Artist Statement

portrait of peter in studio

I am interested in language, identity and belief systems. I explore layers of meaning through hand-drawn images combined with structured poems to communicate aspects of the human condition which go, by and large, unexamined. 


My poetry uses contranyms (words containing their own contradiction) to provide tension, as in the optical illusion of Rubin’s vase, and profiles of two faces.  The poems are designed in such a way that each letter occupies a square that is as wide as the letter is high, using only capital sans serif stenciled letters. Every letter is kept to the left of its assigned box and no line spacing is allowed. This produces a textual grid that looks like hieroglyphics from a distance. I like this reference since hieroglyphics are studied to learn about the cultures that produced them. 


Text functions meaningfully as narrative, but also as a visual device, relying on a cultural assumption (as Westerners assume text will be read sequentially, left to right). I have experimented with deconstructing and slicing text so that it is only read if mentally rearranged, or presented it in mirror image. In several compositions a poem is sliced in half vertically, with the first half placed at the right, and the second half placed at the left. The poem could be connected if panels were joined end to end in either direction, with the drawing and poem either inside or outside an imaginary cylinder, so the viewer is simultaneously inside and outside the container. Time/space is also revealed to be a relative entity, meted out in discrete units as in a projected film. In my current work I am attempting to communicate an understanding of time and space through a fourth-dimensional Möbius strip presented as a fake 3-d comic strip.


I combine text with public domain images, similar to sampling music: taking a portion of one recording and reusing it in a different song or piece. I manipulate found (“sampled”) images as a way of creating a visual language that is lifted from our cultural context and then bent to serve psychological and spiritual expressions.  I think of this pictorial syntax as a new kind of illuminated manuscript where the text and visual elements have equal weight. I have drawn inspiration from Larry Rivers and German artist Sigmar Polke, who both appropriated the pictorial shorthand of advertising; and am indebted to Marcel Duchamp’s conceptual work, as “Cataract”, an homage to Marcel Duchamp’s Étant Donnés:  (The Waterfall, The Illuminating Gas).


All my work seeks a deeper understanding of identity within ever larger circles –– from my own family, to cultural constructs, to God – and reveals how perception of our world is shaped by beliefs, some so fundamental as to be invisible. The poetry and art deal philosophically with issues that exist as dichotomies – victim/perpetrator, Self/ego, space-time/eternity – but together create a gestalt in which both opposing views are synthesized into coherence.   a spiritual one. My work can be thought of as a doorway to an understanding of the Self, similar to a Zen koan. Koans are an ancient tradition of stories, phrases, poems or statements that were identified for their transformational ability.  Sometimes a koan is a recounting of the circumstances that lead to the awakening of a particular student.  Sometimes they shock.  Sometimes they confuse, but always, the koan interacts with something deeper than the mind. I hold these questions before me, “How can words and images create an experience of that which lies beyond them? How can space and time be used to reveal their non-existence? How can what we see be used to reveal that we don’t see?” I am trying to see the mechanism with which I perceive, and hope that others who contemplate this work will reveal to themselves an aspect of Selfhood that was heretofore unrecognized.