Born Matthew John Montero in Covington, Louisiana, on June 22, 1988, he was deeply immersed in art from an early age. His father Lloyd Montero Jr. was a self-made entrepreneur and lifelong passionate art collector and his mother Martha was naturally gifted in painting and drawing. Matthew did not formally take up painting until 2007, where the expression of the human figure played a major role. Even among these early works, Montero's instinct for emotional depth and strength of composition was evident.
Incredibly, he has always used his bare hands to create. This unique mastery of using his fingers like brushes gives his portraits a compelling and completely original intensity, with no brush marks or trace elements. Montero explains:
"I try and capture many things in a portrait. I might paint them rougher or finer depending on the subject. Everything I do in a portrait is deliberate; the pose, the expression, the color choice, the attitude, it is a remaking of that person."
Montero painting in his studio. © The ICONS Museum
Montero's studio floor. © The ICONS Museum
Montero's portraits are done entirely freehanded; meaning there is no pasted or projected tracing of an image onto the canvas.
"I feel a painter has to earn his subject. If I projected or traced an image, it would come too easy and no value comes from something so easily had. A painter must go straight onto the canvas with the paint and see what they are made of."
It was during his freshman year of college that Montero developed the technique of using solely his bare-hands to create:
"I remember instinctively it just came more natural than a brush. I felt more directly connected to what I was painting. Many people have suggested I should use gloves because of the harsh chemicals in house paint, but I cannot. I have to feel the canvas, and feel the subject."
Montero in Montmartre, Paris. 2010
During college, he traveled to France, Spain, and Africa soaking in the history and artistic treasures. Upon graduating from University, he promptly moved to New York City to dedicate his life to art and painting. He took a position at Scully & Scully on Park Ave to afford rent and began painting out of a studio loft in the South Bronx. After an unexpected family tragedy, he moved back to Louisiana, and within 4 years established ICONS as the world's only art museum dedicated to honoring the greatest modern cultural icons through the painted image.