Corie Mattie: Hope Dealer

Written by Johanna Quednau

Corie Mattie is bold. She’s quick. And she doesn’t like bullshit – straight-forward is her thing, just like her art.

Corie is from New Jersey and 33 years young. She was born into a home of strong educational values; father a vice-principal, the mother a Spanish teacher. She views herself as academic and meticulous. Corie ended up studying Sports Management and Kinesiology at the University of Maryland and Georgetown, graduating with a GPA of 4.0. After college she started working in Digital Media for the Wizards and the Capitals in Washington D.C. and later for College Bowl Games in Orlando, Florida. But drawing was always there.

She first started selling little drawings on her college campus for $30 a piece. Later on, when Instagram became a thing, Corie moved online to sell her art pieces for $100. But art wasn’t her first choice. Not having any artistic precedents in her family, she was lost for a long time, in more than one sense. It was until she was 21 she came to understand her own sexuality. She simply didn’t know she liked women.

In 2015 she finally moved to Los Angeles, leaving Florida behind, at the young age of 25. “Oddly, it felt like exactly what I should be doing. I have had this internal yearning for years now wanting to branch on on my own and I finally did. It’s scary, but it was too late to be scared.  It was freeing.” She gave up her career in sports and took a leap of faith. After living with her then girlfriend in North Hollywood for a while and working odd jobs, things went awry in early 2020 when Corie was involved in a car accident and it felt as though her dreams were over. Debts began piling up over her head. At the time, she was renting a small apartment in her brother’s house and tried to get back on her feet by creating content for a cannabis cafe. This was 2 weeks before the pandemic hit.

Businesses closed down, and Corie was unemployed again. “That was a turning point in my life. Everything felt hopeless,” Corie said.

It so happened that her brother is a doctor who witnessed the pandemic firsthand: the ICUs were overcrowded, doctors and nurses were overworked. People were dying – a nationwide state of emergency. “As my brother was tirelessly working at the hospital every day, trying to help in whatever way he could, I felt compelled to contribute as well. Utilizing my artistic skills, I took to the streets to spread messages of hope, solidarity, and positivity during these uncertain and fearful times.”, Corie explained. She went out to find a wall and created the mural that should put her irrevocably on the map for the LA street art scene: “Cancel Plans. Not Humanity.” It all started on March 26th, 2020. Why does Corie know the exact date of her becoming a street artist? The LA TIMES published a photo of her mural.

“Cancel Plans. Not Humanity.”

That’s when her career took off – and her artist’s name was born as well: LA HOPE DEALER.

“Corie Mattie is LA HOPE DEALER and LA HOPE DEALER is Corie Mattie – I don’t hide behind the name,” she emphasized. And even that is an understatement – next to the doves which are a recognizable hallmark of her murals, Corie paints herself on the wall; the silhouette of a skinny woman dressed in nothing but a long coat. She opens her coat and reveals one side of her nude body, the nipple crossed out, inside the coat the letters H O P E and a couple doves – her trademark.

The image is a play on “dealers,” standing in the streets selling contraband from the black market out of their big long coats – watches, drugs, jewelry – only that in Corie’s version it’s herself selling HOPE out of her coat, rather than dope.

 She brings people together behind her slogans. When you walk down the street and you see one of her messages, you feel connected in this vast city of Angels. You feel seen. You feel the humanity. Which is perhaps why, within only 3 years her work has seeped into the LA collective.

Her murals aren’t some abstract, hard to decipher, bulky pieces of art – it’s for everyone, for the community. Corie wants everyone to have access to it, physically and intellectually. And she’s very successful in that mission: Her brush strokes are clear and precise, her messages are strong and on point. The paintings read like a recurring slogan or brand. She knows what to say in just a few words. No time to lose!

“I live and breathe art 24/7, no time for hobbies,” she said, when I asked her if she has any other creative outlets. Which made me feel even more honored to have a couple beers with her at the Arts District Brewery – of course, where else? And yet, Corie keeps apologizing to me that she is “not good with words.” I strongly disagree. It is her talent to bring powerful messages to the wall with sparse words, that inspires me and so many others that are seeking her murals across LA. There are far over 100 of them in the city so far!

Cancel Plans. Not Humanity. / Close Your Doors – Open Your Mind / Racism is a Pandemic / If we Rest In Peace, Why can’t we Live in Peace? / After the Plague, came the Renaissance / Good Art makes you think. Great Art makes you do. These are only a few of the vast array of captions adorning her murals.

When I ask her why she chose to use public walls as a canvas she quickly responded: “My art is not just ON these walls, I make art jump OFF the walls.” Corie is currently experimenting with creating immersive, interactive experiences by using snapchat filters (AR) and QR codes that she places in the lower corners of her murals. When people scan the code they are redirected to a website where they can donate to the cause that Corie’s mural is about or simply get more information on the topic, such as breast cancer awareness, the National Wildlife Foundation or Animal Shelters.

“My art is not just ON these walls, I make art jump OFF the walls.”

Her murals are informative, communal, inspiring, and uplifting. All in one. Or rather, all in over a hundred! All painted in just 3 years. “There was a time when I hardly slept,” Corie confessed. When I ask her how she deals with the administrative and business side of her art she responded, “I don’t take No for an answer. Also, I think having no fear of the word “no” helps.  The worst that can happen is a “no,” but there is always an opportunity out there that will be a “yes.” Corie says the problem with a lot of people is that they’re afraid of someone saying no to them so many don’t even try to realize their dreams. Not Corie.

“Artists are problem solvers,” Corie stated. And HOPE stands for How Our Pain Ends. Corie is partly an artist, partly a poet.

“Artists are problem solvers,” Corie stated. And HOPE stands for How Our Pain Ends. Corie is partly an artist, partly a poet.

Her murals are political – but not divisive. Roe v. Wade – not really a controversial issue in Central L.A.! The death of P22, the mountain lion from Griffith Park – who wasn’t sad? Betty White – everyone loves Betty! However, the mural on Traction Avenue, next to the Arts District Brewery, might be a bit on the daring side: Putin’s head – ripped off – carried away by doves…. ‘To Ukraine with love’ it reads. When Corie first painted it at the beginning of the Ukraine conflict, she got messages and comments from people asking if she was Ukrainian. I showed photos of the mural to one of my more conservative friends, “should be Biden’s head,” was the response. While some things that seem self-explanatory for some of us, they are still a source of division for others.

But Corie doesn’t allow dissonance and backlash to dissuade her from her mission. “I used to make art about heartbreak and sex,” Corie admits. And she still does. But her No.1 topics are undeniably: Women’s Rights, LGBTQ+, Equality/Race, Humanity, Animal Rights, among others. “I draw my inspiration from the news actually.” Her favorite mural is that of the mountain lion P22. Tough in her approach, the big picture shows: Corie has heart. And HOPE. She seems to hit a certain Zeitgeist. I believe people need artists like Corie Mattie right now, we need the HOPE and encouragement.

Corie’s vision is to go far beyond the limits of Los Angeles. She’s already done a mural in Brooklyn, New York. But she wants more, she would love to take her doves to other cities, as well, and to create opportunities for other artists. But first comes the LA Pride Parade in June. And she’s already getting ready for it.

In the meantime, she leaves an emptiness behind back in New Jersey: “I loved you that much that I had to let you go / Cannot cage a rare and beautiful bird. She needs to fly.” Words her mother jotted down when she finally accepted that Corie had left the nest and learned to fly. Just like the doves in her murals.

Johanna Quednau is a German freelance model and artist living in Los Angeles. She studied cultural studies and sociology at the University of Hamburg in Germany in the early 2010s before she decided to move out to California in 2016. Johanna loves living in Downtown LA because of all the mural art, the European architecture and the history. She recently picked up her old passion journalism again and is now part of UP Magazine as a writer.