Note: Peter Cerreta new show opens tonight, Sept. 17, at Salvo Art Project, with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. $10 cover charge. 313 Old Brick Road, Bunnell.
By JJ Graham
It’s Tuesday night, 5 o’clock. Our kids are rolling in for their weekly after-school art class. We have just finished hanging Peter Ceretta’s show entitled “From Here To There,” a collection of 29 works including sculptures. I’m a firm believer that children are art’s best critics (how can they not be? They are themselves art yet unspoiled by adulthood’s conventions.) If this statement is true, judging by the excitement and the sparkles in the eyes of our young artists, I’d say Peter somehow and yet again triumphs as most younger men could not.
At 84, Peter Ceretta continues to create works of art that are fresh, whimsical, poignant, mischievous, daring, slightly cubist in execution, youthful in their exploration of color and form, ageless in their immediacy. He does this at a staggering pace that makes the word prolific seem like a slouch in language’s workforce.
As an artist Peter Cerreta has my respect. As a teacher he has my admiration. As a man he has my heart’s affection. When he approached Petra Iston and me about doing a show, he expressed awareness of his mortality. “He had,” as Scott Fitzgerald put it, “reached an age where death no longer has the quality of ghastly surprise,” and so said this this might well be his last show. For the sake of those of us who love art, and love being in the company of those who are inspired to create, I hope his concern is far from true (he’s still five years Michelangelo’s junior, when Michelangelo finally decided to make like Adam on the Sistine ceiling). And age has never seemed to be more than a crease in Peter’s career. But with artists, whatever their age, I’ve learned that there’s nothing like taking advantage of the present, of their presents to us.
A Cerreta show is a gift that never ceases to unwrap.
To prospective readers I say, if you’re interested in knowing Peter’s accolades and his educational background, just visit his website. Trust me, he has the kind of pedigree as an artist that makes me look like I just broke out of the dog pound. Here I simply want to be present and speak about the Peter that I see in front of me and whose work I’ve admired for many years. To let my eyes roam over the work and be enchanted for a moment.
There is the mysterious man being consoled, the yawned-out night-capped, homeward-bound retiree, the Raven-chased bull, the pudgy overshadowed queen, the frisky burglar, the sultry vixen and her blue collar lover, the startled warhorse behind the paraplegic general, a strange bearded gentleman wrestling a spooked out ram, the Pied Piper serenading a trio of rats as Quasimodo tries to duck out on the other side of the room. And there’s me. I’m presently stuck in the middle, trying to decipher it all, as I hang out next to the mutated quadruple horned shaman.
You need a shaman if you’re going to try to dive into the menagerie–the heavenly inferno–of Peter’s mind. On the other hand you could just have Peter tell you. He would. He’ll be there tonight, though you don’t necessarily to have him nearby to hear the tale of his paintings. As a painter Peter is a storyteller. Not the sort of obscure teller of tales that leave you scratching you head and wondering what exactly you’re looking at, but a storyteller after Sheherazade, the beguiler of the Thousand and One Nights to whom every twist–every stroke of the brush, in other words–is a new plot, every color a metaphor, every perspective a new perspective, often on a familiar theme.
As a viewer though I find myself falling in love with the gaps, half hazardously filling them with my own mental meanderings. You too will find your place in every Cerreta painting. It’s what his works do: they invite you in. They seduce.
Ezra Croft wrote on my Facebook page just this week, “people need art on their walls. They don’t need Bed, Bath, and Beyond dentist-office art. They need weird stuff.” Looking at Peter’s work I couldn’t agree more. Not only is it affordable, but, in a concession to the floss of our consumer culture, and for a limited time only, Salvo Art Project is offering a money-back guarantee that it will make the damn thing (your wall) less boring.
Peter, I want you and the reader to know what a jewel you are in our growing community of artists. Peter, I could spend a day writing about you, but I’ll be as blunt and colorful as your paintings are: You’re good. You’re an inspiration to us all. You’re not just making art. You’re making artifacts. One day I predict in an automated world, when the human hand no longer lays brush to canvas, people walking into your Lascaux mancave of a world will ponder the objects you made. You’re going to perplex the hell out of them even as you continue to give them joy then, as you do us now. Bravo my friend.
JJ Graham is the co-owner of Salvo Art Gallery at Nature Scapes, and curator of the Peter Cerreta show, which opens tonight, Sept. 17, with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. $10 cover charge. 313 Old Brick Road, Bunnell.