Although Kevin Peterson is a figurative painter, his gritty, graffiti-covered backgrounds share the stage with his irresistible human subjects. The walls bear the scars of a ragged and dangerous world. The children are pure, young, and innocent. The two appear to be polar opposites, but the girls seem empowered by their surroundings, not afraid of them. Peterson's hyper-realistic style contrasts angelic youth against desolate, urban backgrounds, yet evidence of the painter's brush adds warmth and hope.
One can imagine a time when these walls were pristine and untouched, like newborns. As people, the elements, and time mar, tarnish, and decay these structures, others strive to repair, rebuild, and renew them. It's the same cycle that people undergo throughout their lives. “My work is about the varied journeys we take through life,” Peterson wrote in his artist statement. “It's about growing up and living in a world that is broken.”
Peterson knows about this trauma firsthand. While working as a probation officer in Austin, difficulties with drugs and alcohol led to an arrest and the loss of his job. During treatment, he rediscovered his passion for creating art. Peterson has pursued an art career since becoming sober in 2005.
His paintings depict the strength required to survive and thrive in a world of isolation, fear, and loneliness. His recent work portrays issues of race and the division of wealth. “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,” he wrote.
He seamlessly blends realistic portraiture and natural graffiti line work with a fresh approach and an impressive command of styles. The design and color of the spray-painted walls enhance the girls' personalities, showing how this form of public art has become a constant presence in today's metropolitan world.
Born in 1979 in Elko, Nevada, Peterson's childhood included stints in Michigan and Washington before arriving in Texas in 1996. He attended Austin College in Sherman, Texas, where he received degrees in fine art and psychology in 2001. He now makes his home in Houston, where he works out of Winter Street Studios. His work has been featured at the Honolulu Museum of Art in Hawaii, SCOPE Art Show in New York, Shooting Gallery in San Francisco, Thinkspace Gallery in Culver City, California, and SCOPE Basel in New York and Miami.
Image courtesy of Thomas Hager.