petite mort In this issueBegin & End No.2 2004
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"Valuable Lesson Number One" 2003 Lamar Peterson
Lamar Peterson's choice to focus much of his work on a colorful set of characters in a suburban African-American family setting creates the sense of a recurring narrative.  A kind of fancifle storybook feeling emerges, and we are invited to [...]

question the perfect family façade. Their smiles are exaggerated, the family wants to appear happy but their happiness seems forced and artificial, much like the overly manicured lawns that show off their home. By presenting to us these subtly twisted images of suburbia, Lamar Peterson leads us to question the American dream itself. His more recent body of work hones in on the specific pathology of particular characters, allowing viewers to get even deeper into his exuberant imagination. His work is questioning and at times so bold and unsettling, yet not depressing in its exploration of all the heady issues- from his latest work and with the conversation we had with him we get the sense that Lamar Peterson cares for his subjects, and for what they feel they have to represent, verses who they really are. -JL


Valuable Lesson Number One, (2003, Acrylic and gouache on paper) shows the original 4 Characters family having picnic with some of Lamar Peterson’s favorite garden figures: Gnomes, pink Flamingos, and cermic frogs.

Where were you from?
Palm Bay on the East Coast of Florida.

Is that why you like to incorporate pink flamingos in your paintings?
Yes, when I went home last summer I noticed people had these really bad flamingos in the yard. I thought they were hilarious. I did a family picnic scene where there are all these garden decorations having picnic with the family, like Gnomes, pink flamingos, and ceramic frogs… I always thought of pink flamingo as the Florida bird. When you see a pink flamingo, you think of Florida.

So when did you move to New York?
I’ve only been here since September 2003. (laugh…) I graduated from RISD in 2001, from grad school. After I graduated I went to Provincetown did an artist in residency for 2 years.

How was that?
The Work Center is really really good. You get a studio and apartment and they pay for the rent and everything for several months. I was just out of school and I wasn’t ready to come to NY. I went there right after grad school.

Is Rhode Island so much different than New York City? More laid back?
It’s not really like that. As far as my work concerns I didn’t feel like I was ready, this work was just at the beginning stage and I needed more time to work. I was working on oil before, it was also surreal and figurative, but it was more… realistic in style I guess. I kept hearing from my feedback and criticism, “you need to draw more, you need to draw more…” cause I wasn’t drawing a lot. I started to draw on paper, at first they were just figures on white paper, then I decided to bring in more landscape, and put in sets and scenes. My last semester of grad school is when I started doing drawings about this fictional family.

"[in my new work] I'm trying to bring myself into the work more and not [have it be] so much a commentary on a certain subject."
Lamar Peterson

Is all this work based on the same family?
Well it was. And I started to break out of that. Because it was too limiting for me, and I was getting bored with it. Like the one in the back right there you see with the red tree. That’s the original 4-character family. There’s the dad, boy and girl, and mom… it’s an “All American” kind of dream.

Any of the characters spin off like those successful sitcoms?
Yeah, now the dad starts to drink a lot more. (laugh) Most of the stuff in the Deitch show are newer things, and they’re becoming about me. I am trying to bring myself into the work more and not so much a commentary on certain things.

Have you painted people other than African Americans?
Umm… no…not yet. (laugh) If I do that it will bring in elements of race. I don’t know if that should be in my work right now. I am trying to stay away from that.

So you want to stay focus on your family background?
Well not really even that. It’s becoming even darker but I still want to keep that happiness like a curtain and the creepiness behind it.

Lamar Peterson
Invitaion of Lamar Peterson's 2004 exhibition Milk & Cookies at Deitch Project NYC.

"Visitor Q", 2001 Takashi Miike   "Happiness of the Katakuris", 2001 Takashi Miike   "Happiness of the Katakuris", 2001 Takashi Miike  

far left: Visitor Q (Takashi Miike 2001), Center and right: Happyness of the Katakuris, (Miike 2001)

Takashi Miike is one of the most unpredictable and prolific directors in Japan today. He shoots about a handful of movies a year, most of which are made for Japan’s video market. Shooting similarly to B-movies in quality and quantity, the "care free" feeling shine through Miike's work and make them truly original. Both Happiness of the Katakuris and Visitor Q center around family & social values and blended it with the most bizarre and unexpected scenarios.

Have you seen “Visitor Q” or “Happiness of the Katakuris” by Takashi Miike? They explored different issues of dysfunctional families and appear normal from the surface, but as the movie progresses you get to see their real aggression, it’s really weird. Some of your paintings reminded me of his movies. You know, especially the milk scene in Visitor Q.
Really?! This? (Pointing to the Deitch Invitation, with surprise.) No, I never saw his movies.
I love movies and I would like to actually direct someday, there is so much that I want to do.


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