His creations speak by themselves, it’s a weird universe of representations that involves more than a look to be caught in all its facets: lust, consumerism, weapons, shiny materials, taboos, western culture and much more. Interview by Sara Dal Zotto.
Born in 1979 in Portland, Oregon: birthdays and birthplaces when mixed like this are fascinating. A young man, coming from an interesting yet mystic city, raised in a creative family: Peter Gronquist is a visual artist that has already pointed out his choices in style and made statements by painting, sculpting and using taxidermy as a technique. This urge to create, and the fearless intention of going on with it, brought his art to bounce over the web, and, most importantly, to exhibit and be featured in shows all over the States.
His creations speak by themselves, it’s a weird universe of representations that involves more than a look to be caught in all its facets: lust, consumerism, weapons, shiny materials, taboos, western culture and much more.
According to your biography, there’s an obsessive art making throughout your childhood that continues today. How much art influences your daily life?
I would say a lot. Most waking moments have me obsessing about a piece that I’m working on or will soon be working on, it consumes most of my time. When I’m not working I’m often thinking about it. Drives my wife crazy.
You were born in Portland. Chuck Palahniuk in Fugitives and Refugees describes Portland as a sick but interesting city, full of sexual mood, creepy situations and acid places. Do you feel the same about your hometown? Did it influenced your art as well?
Oh yeah that’s a good book! I remember reading that and find- ing out so many new things about my hometown. It’s interesting when you think you know a place so well and someone comes along with so many new stories about it. Portland is like that though, so many different types of weirdos running around. Portland and the Pacific Northwest definitely influenced my life and art hugely. Things that are probably considered weird in other places are fairly normal in Portland. It’s like I don’t think my work is weird, other people think it is, but that’s just a product of growing up in a town where strange is the norm. This town has changed a lot, it used to be really gritty and raw, now it’s become so hip and clean. I still love it though. I’ve definitely been influenced by other places I’ve lived, including New York, San Francisco and Oakland. Oakland is truly my other home after Portland.
What or who inspires you most when creating and why?
I get inspiration from everywhere. I like organic forms a lot so I’m inspired by nature and animals, but at the same time I’m inspired by gold fronts and machine guns. I guess most of my work just comes from my brain, almost everything I do is con- ceived in a half sleep in bed at night. I’m inspired by what I find beautiful in the world. My wife and kids inspire me daily.
Taxidermy is one of your peculiarity. What brought you to this practice and why did you choose to vehicle your messages through it?
I’ve always loved taxidermy. In 2005 I was doing a lot of work with iconic brands and was loving Louis Vuitton everything. I had an old antelope shoulder mount in my studio and figured that I could do better so I made my first taxidermy piece with the iconic “LV” antlers. I loved the idea of genetic branding, a ridiculous future where geneticists had teamed up with corpo- rations to get their message out by way of sick experimenta- tion. The animals with the gun antlers imagine a different future where they have evolved to return fire. I love the juxtaposition of beautiful serene animals and manmade shiny metal things.
Your art has many references to Pop Culture. Do you think you’re a consumerist or do you face consumerism from a criti- cal point of view? What’s the message?
I’m conflicted. On the one hand my work is at times American consumerist satire, and yet I find that often my work is just a parody of myself. For instance I have labeled the taxidermy work as new Americana in the past, this idea that if you stack layers and layers of ridiculously American things on top of each other that you can achieve something that is the most amer- ican! I like to parody this hyper patriotism and consumerism that is so pervasive in our land lately, yet I am clearly part of the problem. I disapprove of rampant consumerism philosophi- cally, yet I am constantly buying shit. I think my catalogue is too broad to really put an umbrella meaning that fits all of it. I will say that my work deals with themes of life, death, consumerism, Americana, pop and the absurd. I like to make things that I think are beautiful.
You use weapons and haute-couture symbols in your art. What’s your relationship with both?
I grew up shooting guns, not at anything in particular.
I don’t hunt and I’m non-violent, but shooting guns is awesome. That being said, I think guns are way too easy to get around here, gun control in the US is a joke.
I’ve always been into fashion. I think fashion is the most acces- sible art form, it’s something that most people think about to some degree every day.
Has it been difficult to find gallery and spaces for exhibitions or your art easily conquered the scene?
I don’t know about conquered, but I’ve been fortunate to show in galleries all over. I’d like to expand and show more interna- tionally in the near future, maybe Europe. It’s true that the work is different and can require a leap of faith by a gallery or curator to show so I appreciate all the galleries that have been so supportive of me.
Your work is formed by both sculptures and paintings. Which is the media you like most working on? Do you feel more a painter or a scultpter?
I’ve always identified as a painter, although the last few years has made me rethink that. Lately I’ve been doing probably 90% sculpture. I like that I can have an idea in my head and be able to make it into a three dimensional object the next day. I also enjoy the challenges involved in making sculptures, I’m constantly learning about new techniques and materials and I love all the different finishes that one can achieve. I will always be a painter though.
What’s coming on next?
A show in NYC later this year and another show at White Walls in San Francisco, plus Scope NYC and Scope Miami at Art Basel. I’m stepping back into painting with a series using many layers of plexiglass and thin washes of oils that I’m very excited about. I’m also starting a taxidermy and polyhedron series that I think will turn out well. I’m constantly striving to achieve better finishes on my pieces so I expect to be doing a lot of research in the near future.