Matt Southgate, Santa Ana Artist, Spearheads Artistic Altar To Honor Kelly Thomas

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As Santa Ana painter Matt Southgate scoured Internet coverage of Kelly Thomas' death late last night, he had somewhat of an epiphany and decided to take action. 

"The Orange Juice blog had the video of the passengers that got on the bus and they seemed to be pretty honest about what they witnessed," Southgate says. "And, the picture of his face, on the OCWeekly blog, too. It was that picture and the video of the passengers on the bus that kind of did it for me." 

So, Southgate turned to the medium he knows best: art.

"I was working on a backdrop, but I didn't know what I was gonna do and it occurred to me in the middle of the night, 'Why don't I dedicate that to what happened to Kelly Thomas?'" 
So, Southgate sent an email to several of his artist friends, inviting them to help create an artistic altar in Thomas' honor. "They get excited about doing projects like this," he says.

Although they haven't made any concrete plans yet, the group of artists plans to convene at the Santora building tonight and start planning and creating.

Southgate says his family has a long-standing tradition of creating Día de Los Muertos altars, so he says he may use that past experience as an inspiration. Unlike many of the Día de Los Muertos altars, however, the one for Thomas won't have the same light-hearted, comical feel.

The Weekly's previous coverage of Thomas' death:

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Your depth of character really shows through your humanitarian spirit, Matt.  I know that you truly understand that the power of art is more than two-dimensional and how that power can transform and exalt; although you definitely don't go about presenting it that way like some arrogant jerk.  I understand Kelly Thomas was a troubled man but I think displays like this show that he at least deserves to be shown some dignity as a fellow member of a larger community.  I wish more people were so selfless and concerned with more than just riding roughshod over everyone else or staying in the shadows so they can't get run over.  Thanks man.

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