Peter D. Gerakaris is an American interdisciplinary artist whose kaleidoscopic paintings, installations, and origami sculptures engage nature-culture themes.
His distinctive “Post-Pop Botanic” style presents a postnatural vision of nature as if diffracted through a pop-cultural lens – a space where nature and culture converge. Engaging motifs such as poisonous flowers, beauty vs. toxicity, our fractured relationship with the natural environment, and the limits of human perception, Peter employs a vibratory palette, kaleidoscopic geometry, and meticulous detail.
He says, “my work is also deeply inspired by extensive travel and residencies in China, Central America, the Caribbean, and West Africa. Having absorbed a myriad of global influences, music, iconography, and perspectives, my work attempts to engage and remix these motifs like a ‘Visual DJ’ spinning a kaleidoscopic mix.”
Peter’s work is showcased in permanent institutional collections including the National Museum of Wildlife Art (Jackson, WY), the U.S. Department of State Art in Embassies Program in Libreville, Gabon (Africa), the Schomburg Center, the Waskowmium, the Warwick Hotel (Bahamas), and Citibank, in addition to a spectrum of private collections such as Patrick McMullan, William Lim, and Beth Rudin DeWoody. His work has been exhibited around the globe at the Bronx Museum, Wave Hill, Daniel Weinberg Gallery, Chinese Contemporary (Beijing), various art fairs such as Scope and the Doors (Seoul), iSolAIR (Cape Verde Islands, West Africa), the National Academy of Fine Arts, and the Mykonos Biennale, while also being featured in publications like Architectural Digest, the Financial Times, and W Magazine.
How did you find yourself in the arts – or how did the arts find you?
Being an artist chooses you, not the other way around. Both of my parents are artists, so leading a “normal” life was out of the question.
Who has been a big influence in your career?
Unquestionably my family, plus I have been fortunate to connect with fantastic mentors and educators along the way. Shortly after graduating college, I worked with Milton Glaser and received career mentorship from Jackie Battenfield at the Bronx Museum of the Arts – not to mention having soaked up a plurality of culture during travels. Travel is an addictive habit that feeds my work.
When you hit a creative block, how do you move forward?
It’s sometimes a matter of pushing through a problem, working harder, and being more self-disciplined than you had anticipated. Making art is not a stroll through the park; it’s more like a grueling marathon. Sometimes you have to look at your own work upside down – literally and figuratively! When all else fails, I get my head out of the studio. That can be anything from gardening, skiing, and biking, to tapping into the space between consciousness and dreams.
What legacy do you hope your work creates / What message do you hope it communicates?
My work addresses Nature-Culture themes with a particular style I hope has relevance to contemporary society. I also try to execute everything in a way that will both physically and conceptually hold up for generations – especially when creating public art. While it’s tempting to dream about inspiring future generations of artists or wishing that one’s work might serve as a “societal mirror”, those worries are best left to the historians and conservators (if they even end up caring). All that said, it would mean nothing more to me than to create artworks that become family heirlooms.
What has been an important lesson you have learned during your career?
It is important to know when to say “no.”
What journey are you on right now?
I recently began a new “Icon Series” which riffs off the Cretan-School of iconographic painting. I am building traditional wooden panels from scratch, then gold-leafing and painting everything by hand. It is extra meaningful to me since my ancestors come from Crete. In this series, however, I’m transposing the traditional figures with currently endangered species – such as the Spotted Owl – and have plans to extend the series into aquatic creatures. I recently began scuba diving and it grants access to a virtually unexplored world beneath the surface.
What role does travel play in your life?
Travels plays an immense role and is my primary luxury. For me, the need to experience other cultures, perspectives, and landscapes is as essential as breathing air.
What was a journey that shaped or impacted you?
Recent diving and snorkeling with my family in St. Lucia provided a sense of weightlessness while hovering amidst underwater volcanic and coral formations, all teeming with life.
How do you define success?
It depends entirely on the individual. Personally, I think it’s crucial to honestly ask: am I happy doing what I’m doing, do I have creative freedom, and am I living to my potential? I feel incredibly fortunate to be doing what I love!