Meet Peter Stankiewicz! He’s a sculptor who knows exactly how to mix form and color. His table-top sized sculptures distill the giant, commanding forms of outdoor steel sculpture art into playful, exciting creations. This week we would like to introduce you to the bookish charms, artistic inspirations, and unique interests of the artist himself!
Peter Stankiewicz, Horse, 2013 and Alexander Calder, The Great Sail, 1966
LIVES & WORKS IN: Lives in Manhattan, works in Brooklyn
OCCUPATION: Sculptor, Home improvement
ON THE CLOCK: If I’m not on a job for a client, I commute by bike to my studio late in the morning, and work till early evening. The studio is a very quiet environment where I can focus on the sculpture with no distractions.
YOUR ART WEEKEND: My weekends aren’t too different from weekdays. I go to museums occasionally, or galleries if I hear about a particular show. The Strand is a good place to browse art books. A number of my classmates from UMass ended up as artists here in the city, so we hang out when our schedules permit.
Peter Stankiewicz, Boy, 2014
ALBUM: Dido and Aeneas, the 17th century opera by Henry Purcell. The music has a very lively but firm structure; it has wit, drama, and emotion. It’s a lot more entertaining than Virgil’s original story, which we struggled with in high school Latin class.
FILM: “Aelita”, a Soviet science fiction movie from the 20’s. Fantastic Martian costumes and set designs in Constructivist or Suprematist style. Black and white silent movies are much more dreamlike; you feel like you’re getting away from today’s reality.
ARTIST: Max Beckmann. His work remains strange even after decades of looking at it. He was able to translate the world into an extremely charged and intense language. And there’s always an implied story, even in the calmer works, a door through which a story could enter. He never did abstract work but abstract artists can learn a lot from him I think.
BOOK: “Milosz”, the recent biography of the poet and essayist Czeslaw Milosz. He lived through many of the dualities of the past century: East and West, religion and materialism, communism and capitalism, tradition and revolution. A scholar, teacher, and independent thinker.
EATS: I eat a lot of bread and cheese. There is no cheese I won’t try. Love pasta too.
Peter Stankiewicz, Royal Couple, 2014 and Balloons, 2011
LATEST PURCHASE: An Iwata airbrush, which I use to paint the sculptures.
GUILTY PLEASURE: I buy more books than I have time to read. Some things are too interesting to pass up, even though I have stacks of books lined up already.
GRADE IN ART CLASS: I probably got a lot of A’s. There’s a certain young age when your vision can be very fine and pure, like the clear sound of a bell. I think I was able to express that once or twice, in art and writing in school. And I was interested, so I applied myself.
36 HOURS (Where you would travel for 36 hours): I’d visit Western Mass, where I grew up. The hills, rivers, forests, towns, all more or less human scale, ‘relatable’. Good food, music, plenty of art to see. The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown is especially interesting now- there are new reflecting pools and meadows to walk around on the grounds. You can do birdwatching there as well as look at the art.
Your sculptures often take organic forms and give them a sense of imagination or personality. What inspires you to combine these colors and shapes in such a captivating way?
It’s a synthesis of the art, industrial, and natural forms I’ve been looking at my whole life, plus my own approach to clarity, economy, and perhaps wit, in the compositions. Color takes me a bit of thought, since there’s an impulse to make monochromatic sculptures, and just let the three dimensional shape tell the story. But color is always an ‘attractive nuisance’ - to use a term from city zoning - so I put it in pretty often. The color boundaries can make a commentary on the physical shapes.
You work in both 2D drawings and 3D sculptures. How is the thought process of creating a drawing different than what goes into a sculpture?
Drawing is more uncertain. The gesture is a one time event that can’t be predicted or replicated. So the quality of the drawing can be more spontaneous and surprising perhaps, if it goes right. But with the sculpture the material is, in a way, a very reliable partner. Certain aspects, like the sense of gesture, can be controlled and reworked in a deliberate way if necessary. It’s usually easier for me to approach the sculpture than anything else. But drawing without reasons or expectations will always be valuable.