Peter Opheim’s works ask the viewer serious questions. Is there a difference between imagination and reality in art? And what can we learn about our humanity from imaginary beings?
His paintings are a result of the figures from his imagination and include small monsters, plants, or animals in the form of sculptures in clay.
We’re taking a deeper dive into the work of this exploratory artist.
The Story of Peter Opheim
Peter Opheim was born in Landstuhl, Germany, in 1961. His family worked for the U.S. Air Force and soon relocated to Minnesota. Growing up in the Midwest, Peter received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Saint Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, in 1983. Before that, Opheim attended Chiang Mai University in Thailand.
Opheim’s career began with abstract painting before shifting to the bold, figurative style that allowed him to explore the potential for narrative. His first solo exhibition includes a body of work that imagines bulging characters that are both familiar and foreign, charming and monstrous, approachable and peculiar.
In their sculptural forms, the figures take on aspects of the human shape without a straightforward narrative.
Peter’s first abstract paintings were unsatisfying, but he didn’t have anything to replace it. So sitting down with a piece of paper, he used the conceptual work to create imaginary beings. Over several years, the abstraction disappeared, and just the figure remained.
For Opheim, painting is an alchemical transformation of materials into art. He layers his work heavily with thick paint, in a tension of colors and subjective strokes. The results shimmer with vibrance as Peter works with palette knives and brushes to project a multidimensional vision.
His work has appeared in galleries and art fairs in groups and as a single artist. These locations include North America, Europe, Asia, and numerous public and private collections. He has received grants and awards from The New York Foundation for the Arts, The Pollack/Krasner Foundation, and The Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Additionally, he’s been featured in publications such as Juxtapoz, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and New York Magazine.
Today Peter lives with his wife and two children in Taos, New Mexico.
What Inspires Peter Opheim’s Art?
Imagination is Opheim’s primary inspiration. Consciousness, mindfulness, spirituality, and, most importantly, the human condition drive his art.
The inspiration for Peter’s paintings comes from the sculptures he creates from clay. First pressed with his fingers, he interprets the figure with a brush on canvas. The artist feels that each piece should be different, express liveliness, and convey a presence of spirit.
Opheim’s surprising and impossible characters offer a dramatic exploration of the tragedy and beauty of humanity.
What Are Some of Peter Opheim’s Art Pieces?
Peter’s art is abstract and refers to and evokes living forms like animals or faces in clouds.
His paintings are both playful and nightmarish due to his interest in the fears and fantasies of childhood. Yet his cartoonish imagery also suggests hidden desires and adult anxieties.
A good example of Peter’s artistic style is the piece entitled Owl. Created in 2015 and first shown in 2019 at the 19th annual Scope Art Show in New York City, it’s a playful yet monstrous figure in the artist’s bulbous, abstract vision.
The piece was done in oil paint on canvas and measures 65 x 55 inches. The painting hangs in the Askeri Gallery in Moscow, Russia.
In a piece from 2020, the style the artist used on this piece is a little darker and not as abstract. The characters are a deer and a camper. The alternate title for it is Survival Axe, and that tool can be seen, along with a lantern at the feet of the humanoid.
Measuring 75 x 75 inches and painted in oils on canvas, this artwork is available for sale through D’Stassi Art.
This piece, Thursday, is part of Peter’s Have a Good Day series. Done in pastel colors, it depicts what appears to be a stuffed toy with two smaller ones perched on its lap. The feet of the larger figure seem to be faces as well.
Thursday was also showcased at the New York Scope Art Show in 2019 and is painted in oil on canvas, measuring 65 x 55 inches.
Where Can I See Peter Opheim’s Art?
Peter’s Instagram and Facebook pages contain extensive galleries showcasing his art. His website is a great place to see the evolution and history of his work. The artist is active and regularly displays his work in temporary exhibitions.
You can purchase his art online, and the contact link on his website lists the art galleries worldwide where you can buy his art.
In all these pieces, Opheim navigates a jungle of themes blending youth and adulthood to address concepts people often prefer to keep separate. Painted in loose, sometimes aggressive brushstrokes, the scale of some pieces can intimidate.
What’s cute at six inches tall turns monstrous on a human scale. Opheim invites the viewer to balance the adorable with the confrontational with his provocative art.
Outside Folk Gallery
You can explore more folk, street, and outsider art in our personal collection at Outside Folk Art. We’re celebrating these creatives and giving voice to rising black, Native, immigrant, and working mother artisans.
We’ll also be offering pop-up shows and collaborations with small museums, so be sure to follow us to discover the where and when!