Kevin Peterson Interview
Graffiti seems to represent the defilement of the world of the subjects in your paintings. What do you think distinguishes artistic graffiti from graffiti that defiles?
It is a thin line, I think. I personally have a wide and encompassing definition of what should be considered “art,” and I think most graffiti falls in the category of “art.” That being said, if it’s done without permission, then it is illegal. It can cause property damage, lower property values, and sometimes invites other crime to neighborhoods that are seen as neglected. Even though something is illegal, however, that doesn’t mean it can’t be nice to look at or add character to an area. I personally enjoy seeing graffiti and am not a big fan of large amounts of tax dollars being spent to clean it. In my paintings I use it to symbolize a run-down area. It serves a purpose — to set a mood which contrasts with the innocence of my subjects. It’s a bit of a gray area to me, and I’m not sure anyone is in a position to judge whether something is art or an eyesore.
You’ve shown work at the Bayou City Art Festival Downtown multiple times. Do you think entering juried exhibits is a good opportunity for exposure for both emerging and established artists?
I have had a great deal of success at the Bayou City Art Shows. It is a huge amount of exposure. I think juried exhibits are good opportunities. You have to remember that rejection will happen and try not to get discouraged. When you’re accepted into a juried show you should feel proud of the accomplishment. When you’re rejected (and we have all been there) remember that its part of being an artist. It doesn’t mean you are a bad artist and can’t be successful. Use rejection as fuel to work harder and make better art.
Do you have any advice on which shows to enter?
Do research into what shows have the best attendance. As far as festivals go, purchase a book called The Art Fair Source Book by Greg Lawler. It is an excellent resource. It has a ton of helpful information like show attendance and average artist sales.
Much of your work is shown in Texas. Do you have plans to show anything internationally?
I recently just had my first solo show in the Los Angeles Area at C.A.V.E. Gallery. I have shows scheduled in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles for 2012. Currently nothing out of the country, but I’m confident that will come after some domestic shows.
Do you find solo exhibitions or group shows to be more beneficial for promoting your work?
There are definitely benefits to both. When you do a group show you are going to gain exposure to a new audience that may be in attendance to see a different artist. I was recently talking to an artist who was working on a piece for an upcoming group show. I asked him what he was going to do and he described it to me, and at the end of the explanation said, “you know, it will be easy and fast.” I think this is an awful mindset to go into any show. Remember that every show you do is going to be your introduction to someone. Don’t ever take the easy way out. It’s not good enough to just be in a show, try your best to blow people’s minds. Make them remember you. You will not always succeed. Some pieces won’t turn out exactly how you planned, and that is okay. Use those experiences to learn from. Making a bold statement should always be your goal.
Solo shows are another great way to make a statement. It’s all about you. This means you take all the credit for the success and all the credit for any failure. It’s an intimidating prospect but also rewarding. It’s vital to take the time to promote yourself or to find a gallery that will take the time to promote you when it comes to a solo show.
Do you see commissioned paintings becoming a significant part of your revenue as an artist, or are they just an extension of your child-wall series?
Commissions are a big part of my revenue. I enjoy doing them, although they come with challenges. I’m not just working to please myself; there is a client to consider as well which makes things slightly more difficult. When a client comes to me with a commission idea and it fits with my overall style and direction, it is a lot of fun and I feel like everyone gains something from the experience. I am lucky enough now to be in a position to turn down commission jobs that do not excite me or fit with my direction as an artist.
What is the next project we can expect to see from you?
Well, like I said earlier I have a very busy year ahead of me. I will be working on my out of town shows as well as continuing with commission jobs.
Kevin Peterson was born in 1979 in Elko, Nevada. After a childhood which included stints in Nevada, Michigan and Washington, Kevin arrived in Texas in 1996. He studied art and psychology at Austin College in Sherman, TX. He received degrees in Fine Art and Psychology in 2001.
Kevin pursued a career in Social work after graduating. He worked as a Probation Officer in Austin for 3 years. During this time, difficulties with drugs and alcohol plagued his life and eventually led to an arrest and the loss of his job. While in a drug/alcohol treatment facility, Kevin rediscovered his love and passion for creating art. He decided to pursue this passion after completion of the treatment program.
Kevin has been sober since July 30, 2005 and has been immersed in his art ever since.
Kevin now makes his home in Houston, TX where he works out of Winter Street Studios.
My work is about the varied journeys we take through life. It’s about growing up and living in a world that is broken. These paintings are about trauma, fear and loneliness and the strength that it takes to survive and thrive. They each contain the contrast of the untainted, young and innocent against a backdrop of a worn, ragged, and defiled world. Support versus restraint, bondage versus freedom, and tension versus slack are all themes that I often visit. My work deals with isolation, loneliness and longing teamed with a level of optimistic hope. Issues of race and the division of wealth have arisen in my recent work. This work deals with the idea of rigid boundaries, the hopeful breakdown of such restrictions, as well as questions about the forces that orchestrate our behavior.