates. I loved drawing monsters with crayon on cheap 'T' paper in kindergarten, which was stapled together into a booklet, sadly lost now. Maybe it creeped my Mom out.
How long have you been painting/drawing/etc.?
I started making my own Scifi/Horror comics with pencil and magic markers, around age 12. After high school I attended a community college near Niagara Falls, NY, and only took art classes, but afterwards picked up the additional academic curriculum to get a 2 year degree. Years later I went to Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina for my BFA, from 1990 to 1992, and I had an awesome professor, Roy Nydorf, who loved Italian Medieval and Renaissance art and he fostered in me a love for serious painting and printmaking. While at Guilford I did some edgy pieces which pushed the boundaries of what the Bible-belt South felt was acceptable. At Pratt Institute, where I received my MFA in 1995, I began exploring mixed-media pieces with images of female nudes embedded in the surface (photos on a plaster/wood substrate), but my erotic art came years later.
How much of yourself and your personal experiences are in your work?
Compared to most people, I suppose I am obsessed with what's under the surface, hidden, the essence of what makes us sexually attractive. My art is about exploring hyper-sexual imagery and raising it from a low-brow cultural status to a high-art status in art using meticulous drawing and painting methods not unlike that found in any good art gallery. More recently I've connected with some Asian models, exploring exotic raw talent from the Philippines, Thailand and Japan to capture pure unbridled beauty while showing the eroticism in a more subdued, implicit way.
What medium do you prefer to work in and how would you describe your artistic style?
I mainly work with watercolor on Fabriano Artistico paper. I project the image onto the watercolor paper (typically a photo appropriated from porn), I’ll ask for permission from a photographer, or I’ll use a photo I’ve taken myself. I use Tuscan Red Prismacolor pencils for the under-drawing because it blends well with the overlays of washes and thicker watercolor layers. My art style falls in between realism and photorealism. While my attention to detail can get very meticulous, I also let the paint qualities do their own thing which can give it a more Impressionistic feel. I also do intaglio printmaking techniques and sculpture , and mixed-media and multi-media with audio-visual components and traditional paintings.
How do your family and friends react to your work?
My wife Laura, although used to seeing me doing renderings and paintings of the female nude over the years, was still a bit shocked when I started exploring full-on erotica by appropriating images right out of Japanese JAV (Japanese Adult Videos). Now, after about 7 years of exploring erotic art, she's accustomed to seeing me work on almost any aspect of sexual artistic expression. The rest of my family are not exactly fans of erotica, I think it's too much to process for them. My friends accept my art on different levels. My artistic friends accept it because of my dedication to the craft and devotion to the subject matter. My friends who don't have an artistic background find it harder to accept or relate to because in their daily routine they aren't subjected to random acts of sex, unless they are watching porn at home, which they'd never admit to. Even if they did watch porn or look at it online, I doubt if they'd see the intrinsic beauty of a woman's face in ecstasy, but maybe I'm being too judgmental?
What is most challenging about what you do?
The most challenging thing about my art is it’s on the fringe, or Outsider art; not accepted by the mainstream in most instances. I've found a few galleries that embrace erotic art to a point, such as accepting my 'implicit' art but not the 'explicit' side. You can show nipples all day, but once you go below the belly button, the deal's off. I've shown in the Seattle Erotic Art Festival and the Detroit Dirty Show several times, ArteRotica, the first London Erotic art show and SMUT in NYC to name a few that cater to all aspects of erotica, but in general there aren't many venues that accept or promote eroticism.
How long have you been working at Sotheby’s?
Surprisingly, I've been employed at Sotheby's for 18 years, since January of 2001. It's been tumultuous because the art world is affected by the current economy, legal ramifications of art deals gone bad, mismanagement and hostile takeovers. I won't go into details, but I will say as an artist, it's very rewarding to me being surrounded by art at any given moment, and I've had the privilege to show in the annual Sotheby's Employee art show almost every year. I can also boast that I was the first employee/artist to have a mixed-media erotic piece banned after its first day on exhibit, because somebody was offended!
How did you curate the Pop-Porn exhibition?
I wanted to showcase what I could foresee as a mainstream movement of sexual artistic expression, which I labeled 'Neo-Eroticism', and 'Pop-Porn', which means a crossover of pop culture and sexual imagery. I had been working on a body of work directly inspired by JAV films and Japanese Shunga, in particular the woodcut series 'Unusual Comparison of Faces' circa 1890 by Tomioka Eisen. (see example) Incredibly, the underground Edo period artists were doing something I was now doing, a hundred years later, but I modernized the concept using contemporary JAV stars and making the images large and museum quality, raising it to a high-art level; my modus operandi. After having my Pop-Porn theme rejected from the Trenton Art Works gallery last year, I approached MF Gallery owners Frank and Martina Secondo Russo and asked if I could have it there. I was thrilled they accepted and I had my inaugural Pop-Porn group erotic show in January 2019 with yours truly and mega talents Fernando Carpaneda, Ellen Stagg, Anna Park and Martina herself. It's my ultimate goal to make Pop-Porn appeal to the masses by promoting the concept nationally and internationally. (see group Pop-Porn photo, me and Fernando and with my erotic art on wall at Pop-Porn show)
What did you like/dislike about the galleries/exhibitions?
The biggest complaint I'd have is most galleries can't take chances on artists on the fringe, because the rent's too damn high, they can't afford to take risks on unproven artists, no matter how powerful or provocative their images are. I know great talented artists who have been struggling for gallery representation for years, but don't have the name recognition or universal appeal most galleries are looking for. One person put it to me accurately; you have to have a dollar sign attached to your name to be included. I'm still trying to find my way into the Museum of Sex, for God's sake! And my work is all about SEX!
What do you dislike about the art world?
Art as an institution universally doesn't accept art on the fringe or Outsider art, and if they did have some semblance of a show about erotic art, it would only feature the same blue-chip artists such as Jeff Koons, Tom Wesselmann, Sarah Lucas, Andy Warhol and others who have somehow risen above the stigma given the majority of outsider artists. It's a pecking order; first you have to somehow make art that is flashy enough to be represented by a gallery, then you have to be recognized by the museum through all the art circles (galleries, art news, dealers, collectors, hype and auction houses, etc.) to be deemed worthy, and marketable.
What inspired you (in general)?
Since I was young, I've been curious about anything sexual, but not in a deviant way. My father had been a US soldier in MacArthur's guard in occupied Tokyo Japan after WWII, and had a few relationships with Japanese women while there, and as a small child I remember seeing some black and white photos of them in an old cigar box in our attic. I think it was the seed that eventually matured into how I saw the Asian beauty and it would later manifest itself through my art, but it took several decades to realize it, as I became aware of the inherent eroticism and aesthetic beauty in Japanese culture.
At first I was content in showing the more 'implicit' sexual innuendos, such as faces in ecstasy, or juicy lips licking a lollipop, sucking a freezer pop, or eating a banana (2012-2015) I graduated to a more explicit level with 'Say Ahhh', with JAV star Yui Hatano giving a blow job uncensored (uncommon in mainstream JAVs). About the same time I did a series of 'Facials' with loads of bukkake shot across JAV mega-star Hitomi Tanaka's face. I was mesmerized by the sheer beauty of the translucency of semen glistening on her face, clinging to her fake eye lashes, nostrils and mouth.
What are you currently working on?
Earlier this year, I met a Filipina named Jelly Fernandez through social media (Facebook, Instagram), and was at once attracted by her natural beauty and use of incredible tattoos covering more than half her body. She seems average on the outside, loves Mickey and Minnie Mouse, but she has a quiet poise that's mesmerizing and seductive. I asked her if I could use a photo taken by one of her main photographers, Sir Jhovs Medico, to do a portrait of her, and since then she's been my main muse. More recently I've gone to the Philippines to sponsor a shoot with Jelly and 6 other Filipino girls in a group session, and Thailand to do shoots with several other girls to make a series of exotic, semi-erotic paintings.
What role does the artist have in society?
I think in general it's to open people's eyes to different viewpoints. Art can be simple and straightforward, or it can explore more challenging subject matter and make people aware that not everything is right or wrong. Given the current political polarizing trends and negative rhetoric about anyone with opposing viewpoints not in align with the popular status quo, I feel it's more important now than ever to fight for freedom of artistic expression. I'm pretty certain that eroticism will never be anything close to mainstream, but if the love of the human sensuality is vilified and condemned, a great part of our natural erotic nature will be lost. Artists like myself don't shy away from the beauty of sensuality and human sexuality, and I hope we inspire others to break through any stigmas they confront.
How do you balance your art with other obligations - mate, children, and job?
Most of my weekdays are consumed with work at Sotheby's, but I grab some time in my evenings and weekends and holidays to do my erotic art. My wife Laura is busy with her own online college classes and my two sons are older and have their own interests too. But I still come down from my studio for dinner!
Is there a town or place in the world you consider inspiring?
I'm so close to NYC I'd have to say here you can experience most types of art, high-brow, low-brow, anything you have the inclination to see. Last year I met Anna Park from the New York Academy of Art and was blown away by her large edgy charcoals, some sexually charged with humor and the macabre rolled into one. I had her in my Pop-Porn show because I was so impressed, even at her student level. Finding little golden nuggets of inspiration like that make me want to explore and see other unknown talent, and there's probably no other place like NYC to discover it, hiding out in the most off the beaten track locales.
Can you give the readers your Website and Facebook addresses so they can check you out...?
My website is - https://sanguineninja01.wixsite.com/eronin-1
Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/BloodyAsHellNinja
Anything you’d like to add?
Follow your intuition, don't wait too long to explore what many think of as taboo or 'uncomfortable'. The road less traveled is far more interesting. It's a cliché for a reason.
Copyright Carpazine Underground Art Magazine. All rights reserved.