Peter Max may be 74-years-old, but the internationally renowned artist isn’t showing any signs of slowing down his brightly hued career, which spans a remarkable six decades.
“It comes from being very prolific and having a tremendous desire to work,” declares Max, who was born in Berlin in 1937 and lived all over the world with his parents before settling in New York in 1953. “I have this tremendous will to paint. And, it intensifi es as I come up the elevator to my studio. My heart starts pounding knowing I’m going to be at the canvas.”
There’s no denying Max’s pop culture influence. After all, his expressive works of art have become an integral part of the fabric of modern American culture with their stunning imagery and vibrant colors.
“It’s just something I love,” professes the internationally acclaimed master of pop art known for his Cosmic ‘60s style of painting. “I have a knack for putting different color combinations together in a million different ways. That’s why I have been able to create so many different beautiful posters.”
Along with painting Lady Liberty each year since the country’s bicentennial, Max has received numerous important commissions, including the creation of the nation’s first “Preserve the Environment” postage stamp and 235 border murals at entry points to Canada and Mexico. His work has even appeared on a Continental Airlines Boeing 777.
“It’s mind-boggling,” admits Max, who has served as the official artist of the 2006 U.S. Winter Olympic Team, the Super Bowl, the World Cup, the Grammy Awards, the U.S. Open, the Indy 500, the NYC Marathon and the Kentucky Derby. “I never dreamt my life would be like this. I love it all—every second of it.”
It’s hard to believe Max didn’t initially plan on becoming an art superstar. He actually wanted to study the stars. After meeting an astronomer during his early childhood summers in Tibet, Max became fascinated with all things celestial.
“We’d sit in the garden and look at these astronomy books and he’d say, ‘Have you ever seen all these stars and planets?’” recalls Max. “I just became so unbelievably interested in the universe. It just fascinated my complete being—my soul, my heart. And for all my life, I desperately wanted to become an astronomer.”
But the stars would align differently for Max, who had even taken several math and science courses to prepare for a career in science. After graduating from Brooklyn’s Lafayette High School, he was persuaded to take summer classes at Manhattan’s Art Students League of New York, where Norman Rockwell had studied.
“I got the bug and I begged my mother if I could stay in art school for the rest of the year,” remembers Max, who had taken already proven to be a budding artist after studying drawing and painting while living in places like China and Israel. “She convinced my father to let me continue studying art, despite his fears that I’d be a starving artist.”
Max wouldn’t go hungry. He’s open a small arts studio in Manhattan after seven years studying fi gure drawing and composition under noted painter, illustrator and muralist Frank J. Reilly; and he’d combined his love of astronomy and passion for art to create his famed Cosmic ‘60s style and launch a highly successful poster business.
“I had a printer who loved my work and allowed me to print a couple of posters and I gave him a couple of paintings ‘cause I had no money to pay him,” says Max, who has created more than 1,000 posters over the last 40 years. “He helped me sell the posters, which became hugely popular all over the world and led to a lucrative licensing career.”
Max’s art was licensed by 72 corporations and made him a household name. His rising star status led to an eight-page cover story in Life magazine, as well as appearances on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and the Ed Sullivan Show. Since then he’s seen his work featured at more than 100 international museums and galleries and created works of art for six U. S. presidents, including Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Bill Clinton.
“In the beginning, I just couldn’t believe all the attention. It’s still pretty unbelievable,” exclaims Max. “With some of them, I’m on a phone-call basis. I’m really blessed to know such amazing people.”
Max is currently preparing for two high profi le museum shows and the completion of a highly anticipated book.
“It has about 45 stories in it, all short stories about my life—from living in China to standing in front of an empty canvas,” explains Max. “All beautiful stories.” So where does the iconic artist see himself next?
“Hopefully just where I am now; it’s a great place,” recognizes Max. “I love where I am, I love what I’m doing and every day is different. It’s a wonderful rollercoaster!”
One that doesn’t seem to show signs of decelerating as long as he’s standing in front of a canvas with paintbrush in hand.
A Display of Peter Max’s Works in Tampa Bay A collection of Peter Max’s paintings—including portraits and album covers he designed for country superstar Taylor Swift—will be exhibited and available for acquisition at Safety Harbor’s Syd Entel Galleries. The special retrospective will begin with previews on Saturday, January 14, 2012 and conclude with special appearances by Max on Saturday, January 21 and Sunday, January 22, 2012.
For more information, visit www.SydEntelGalleries.com or call
(727) 725-1808 RSVPs are kindly requested.
Tom Castañeda is a creative writer, blogger, and award-winning broadcast journalist who has worked at Architectural Digest, In Touch Weekly, and Latina – a fashion, beauty, and lifestyle magazine for today’s bi-cultural Latina woman. Throughout his career in publishing, Tom has planned and executed numerous celebrity, fashion, and beauty programs throughout the country, including fashion shows, and shopping events for brands like Bloomingdale’s, Chanel, Mikimoto, David Yurman, Givenchy, Armani Fragrances, Macy’s, Southpole Collection, and more. Additionally, Tom has drawn on his strong journalism background to create various print, online, and video reports on various subjects, including fashion and beauty.