There are artists living or working in Van Nuys. Talented, accomplished, known and unknown. They camp out in apartments, in the back of houses, on our inhumane, ugly boulevards and on quiet, tree-lined streets.
Some will be compensated, while most will be forgotten. But, alive, they continue to fight fatigue, battle madness and surmount financial worry to produce work fueled by creative imagination.
One of these is my friend Pete Perez, who grew up in Downey, CA. He lives in Sierra Madre but works in Van Nuys.
He showed me around his small studio on Victory Bl., the other day and I saw a remarkable collection of oil paintings by Pete.
A subtle and sublime colorist, he is hiding in plain view some of the loveliest paintings I’ve seen lately.
40-years-old, living with a black mutt named Tulla, he earns a living by brushing gallons of paint onto walls for clients in Newport Beach, Bel Air and lately, Anaheim.
Over a cup of strong, black, turbinado-sweetened coffee, he told me a funny story about how multi-cultural, ethno-dogmatizing, college racists tried to lasso him into “painting like a Latino”…with bright, garish colors like those found on the Mexican flag or on Guatemalan peasant skirts.
He refused. He dreamt and created in his own way without adhering to the strictures and preferences of art college correctness.
Pale lavender, deep plum, washed-out red, dusty blue, cloudy gray… He painted, and still does, in the off-shades: those tints of secondary colors; the burnt hues of a fading day. Nantucket in the San Fernando Valley.
Humanistic, gentle, sensitive and moody: his color combinations are as natural as sky and sand, cloud and rain. Many of his subjects are young men, but they are human, not godlike.
Pete, the artist, is his own man and one of the originals of Van Nuys.