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Saturday Art: Matjames Metson

Matjames Metson fuses delicate, intricate woodworking using matches, cigar boxes, pencils and rulers with old photographs, nails, keys and gears to create elaborate story pieces grounded in underbelly of Americana. Ranging from small portraits to  full sized chairs and installation pieces, Metson’s work displays self-reliant craftsmanship and exquisite refinement.

Matjames’ self-reliance was brought to stark reality over Labor Day weekend in 2005: Living in the Tremaine district of New Orleans–a rough neighborhood by any standards–he lost his entire studio, all his art and his way of life during Hurricane Katrina. He survived with only  his dogs and clothes on his back. FEMA was unable to assist him, but a friend in Los Angeles flew him out to LA and he eventually found a $7 an hour job which allowed him to rent an apartment with just enough money left over to buy kibble for his dogs.

My dogs came first, they had to eat.

Matjames survived  for two years by sharing kibble with his pets, and then one day met a woman who changed his life. They fell in love and now share a home which is also Matjames’ studio and gallery.

Along with his woodworking–he does majority of the carving by hand, and has only one mechanical saw–Matjames creates graphic novels, a portion of which have been published by Slake magazine, a Los Angeles arts publication.

Matjames’ work was included in La Luz de Jesus’ 25th anniversary show, and his pieces have also been exhibited at the Los Angeles  Craft and Folk Art  Museum, where he has taught workshops on collaging as storytelling.

With pieces considered too outre for most Los Angeles galleries, Matjames has yet to find representation despite seven years in LA–so in a return to classic atelier style, he shows from his home, holding small parties for friends and friends of friend to see his work.

Matjames Metson’s evocative folk art is truly American at its soul, the dark lost side of America which struggles to make sense out chaos and beauty from despair and horror.


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Lisa Derrick

Lisa Derrick

Los Angeles native, attended UC Berkeley and Loyola Marymount University before punk rock and logophilia overtook her life. Worked as nightclub columnist, pop culture journalist and was a Hollywood housewife before writing for and editing Sacred History Magazine. Then she discovered the thrill of politics. She also appears frequently on the Dave Fanning Show, one of Ireland's most popular radio broadcasts.