Painter Brian Peterson’s love for art, beauty, community, and all mankind has inspired years of striking, vivid portraits and murals around Southern California, the nation, and even the UK. With stylized, idealizing geometry, and a heavenly palette, Peterson’s transformation from a talented and enthusiastic automotive designer to an active and in-demand painter and muralist, has took a path of personal inspiration in a series of portraits his unhoused neighbors in Santa Ana. He founded the nonprofit Faces of Santa Ana to parlay the series into a philanthropic vehicle for the cause; today its national profile as Faces of Mankind has pursued projects and exhibitions in cities from Riverside to Detroit, Miami, and more. Along the way, these same roots of community culture have sprouted a robust mural career from the charitable to the high-end commercial and activated public spheres. Last month, Peterson unveiled a new mural which in many ways encapsulates all the vectors of his practice, Share the Abundance at food justice nonprofit Food Forward’s Produce Pit Stop warehouse. Its radiant visual narrative is inspired by the bounty of the region’s resources and the thousands of volunteers and partners who have contributed to Food Forward’s historic hunger relief work.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
BRIAN PETERSON: I first realized I was an artist when my fourth grade teacher called my parents and informed them how I was always drawing during her lessons, and not paying attention to what she was teaching. She told them, “I think your son Brian may be an artist, you should put him in art classes.”
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
My work is about connecting people. My murals aim to tell stories in the neighborhoods they are located in. Furthermore, my project called Faces of Santa Ana connects our neighbors experiencing homelessness to their greater community with expressive vibrant portraits.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
If I wasn’t an artist, I would return back to my former career as an automotive designer. I worked as a car designer for 15 years before stepping out and pursuing my art full time. I love the art and sculptural aspect that exists in vehicle design.
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
Yes. From middle school all the way through college, I was in specialized art schools. Ultimately I graduated from the Cleveland institute of Art with a bachelor’s degree in Automotive Design.
When was your first show?
My first major art show was in a museum in Anaheim called Muzeo. The work featured portraits from my nonprofit exhibition called Faces of Mankind. We paint portraits of our neighbors experiencing homelessness, sell the art, and then use the money to help them pursue dreams, goals, and ambitions.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show or project?
My most recent project was Share the Abundance—a large-scale mural painted in a food distribution warehouse for Food Forward’s Produce Pit Stop in L.A. Food Forward exists to help alleviate food insecurity in Southern California’s most vulnerable communities.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show or work with?
Vincent van Gogh. I love his use of color and texture.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?
When I work, I primarily listen to worship music. It takes me to a place of peace while installing confidence within my soul that I was born to create.
Website and social media handles, please!
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