Peter Max will paint just about anything – any subject, and applied to any medium, whether it be canvas or the side of a Norwegian cruise ship. He has painted sitting presidents, the Beatles and Taylor Swift; he has painted Dale Earnhardt’s car and is the official portrait artist for the Statue of Liberty. His vibrant, psychedelic designs have graced postage stamps, ads, album covers and Super Bowl campaigns.
“These are all paintings I have done here in my studio,” Max said. “Creativity is my life, and it’s what you’re going to see.”
On Friday, Max returns to The Mahler Fine Art in Raleigh for a preview party of his exhibition, which runs through Nov. 20.
We spoke with Max about his art. Over the phone, he was good-natured but understated, as if he prefers for his visuals to speak for themselves. Here is a portion of our conversation with Max.
Q: What has kept you busy recently?
A: At least five days a week I’m at the studio. I have a very big studio, two floors, about 60 people here. And I am always (busy) with stuff to do all day long. It’s nice. Always. It’s all works in progress. There’s always five, six projects ongoing. New ones coming in and other ones get finished.
Q: You’ve painted things of serious physical size – you’ve painted the side of a cruise ship and you’ve painted an airplane. What is the largest thing that has borne your artwork?
A: Probably the ship. The ship, the plane – Woodstock stage was huge, probably bigger than the plane.
Q: What’s it like to see your work on the side of a cruise ship?
A: It’s a nice experience. It’s like, it’s a big wow. I rolled my eyes – I can’t believe it.
Q: You’re a vegan. Do you feel as an artist you have a responsibility to promote veganism?
A: No, I don’t do it as an artist. It’s something I believe in, I’m very serious about it. I think it’s very healthy for people to be vegan. I think it’s like a commodity – I love it, you know.
Q: You’ve had a front row seat to pop culture in this country since the 1960s. Are there any trends that stand out?
A: We are living in an unbelievably creative country. There is so much media, hundreds of television stations, radio stations – so much media. It’s just plugged in all over the world. It’s amazing. It’s international. It’s wild.
Q: Have you remained close with the Beatles?
A: I still (stay in touch) from time to time. Not in the last few months, but every once in a while I am in touch with some of those guys. Ringo, for sure, and Paul. Yeah. I’ve done projects with Ringo.
Q: You paint the Statue of Liberty every year. How does she change year to year?
A: Sometimes she’s large, sometimes she’s small. Sometimes she’s three-dimensional. It’s a symbolic thing, I love it. I do it different color ways. I’m just being creative around it when I do it, you know?
Q: What does she mean to you?
A: She’s a tremendous symbol for this country, the Statue of Liberty, and she represents so much. It’s unbelievable.
Q: You’ve painted seven presidents; are you looking forward to painting the next president? (NOTE: This interview took place before Election Day.)
A: Yeah, I love painting everybody. I love it. I paint every single day – people, presidents, just movie stars, unknown people. I just paint all the time.
“Peter Max – Back by Popular Demand”
The Mahler Fine Art, 228 Fayetteville St., Raleigh
Opening reception: 6-8 p.m. Friday
Exhibition dates: Nov. 11-20
More info at 919-896-7503 or themahlerfineart.com