Straight Talk

Pop artist Peter Max brings his psychedelic stylings to Fort Worth’s Milan Gallery for a month-long show beginning October 26. Max will christen the exhibit with an appearance.

What can people expect to see in the exhibit? Well, my exhibitions are sort of semi-retrospectives. What you will see are works that come from the late sixties, when I first hit the scene and became popular. You’ll see some stuff from when my work was a little bit more impressionistic and, later on, more abstract. And of course, by 1976 I started the patriotic series. I started doing the American flag and Liberties, and they have become popular pieces for five presidents. For each president, I’ve done anywhere from 15 to 25 projects.

Have you ever drawn any creative inspiration from the Lone Star State? Yes, I have. I once created a book called Peter Max Paints America. That book was done in 1976, and it was a really great project. I did a painting of a lone star, just a big, beautiful star on the flag. And I’ve had shows in Houston. My biggest show was with a fellow by the name of Henkle and his charming wife. They created a Galleria show for me, and it was so amazing. Opening night, there were maybe 30,000 people. They came from everywhere.

You mentioned working with presidents. What was it like working with the elder President Bush? Oh, George Senior was a very, very elegant man. I had a wonderful lunch with him one day. I walked into the dining room, where there were maybe twenty tables, and they were all empty—except he was at one all by himself. I remember he opened the top button of his shirt, loosened his tie, and said to me, “So Peter, what’s new in the art world?” That exact line. I proceeded to explain to him that the art world is a little bit behind the music world in a sense of notoriety because music has been played on radios since the twenties. In 1950 a young man could be in a little Chevy truck driving cross-country, listening to the radio, whereas a painter would not be seen or heard for another decade or so, when magazines increased their use of color.

Have you done anything for our current president? I’m going to. I just met Laura Bush for the first time, and I’m probably going to do some work for the volunteerism project that the president is trying to get going.

Because of your regard as an artist, you have “access”; do you have a favorite area in which you are able to be involved? Ninety percent of the time I have my painter’s pants and painting shoes on, and I’m in a very large room with two or three assistants. That’s the art part. But then there’s Peter Max the person part, and it’s about volunteerism and ecology.

(See Fort Worth: Museums/Galleries .)

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