The artist Peter Max was one of my earlier art influences. When I first saw his art in 1969, my 11 year-old’s imagination was swept away by the colorful cosmic runner gliding through the galaxy, a master of time and space. Sure, we had art in my childhood home: a mix of traditional and 60s contemporary stone sculpture, metal sculpture, bas reliefs, oil paintings, curious flocked wallpapers, the occasionally oddly colored wall. But Peter Max’s paintings were different (they were exciting!) and they made an impression on me.
There was a mall in my small Midwestern city with a poster store that carried black-lights, peace sign pendants, and furry little rugs in bright colors (the one in my bedroom was orange and shaped like a foot). I got a Peter Max poster there and my interest in his artistic imagery grew from there.
I used to make swirly pen drawings back then. I connected the separate twirls and curvy objects until they became one image. Looking back I see them as a precursor to the collage style work I took up later using cut paper and that I now often create using digital paint.
About four years ago I met Peter Max at a gallery reception of his work in Providence, RI. It was an unexpectedly emotional meeting for me. I surprised myself by crying – oy, the embarrassment! I suppose that seeing so much of his work all together in one place against a backdrop of Beatles and Yardbirds music took me right back to 1969 when I was beginning to discover my own creativity. He was in his 70s by the time I met him and I was touched by his gentleness and warmth.
I’m always interested when I see new things about him in the press. Bless his heart, the man continues to paint! I also love that vibrant pop art of all kinds still captures my imagination and that of so many people.
Here’s a brief article I stumbled upon today: Pop Culture Icon Peter Max on Creativity and Loving the Process by Susan Karlin writing for Fast Company’s Co-Create.
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