Brazen, fantastical and ever-evolving are a few words to describe the work of Peter Gronquist. Working in various mediums to create hybrid sculptures that reflect our evolution of desire through consumerism, this Portland based artist juxtaposes the beauty of nature with man's material opulence. The end result is a beautifully executed satire on American values. With his latest exhibit at Shooting Gallery entitled "Make Stuff", Gronquist once again displays an impressive range of work - from taxidermy sculptures and other mixed media pieces to acrylic abstract paintings. Fascinated by it all, we wanted to learn more and the multi-talented artist was gracious enough to have a chat. Here he talks about the personal inspiration and contradiction behind these works, and his mantra to get up everyday and "make stuff".
What is the overall statement with your current exhibit “Make Stuff”?
Make stuff has always been my daily mantra. I like to create every day that I can, so I think "make stuff" really gets to the core of what I'm doing. Before we layer meaning and metaphor onto what the work is or isn't, I wanted to highlight the motivation behind the creative process, which basically boils down to "I love making shit."
The art in this exhibit is fantastic. The illuminated floating dress and mixed media paintings are especially intriguing as they’re a departure from your signature taxidermy pieces. What’s the inspiration behind these works and your process with creating them?
The dress is my dead daughter's wedding dress, empty but illuminated. She died a baby but this is how I imagined it. I guess it's a snapshot of a long list of things that will never happen. The paintings aren't exactly new, I mean I've always been a painter. It's funny I used to hate color field and expressive abstract paintings, and now that's all I do. I think these new paintings are very emotional for me, they are more personal than any of my figures I ever painted. It's hard to articulate why, but they're the kind of paintings that I can get lost in. It's freeing in a way to not worry about painting a thing specifically.
The taxidermy sculptures play upon our culture’s insatiable lust for guns as well as our pursuit of a gilded life. Tell us your thoughts on American Consumerism and gun violence.
Yes it think that our culture puts money and violence on way too high of a pedestal. I think these days people no longer see the line between entertainment and reality. My work often deals with the glorification of violence in our culture. That being said I love gold and violent movies and music.
You’ve delved into numerous mediums to create your art – from bronze, neon, encaustic, and taxidermy. What’s your favorite medium to work in and why?
I like working with everything, they are all important to me depending on what I'm doing. I guess oil paint has always been my favorite. I just love the richness and vibrancy of it. For sculpture I love epoxy clay, it's a really incredible material.
I can’t help but notice the abundance of butterflies you’ve been using recently coupled with a creative progression in your work. As butterflies symbolize transformation, can you tell us how you view your artistic evolution so far and where you’re planning to take us?
I feel like I've always tried to keep changing my work. I think this comes from a love of exploring new materials, or thinking of a finished piece that doesn't exist yet and figuring out how to make it. Hopefully I get the opportunity to keep finding new directions to go. I have no idea where I'm planning on going long term, I think that if I knew I wouldn't try new shit. Hopefully I will continue with what has been my plan so far: 1) think of something. 2) make it.
If you could hang one artwork from history in your home or studio, what would it be and why?
Oh man that's impossible.
What’s a day in the life of Peter Gronquist like?
Get up at 6am with my wife and two boys (5 & 1) eat breakfast, go skate or workout, hit the studio all day, hang out with family and friends, eat dinner, put kids to bed, lounge with the wife, go to bed. I do my best to balance work and family without letting either one suffer too much .
Thanks Peter! "Make Stuff" is on view through May 3, 2014 at Shooting Gallery in San Francisco. Artwork images by Brock Brake for Shooting Gallery.