The Mateo BLU Movement: From NFLplayer to “Art Geek” & Educator
by Aurica Diane
After having multiple seizures, a brain tumor was found and immediate surgery followed. A tragedy struck this defensive end, but that didn’t stop him. From a mere player to his true calling as an artist. Mathew Rice who has been a defensive player in the past playing for the New York Giants and Detroit Lions, now focuses primarily on his artwork, company (Mateo Blu) and non-profit organization (Blu Art Foundation)BAF. An inner-city kid from the streets of Baltimore transcends past the atypical art world and the message, meanings and layers of his work show how deep thought images can appeal to high-end museum curators to kids from urban communities having the same background as the artist who created them.
With two degrees, one in integrated art and the other in African American studies from Penn State, Mateo is not new to this but true to this art world. “God gave me more talents than football to use, at the same time I’m walking away form 60 million dollar contracts, I wouldn’t have the education of life now if I would have went that way, when you come from nothing you think the only thing you’re missing is money. I challenge myself to make more of a difference and more of a financial gain through the arts, says Mateo, “To me art is life.”
He uses art and history along with personal experiences to create nuanced paintings, designs and soon a written biography depicting his life’s journey. In 2007 after his brain surgery his life was changed and so was his career choice. From player to painter, using oils and acrylic to make astounding artwork with a message. Not bad for a guy coming from Baltimore’s broken neighborhoods. The brain surgery was not the debilitating factor that ended his football career, on the contrary, Mateo decided to do more with his life and be his own boss. He is a mentor to many young men and women. Mateo uses art as a platform to show youth from urban communities that there are positive options for them to express themselves.
Once an all-around athlete, playing football from high school into college where he won many of championships at PennState, now Mathew Rice who as an artist goes by Mateo (gift of God) Blu, meaning infinite.
"There are no mistakes in art”, is something Mateo lives by and even a quote on one of his original paintings. "Freedom, art is me” , and “Fxck fame” are afew quotes on Mateo’s paintings.
“Nobody told me how to paint, when I went to Penn State it was tough I didn’t have a mentor and my goal every year was to not get kicked out”
It was the 2nd grade when young Mathew would discover art as an escape, he would soon find that creating art was therapeutic for him and he was doing something that was different. It wasn’t until he was kicked out of every school in the DC area and had to attend a new school district in PG County to attend school where art became more than an outlet and discovered his other talent off the field. Mateo recalls an art teacher who noticed early on the quality of artwork that Mathew presented and opened his eyes to a whole new world. His biggest influence in his life has been his mother who has overcome kidney failure, breast cancer, and had heart surgery twice and is still around to tell the story. Her influence as a teacher poured over into Mateo’s mannerisms and allows for him to be a mentor to youth now.
Mathew was able to make his presence known on PennState main campus through sports but he still juggled his artwork with his collegiate studies. His passion had always been art and expressing himself creatively. Mateo came to realize that art would be his calling after an encounter with an older family friend who was on her deathbed and told Mathew to use his talents that God blessed him with so that his life would not be in vein.
On June 11th at Trocadero located at 10th and Arch RAW (natural born artist)Philly an art exhibition with many talented artists, Mateo made his Philly art presence known as his art hung on a gate and stood against the railing along with prints he also had on display and for sale. Many of the art pieces have originals that are displayed in Baltimore at the center.. The Splendor art event had live music, art exhibits that filled the entire venue. The event closed with a fashion show from designers and Mateo posed on stage with models and other artists.
The mission of his art is to promote positive change in humanity through the arts. Mateo’s future includes clothing and interior design. A true Renaissance man who conquered a devastating series of epileptic seizures to walking away from million dollar deals on the turf to doing noble work with his art that makes a difference.
For more information visit their site www.mateoblu.com.