While walking down Forrest Street during this past summer, I’d often see an open garage door. Inside was a man in bright shorts with a large, black beard with many paintbrushes. He’d usually be standing near a wall working on a tapestry filled with fantastical nude creatures.
On occasion I’d stop by to see how they were coming along. Sometimes he’d be meticulously working in the borders. Once, while repeating a floral pattern he turned to me and said, “I can’t believe I started doing this to myself. These borders take a lot.”
“They’re worth it though.”
“Yeah, I’m finding things along the way that enhance the paintings.”
We chatted for a while and I asked if I could record a conversation.
Sean: What brought you here?
Pedro: Well I grew in a small town and there wasn’t much there for a painter of dirty drawings. I wound up moving into English Kills Gallery pretty soon after moving here. That was how I met people around here. I was painting there and I got involved with the gallery and started showing with them.
Sean: Was your work similar to what you’re doing now?
Pedro: No at that time I was doing these rough – crude drawings with crayons. This series started in the past four years.
I was in the hospital and they removed my ball, my testicle. I painted on the bed sheet there. It was sort of in this style too, I had a pen and watercolors and put the color on top of the drawings.
I was in there for two weeks and was bored. I wanted to do something so I started painting. When I got out, I started looking for a fabric that was similar to the bed sheets so I could keep the kind of washy, watercolor-and-pen style.
Sean: What happened to the sheet?
Pedro: I took it.
Sean: Would you say that having your testicle removed was the thing that changed your art or was it having all that time in the hospital to yourself?
Pedro: It made me think about things a bit… It definitely influenced me. It did something to me, but I don’t know what… Maybe it was my bad ball and I had to lose it.
My art was already slightly perverted so it went along with it. Sort of streamlined the mythology [laughs].
Sean: When did you start showing with English Kills?
Pedro: Maybe two years after they opened. I moved in and was just around for a while.
Sean: How many shows have you been in, in the past year?
Pedro: I don’t know. A lot of group shows. I haven’t done a solo show in a while. This studio project is sort of a show, but it was also a studio space that I was getting. It was for Bushwick Open Studios and it opened for that.
Sean: How long do you expect to be here?
Pedro: Until October. I’d love to keep it longer. But it’s such an open space with the garage door that it may not be the most ideal space in the winter.
Sean: With the garage door open, a lot of people probably swing by. Does it affect your work?
Pedro: I love having people come by. It’s a nice distraction for a minute. People will just kind of wander by and come in. That’s how we did this interview today.
I like that. I enjoy it a lot.
Sean: I saw that Loren Munk stopped by.
Pedro: Yeah, he’s cool. He stopped by, checked out what I was doing and took a picture. Then moseyed along on his bike.
Sean: The first time I saw your work in person was during the last Beat Nite. There was a twenty – or so – foot long tapestry hanging in English Kills. How did you tackle that piece?
Pedro: That was an old painting from a solo show at the gallery. I was using a friend’s studio and unrolled the whole thing in it, because he had just moved in and wasn’t completely utilizing it yet. I painted that one in about a week, I didn’t have much time to do it.
I wanted to see what would happen if I did a huge scroll. What it would look like.
Sean: Did you put the rods in that piece to make it a proper scroll?
Pedro: Yeah. They’ve all had the rods. Now I’ve started putting slightly more elaborate pieces on them. Adding borders to them. They’re becoming slightly more decorative in places. But keeping with the imagery I’ve developed.
Sean: What influences your imagery?
Pedro: Artists I’ve looked at a lot are people like Rubens and Gauguin. I like a lot of Hindu art. Eastern and Western art.
It’s always the figure though. I’m influenced by the figure. I’m trying to dig into myself.
When I began this series I only painted flesh and figure. I began adding elements like fabric and flowers over time. The incorporation process is slow and it lets me pace myself in adding new things. It keeps me interested in the style.
I don’t know what will come next. Maybe dying the fabric eventually. I’m trying to keep myself interested.
Sean: How long is your attention span?
Pedro: Pretty long actually. Maybe you can get an idea of how long by looking at the borders. It takes a lot of patience to complete one of those.
When I did the large piece that you were talking about earlier, it might have been the first piece that I added pencil to. Before that I was just applying pen directly to the canvas. I wasn’t drawing anything out before hand. It was an automatic process.
I always knew that I was drawing a figure. So I could always go back to that in my mind. If I felt like I had made a mistake then I could just work it into the figure.
Sean: How do you deal with mistakes now?
Pedro: The same way. I use more pencil now to figure out where my lines will go. The pen isn’t directing me so much anymore, I’m using the pencil to direct it.
All of the pieces come from my life. I’m trying to make my own mythology of my life. They’re not really political or social, it’s all just my inner… you know, my shit. I have to keep a steady head and keep doing what I’m doing.
None of these pieces are even for any shows. They’re for imaginary shows that I like to create in my mind. They eventually end up somewhere.
You usually only get a month’s notice before a group show. And a solo show maybe three months. So I have to keep working on the imaginary shows.