Cleon Peterson’s cruel images of violence assault our senses, yet his goal is not to shock but to dissuade the negative world he sees unfurling around him. War, rape, distrust and dishonor are depicted in classical landscapes framed as if an 18th century oil. Raised in Seattle, Cleon’s mother, a former ballerina, pushed his talent to great lengths, encouraging Cleon to get his GED at age 14 and start attending art college. Brilliant but addicted, Cleon struggled, eventually ending up in a criminally ordered asylum, where he got clean and started to define his unique vision.
Exhibition, Cleon Peterson: Poison at the Library Street Collective in Detroit, Michigan, 1260 Library Street, Detroit, MI, from August 29th, 2015
“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”
What are the major themes you pursue in your work?
I am currently investigating an ambiguous, constructed, and animated space that utilizes open, abstracted imagery in order to bypass or delay immediate recognition and access a state of suspended wonder. Central to this is the creation of painting as palimpsest through process, negation, and reinterpretation in the service of exploring the tension between the explicable and inexplicable, whether it be celestial, spiritual, the natural world, or other.