Iconic pop artist Peter Max, who has spent the better part of the past four decades creating colorful, patriotic art, will be at the Wentworth Gallery Friday and Saturday evening to open his exhibit, “Colors of a Better World.”
Max’s most recent work, a rendition of William Trego’s “The March to Valley Forge,” is the latest in a series of pieces featuring American icons, including the Statue of Liberty, one of his favorite subjects, and he’s painted portraits of the past six presidents.
While his work may be better known with people over 35, he’s hoping to regain footing with a younger crowd with his current exhibit.
“I had a museum show that went from Vermont to Nashville called ‘A Better World,’ and this show will feature pieces from that exhibit,” Max said.
Inspired by his recent immersion in ecological projects, including the purchase of a more than 200-acre plot of land in Charlottesville, Max has spent a lot of time participating in fund-raisers to protect the environment and make the world a better place.
“The theme of these pieces is who I am,” he said. “My life is sort of my own, I do things I want to do. One day I could do a World’s Fair, the next I could be in my studio drawing. I’ve done the Olympics three times, the Super Bowl six times, the Grammys for several years,” he said.
Max has two studios in New York City, one in Manhattan and another across the Hudson River where he’s able to create his mixed media art.
“I usually start with a lithograph print or a silk screen print and over-paint it and enhance it with extra colors,” he said. “I also do etchings. Drawings are probably what I enjoy doing the most.”
Max is currently working on a “book about creativity. I wasn’t aware of the creative process until I started this book,” he said. “The more you let go, the more creative you can be.”
SOMETIMES HE’LL be looking at a large blank canvas without an idea or vision of what he’s about to create, but allows unbridled creativity to direct the progress of the work. “Sometimes all I need is the enthusiasm and will to paint. The more it doesn’t matter to me [what the final product will be], the better it turns out.”
Throughout the years, there are few genres he hasn’t tried, including a short stint with the Beatles.
“I gave the Yellow Submarine album its style,” Max said. “By the time the contracts were drawn up, my staff had grown from one person to 55 people and I just couldn't do it.” Heinz Edelman was hired by the Beatle's management to complete the cover and followed Max's original designs.
The relationship with the remaining Beatles has continued: Max recently painted a portrait of Heather Mills, wife of Paul McCartney, and their newborn daughter.
One of his favorite images to work with is the Statue of Liberty, featured on many of the pieces in the “Colors of a Better World” show that will be at the Wentworth Gallery this weekend. Several images he has created based on Lady Liberty, along with some featuring the American flag, are available for sale on his Web site, www.petermax.com, with proceeds going to the Pentagon Memorial Fund.
“He’s one of the biggest shows we do all year,” said Anne Dorman, gallery director for the Wentworth Gallery in Tysons Corner, located inside Tysons II Galleria.
“We’re very fortunate to have him here in the Washington Area,” she said. “It gets really crowded, we have to hire security for his appearance.”
All the works exhibited during the show are currently on the walls at the gallery, and Dorman said people are encouraged to come look at the pieces prior to Max’s receptions.
“We’re expecting between 300 and 400 people” for his talks, but the pieces will be up for two weeks after, she said. “The pieces are all up for sale, so sometimes we run out of art before the show is officially over.”
The gallery is located on the second level of the mall, near Macy’s, she said.
“He’s a delight to work with,” she said of Max. “He’s a vibrant personality, there’s nothing to compare him to. He’s as big as it gets in American pop art.”