Gallery On Greene
606 Greene Street
Key West, FL 33040
PETER VEY Key West Artist
In the first half of the last century, there existed a number of artists who came to be called American scene painters or American Regionalists. The best-known representatives of that trend included Grant Wood, George Bellows, Reginald Marsh, and Thomas Hart Benton. What these artists shared in common was a love of the everyday and a delight in the people and landscape of their immediate environs- impulses that stem directly from the great French Impressionists. These are the strains that animate the work of Peter Vey who makes his home in West Palm Beach, Florida, and has been directly influenced by the tropical seductions of Florida, the Bahamas, and the Carribean. Aside from the abundant natural beauty; lush vegetation, white-sand beaches, sparkling water, and breathtaking skies the region boasts some of the most intriguing architecture anywhere in the form of the Addison Mizner estates of Palm Beach to the early Conch houses of Key West. These are the pleasures of tropical living that Vey, a regional painter in the best sense of the term, celebrates in canvases that are as dazzling as his surroundings.
Curiously, Vey came to his subject and technique through a roundabout route. He grew up in northern New Jersey, close enough to the city to visit its outstanding museums with some frequency,and visited Florida often because his grandparents were residents of Palm Beach. After studying art and art history at Duke University, he spent several years during the 1980s working in an abstract expressionist approach somewhat reminiscent of Helen Frankenthaler and other second- generation members of the New York School eventually reaching a dead end with the kind of stain paintings he'd been pursuing.
But what did stay with him was a love of the spontaneity that makes his realist work so strikingly fresh. Though he now uses primed canvases instead of raw canvas and works with a palette knife, quick decisions are still essential to his process. Vey uses only one tool, an artists mixing knife, but coaxes it to yield both the finest of lines and flat expanses of pure hue. He begins by making a loose sketch, to nail down the composition, and then builds up a picture area by area, much like the Renaissance fresco painters, who also needed to work quickly because their efforts would dry by the end of a day. His larger works are completed in the studio, sometimes using photographs as an aide- memoire, but he also works outdoors from the bed of his vintage truck, making quick sketches that help him capture the light on the spot.
The artist has spoken of Winslow Homer as an influence, and in his scenes of water and sky and boats there is a similar talent for capturing the bright washed-out light of the tropics. Light was also the primary concern of the Impressionists, Monet in particular, and it was this group of painters that first discovered that shadows are never really gray or black but can be composed of tones of dark blue or green and broken down to animate the surface in a way unknown to previous artists.
To those who might accuse him of being too much of a "feel-good" painter, too cheerful to be really serious, Vey ,who is as laid-back and upbeat as his paintings, has an easy but apt response: "there's plenty of art that throws you into an introspective tailspin", he says. "I like to celebrate life. That's important to me."