Atlanta-based artist Matt Jones, who also served as operations manager and social media editor for the online queer publication WUSSY MAG, died on August 29 of Burkitt’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system that affects people living with HIV. Today, August 31, would have been his twenty-seventh birthday.
In an article posted by on the publication’s website, WUSSY staff wrote, “The weight of [Matt’s] loss is real, and the importance of his work in his lifetime is so deeply felt. Matt was an original creator and a silo of good reason for WUSSY. He was an amazing colleague and friend.”
Jones presented his first and only solo exhibition, “Closing Time,” earlier this summer at The Mammal Gallery. In his artwork and writing—which included the column “Black Friday” on WUSSY—Jones explored issues related to race, queerness, gender, and body image.
Prior to the development of WUSSY, which launched in 2015, Jones was involved with the artist collective Dodekapus and the street art festival Living Walls.
In a conversation over the phone earlier this week, Living Walls founder Monica Campana told BA, “Matt was there for Living Walls since before the first conference in 2010. He was just so excited to a part of what was happening and had incredible energy for doing and making things. He made me feel like anything was possible.”
By the time of the organization’s 2013 conference, Campana said artists from outside of Atlanta and the US would approach her asking to meet Jones.
“It was always, ‘Who is Matt Jones?’ Both names, never just ‘Matt,'” she said, laughing. “He was already famous.”
Once news of Jones’s passing spread via social media, Campana said she began receiving condolences and sympathetic messages from artists all around the world.
“First, I got a message from an artist in Paris, then Argentina, then Tel Aviv. He didn’t realize how he touched everyone he came in contact with, especially with his contagious smile. He’s not gone, he’s just bigger.”
WUSSY plans to celebrate Jones’s birthday and his legacy tonight at a party at the queer bar Mary’s, located in East Atlanta Village. A public memorial is scheduled for Tuesday evening, with more details forthcoming. A fundraiser has also been launched to help offset the cost of funeral services for Jones’s family.
Jones’s death comes after a particularly difficult month for Atlanta’s queer community, which continues to mourn the loss of musicians Monte Qarlo and Kiwan Benson, who died in a drowning accident off the coast of Tybee Island on August 13.
This is a developing story.