Matt Furie: Fur, Fangs, Fantasy

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Matt Furie’s mind must be a crazy place. It’s populated with bats wearing polo shirts and riding BMX bikes, French-kissing birds with boobs, and weeping daisies. Also present are ALF and Falkor (the dragon from The Neverending Story), Freddy Krueger cradling a child, and a guy with a hamburger for a head.

You might wish you had such interesting things tripping trails through your cerebral cortex, so luckily there’s Furie’s art, where an assortment of brightly colored friends, foes, and furry things share bizarre, often tender moments with each other. Though his work may seem like nothing more than an ironic monster mash, there is a startling humanity to these colored-pencil-and-ink drawings that makes you want to look at them again and again. Plus Furie’s got a real talent for drawing hair and an ability to tug at nostalgic heartstrings; with their gummy lips, cool sunglasses, and fondness for breakdancing and bad graffiti, his funny-faced dudes are definitely designed to amuse children of the ’80s.

Since exporting himself to San Francisco from his native Ohio six years ago, Furie’s work is slowly catching on. Following a variety of shows around the Bay Area–at Needles & Pens, Adobe Bookshop, and Low Gallery–and some promo from local art website Fecal Face, he is moving southward and eastbound with shows at The Cartoon Network offices and New Image Art in L.A., Giant Robot in NYC, and in Venice and London.

Furie, whose name is a bastardization of fiore (Italian for flower), isn’t one for long musings, but we stalked him on the internet and found out that he’s a fan of house pets (especially cats), Richard Scarry, Mindfreak, and Aphex Twin. Then we had to know more, so we emailed him to get the lowdown on the sex lives of Rubix cubes and why Muppets rule over Snorks any day.

XLR8R: What was your favorite childhood game?

I used to ride my bike around and pretend I was Wolverine. My handlebars had different imaginary buttons that did different things, like shoot passersby.

What effect do you think growing up in Ohio has had on your work?

My mom was very supportive of my creative tendencies and she sent me to weekend drawing classes and paid for guitar lessons and stuff like that. I went to good public schools that offered lots of art classes, both during and after school, so it was a rich and imaginative place for me as a kid.

What scares you the most?

The overproduction of plastics, urban sprawl, and deforestation.

You seem to have recurring characters… Do you have names for them in your head and do you think of them as part of a continuing storyline?

The Rubix cube person, Cuboid, is sometimes a boy and sometimes a sexually active girl. The Skeletor-esque dude (a.k.a. Kid Skelly) is sometimes a nerdy, skinny kid and other times a caring grandmother. Both of those characters are based on actual toys I brought home from my day job as toy-sorter at the Community Thrift store.

Name one artist whose work you really admire.

I really admire Will Sweeney from the U.K. He creates a huge world full of intricate architecture, vehicles, four-legged vegetarian-sandwich creatures, ogres, hotdog villains, dog-people, fruit-people, complex war machines, castles, owl police, magical bearded cats, perfectly shaped sunglasses, and so much more.

What do you find really funny?

Bodily functions like pooping, peeing, barfing, ejaculating, burping, and farting.

What was your best moment of 2007?

The quiet moment in between jumping off of a houseboat and landing in the lake.

What was your worst moment of 2007?

Any moment at the laundromat.

What’s the one cultural moment of 2007 that stands out in your mind?

I read an article in a National Geographic that described how the albatross flies for thousands of miles to a feeding area it has been going to forever and mistakes washed-up brightly colored junk, like bottle caps and lighters, for food.

What is the best lesson you have learned in the last couple of years?

Don’t sweat the petty, pet the sweaty.

What music do you listen to while you work?

AFX, Brian Eno (ambient), Stone Temple Pilots (karaoke practice), Skinny Puppy (Too Dark Park), Ariel Pink, Holy Shit, Jonathan Richman, Kraftwerk.

Did you draw a lot of different things before you do what you do now, or has it been similar all along?

I used to draw people a lot more. There are sooo many interesting things to draw, there is no limit.

When did you move to San Francisco?

I moved here with my college roommate, Nasty Neff, in 2001, because it sounded like fun and I wanted to be like Robert Crumb. My work developed a lot out here because San Francisco is awesome and full of grown-up kids that like cartoon art.

What is your favorite California slang?

“Ghost riding the whip,” which I think means to hang out of your car and dance while driving or maybe to get on top of the car and dance while it’s driving. I also like the car modification in Oakland that made cars go “Woooooooooo!” and was popularized by a YouTube clip of a really funny dude doing his impression of the noise.

When was your last creative crisis and what was it about?

I always feel like I spend too much time in my room.

What’s one thing you got rid of that you wish you still owned?

My card collections that included Super Deformed mini-stickers from Japan and hecka Garbage Pail Kids.

What is your favorite moment in ’90s kitsch?

That show Dinosaurs that had the baby that said, “Not the mama!”

What is your favorite book?

Animals: 1,419 Copyright-Free Illustrations of Mammals, Birds, Fish, Insects, etc., A Pictorial Archive From Nineteenth-Century Sources, selected by Jim Harter.

What do you do when you’re feeling uninspired?

Watch videos on YouTube. Then… Boom! Inspiration!

Tell us a funny story about working at the thrift store.

People poop all over the place there, both inside and out.

Do you collect anything?

Plastic hamburgers, earrings, and M.U.S.C.L.E.s.

Horror movies, action figures, or comic books?

Action figures. It’s what we used to do before they developed all those damn videogames.

Muppets, sock puppets, or Snorks?

Muppets: Big Bird, a guy in a garbage can, a wooly mammoth, Animal, Miss Piggy, Grover, Kermit. Need I say more?