Interview with Peter Fagundo
I first met Peter at SAIC when he was a panelist for my Fall 2012 final critique in the Graduate PTDW dept. This past summer I had the pleasure of working as his teaching assistant during one of the Early College Program summer sessions at SAIC. (He is pictured above hanging up student work during one of our class sessions). You can find some of his own work on his website found here.
Can you describe briefly what you do?
I love painting, everything about it… both inside and outside of its terms, structures, rules and histories. I follow threads and inspirations/consciousness as they become pertinent to my life. There is an ever evolving conversational reality between the world/life and I that takes painting to negotiate and re-constellate.
What were your earliest experiences of making art? How did you become a painter? Did you go to art school?
My parents had one of those old “History of Art” books in the living room. I used to sit and page through the pictures of dragons, bloody scenes (crucifixions) and naked ladies… enraptured. I would make clunky sketches of my favorites in the margins of the book.
I became a painter because I had tried nearly everything else that came my way or was recommended to me and nothing else fit… except painting and drawing.
I spent one year as a transfer undergrad at SAIC after earning an undergraduate degree in Psychology from a Jesuit school in Denver. Then I went back to school for my MFA at the age of 30.
What, outside visual art, informs your practice? What drives you to make work?
What drives my practice is desire… desire to engage, to make sense of, to touch, to feel, to feel better, to feel at all sometimes. And I’m very curious. I have a lot of questions about things… right and wrong, light and dark, true and false… these inquiries drive the conversation of my interests and concerns.
My restless, irritable and discontent nature drives me to make work.
Who were some of your mentors? Inspirations? Influences? What about current influences? Who do you look at now or listen to?
I’ve had many teachers and guides: Vadim Katznelson gave me permission to be an artist, Dan Gustin taught me how to see, Ellen Rothenberg taught me to think critically, Ray Yoshida taught me to be quiet, Michelle Grabner taught me to show both sides… every side, Shane Campbell invited me to trust myself, Dan Devening cautioned me not to trust everything. Titus Obrien continues to help me trust the process.
Then there are my masters: Rembrandt, Goya, Giacometti, Guston, Picasso… Matisse, Matisse and oh yeah… Matisse. Every single thing in the Art Institute of Chicago… you can learn something from everything, at some point. Now? Caroll Dunham. Still and always Jasper Johns, Ad Rheinhardt and Agnes Martin. Much of contemporary painting is, I think, focused on the short game of art, whereas I’m invested and care deeply about the long game.
What advice would you give a young painter? What advice do you think you would have benefited yourself at an early stage of your life as a painter?
Try to find your most authentic, heart-felt response. Try to isolate the thing to do with paint, the canvas and/or the tools of painting that rings truest and closest to your dearest wish… BUT FIRST KNOW THE TERMS OF THE CONVERSATION YOU ARE ASKING TO BE A PART OF…
Advice: trust your impulses, find a teacher who has what you want and build your life around the thing that makes you most happy… whatever that is… ** read Rilke’s Letters To A Young Poet**
What is your take on painting and/in Chicago? Is this city an inspiration to you? What are its challenges?
Chicago reminds us that, for better or worse, there is NO formula for succeeding in art…and it forces us to define, for real, what success in art looks like. In the end, there is no such thing as “Chicago.” We are just where we are, doing what we do… do we really want to spend any energy discussing a construct or an agreement that doesn’t really serve us? New York, Chicago, LA… whatever…
Can you describe what are you working on now? What’s next as far as projects and/or exhibitions?
I’ve recently concluded some sort of season or cycle of work which was an inquiry into painting, the story, the first story, sex, love, color, composition, self, other, desire and repulsion, etc…
I sort of took a break for a couple of months while life circumstances settled again and now I’m back to just covering small canvases with paint in rather lively, intuitive and goofy ways… I think. I don’t know where it’s going and I know I’m done with the figure. My practice doesn’t seem to have much of a rhythm or predictable trajectory.
I have a solo show opening at Dan Devening’s on Dec 15th. I’m a little nervous about showing this work, but excited to see the response.
I’m also beginning a project with Alberto Aguilar where we are going to re-paint 14 six by eight foot paintings on canvas which he stole from the City of Chicago Colleges… We will paint them in a gallery/museum (we haven’t found a patron/sponsor yet) over a period of 7 days.