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Featured Artist: Peter Scala

The Gallery Guide (Charleston SC), Fall 2005

Peter Scala's paintings are a delightful blend of intellectual whimsy and professional skill. He is a surrealist. His figures are often dream-like, contorted, released from gravity, odd—and fascinating.

While the influence of Picasso, Matisse, Miro, Klee and other modernist masters is clear, his creative energy and forceful imagination are very much his own. Peter starts each day with spontaneous sketches or doodles, and he has accumulated thousands of them. His finished paintings are often elaborations of one or another of these impulsive seeds. Titles he has added hint broadly at the nature of the individual painting they describe and reflect the wit that permeates his work. For example: "Throwing Apples and Feathers at the Moon," "Darkness Wounded Waits in Greentree's Shadow for the Healing Light to be Free," and "Woman at Dawn Wearing Pearls After the Best Night of Her Life."

One of his greatest strengths is color. Peter has worked most with egg tempera, which demands painstaking development, but in recent months also has been using oil. The subtlety and luminosity he achieves are remarkable. Egg tempera, especially, can produce what Peter describes as a profoundly attractive cool, soft glow. Many of his blues are limpid, his greens zesty and his reds hot, while his earth tones are as earthly as mud or dusty grass.

Peter is largely self-taught, though he grew up surrounded by the vocabulary and smells of his vocation. His father was a New York artist, primarily a cubist, who, at one point, taught at the Art Students League. Peter was born in Greenwich Village and raised in a Hudson Street studio, and, at one time, Franz Klein lived next door. He took art classes at grade school PS 41 on Greenwich Avenue, and, during that time, won a citywide poster contest.

Peter's adult life took him different directions and into a vast world of experience. He and his wife, Pat, served with the Peace Corps in Zanzibar. Pat then joined CARE International, and Peter traveled with her through North America, the Far East, South Asia, Europe and Africa. For more than 20 years, he set up studios in Calcutta, Zanzibar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Djibouti, Kenya and Angola. His experience in the third world has given him strong humanitarian impulses and a memory full of colorful, sometimes joyful and sometimes threatening scenes, which serve his art well.

Peter and Pat chose Charleston "out of a hat" three years ago. His work has appeared in several group exhibitions and galleries here. He has also had solo exhibitions at Charleston's Fine Art Collector (2003), the North Charleston City Gallery (2003) and Hatfield 2 Fine Arts (2005).

Peter is prolific. The word "Factory" hangs on his studio door, and he is often involved with several projects at once, moving from one to the other according to the mood of the moment. A finished painting, especially one done in egg tempera, can take up to six months.

He is a sophisticate with a body of work full of humor and pain. No one else in contemporary Charleston's artistic circles is painting with such a nimble imagination and sure professional touch. Take the time to see and absorb his achievement.
For more information, visit Portfolio Art Gallery or LowCountry Artists, Ltd.



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