A R T I S T B I O
P E T E R O P H E I M
Peter Opheim is a German-born American painter currently working between New York and New Mexico. After 25 years of acclaim as an abstract painter, Opheim experienced an epiphanous shift in his approach to his art. “I didn’t want to paint things that had already been painted; I wanted to paint things that I hadn’t seen before, things that didn’t exist except in my imagination,” he said, leading him to an extraordinary dual process.
His ongoing body of work is a intimate study of portraiture and still-life. His subjects are creatures of his own imagination, familiar in their crude juvenile forms, built from clay and then carefully rendered in oil paint.
Opheim’s work confronts the viewer with lovingly painted creatures with colorful, bulging features, disjointed body parts and various skewed orifices. Opheim’s paintings navigate the merging of childhood and adulthood – concepts that we ordinarily prefer to keep separate – to unsettling effects. While charming and whimsical from afar, they shatter any idea of fantastical nostalgia with subjects that are grotesque and mutated upon further inspection. Evolving beyond the saccharine charm that these creatures might evoke standing as sculptures, three inches tall, Opheim’s large scale paintings instead embody complex notions that, as put by Anise Stevens of Artillery Mag “speculate on the inner workings of the pre-adolescent’s mind, navigating adult territory with only a limited knowledge base grounded in fantasy.”