Pete invited me into his frigid studio, where I decided we could not have a relaxed conversation. We headed to the warmest spot in the building, which happened to be...the bathroom. Photos + interview after the jump:
"A Black Cloud Above Them"
"Big Purple with Pink"
"Shaking Pink Behind Two Lines"
"Like A Whale or Something"
EC: Where did you grow up?
PF: I grew up in Lombard, IL..which is a Western suburb of Chicago.
EC: When did you decide that art was your "thing?"
PF: When I was young, I would always ask my dad to draw dinosaurs for me so I could color them in. Then I started drawing pictures of dinosaurs for myself and coloring them in..and it just progressed from there (hah.)
It wasn't until Sophomore year of high school that I took an art class. Well no, thats not true. It was in middle school. I took a class at a local art .. well, it was like a gallery that doubled as a place you could take a weekend class. I took a weekend class there..it was the kind of place where they teach you abstraction by telling you to paint a square..which is like, actually super insightful..but uh, y'know, then like paint a floating circle next to it...and its...ABSTRACTION. So yeah..I took an acrylic painting class there, and it wasn't until the middle of high school that I started taking art classes. By the end of high school it was the only thing I was taking..I had like four art classes. I knew I was applying to art school, and I really only applied to The School of the Art Institute of Chicago..
EC: And then you went to SAIC, but you dropped out. Why?
PF: Why did I drop out? I really liked .... three instructors. Maybe four. Everyone else seemed really self-serving. I hated my peers because everybody..while I genuinely don't think everyone was acting, there were plenty of fucking art school show-offs that I didn't respond to. I didnt respond to them in class, and I definitely spoke out in critiques.
EC: You didn't keep it to yourself.
PF: I did not keep my mouth shut.
So uh..ultimately I went there..I enjoyed my time, albeit a short period of time. I left because
I was working for two artists at the time, one of which was a former teacher of mine. They suggested that I drop out..and they both teach at the school! They said something like, "You're clearly not in it..you could be doing something better..you dont need the instruction..you're still learning, but you're learning by yourself, so you should just go. You should drop out." So I did! It was an incredible choice. I will always look back on that choice and them helping me make that choice as like a very good thing. A very positive thing in my life.
EC: I think some people who read this will be interested in why you dropped out of SAIC..I think it's a common discussion there.
PF: Yeah, a lot of people drop out there. I wonder if a lot of people dropped out for the same reasons, though. A big portion of the reason I dropped out was because I didn't want to be spending a bunch of money out of my own pocket on something I didn't believe it. and I did not believe in it.
EC: Ok..about your work. One thing I notice about the paintings is the limited color palette. All of them seem to be existing within a similar palette.
PF: Y'know, I really like limited palates. More than anything, I like the way they look. I'm very attracted to the limited palate.. and I think thats really where that starts. The colors that I'm using are more based around what colors I like. I mean really, it's just a preference. It doesn't sound great..but its honest. I have been branching out from the limited palette lately. I've tried to really shake a lot of what I've done previously, and I think that I've been able to. Um but yeah, I've started making things less..like..not that they were ever monochromatic.. but ..I've started adding more dynamic colors..using color in a more dynamic way.
EC: I have to bring up "The Squiggly Line"..thats sort of the Peter Frederiksen way..The Squiggly Line.
You often use cartoon references..even if they're not really direct. I read The Squiggly Line in general is sort of.. reminiscent of cartoons or comic books...?
PF: I really like the squiggly line. It's something that I've used a lot, and I feel like I continue to use it in different ways. Different enough for me to feel like I'm still exploring, at least. And yeah, it is very cartoonish. The first one that I ever did was this giant, like..it looked like a cloud of dust..and it was called "Big Fight" There were squiggly lines that went around it..it was like a cartoonish big fight where you'd imagine seeing arms and feet and lightning bolts coming out of it. I mean, I just really liked the way that they were done..and it was very much like a fluid, full-bodied motion in making those. It felt good to do that. Before I started doing paintings like those, I worked smaller and a with a lot of detail..and detail kind of bugs the fuck out of me now. The lines ..the squiggly lines..are something that I can follow with my entire body and go back over and really make that line..I can detail the line without having to pay too much attention. For lack of a better word, I FEEL it the whole way through.If it's a complete circle, actually completing that circle..going over it a few times, is a really nice gestural thing for me. I really enjoy doing it. I definitely feel more connected to the paintings that involve these sort of big ..just these big marks. And I think they look pretty.
EC: About the titles. I notice that your works are always titled, usually descriptive or humorous in nature.
PF: I have always thought that titling things is very important. I don't know where exactly I got that. But having a good, strong title that can almost stand by itself is so important to me. Whether that be humorous, or descriptive, or non sequitur ..which is rarely the case..but uh..I mean, I've done it..heh..it's part of it. It's a very very important part of it. I feel like if there's a weak title on something, you're missing half of it. You're missing like maybe a core idea, or a core element in a piece. It's actually funny, because I started writing creatively a lot more, and took a break from painting for a while. I felt very much like titling those was less important, because theyre comprised of words..so I usually ended up using a very small portion of what I'd written as the title for that. Not having something visual to compliment it made me feel like a title was less important ..maybe I'm making work that needs titles...maybe that's it.
EC: Does it frustrate you if you walk into a gallery and see a piece that doesn't give you much information visually or otherwise, and it doesn't have a title?
PF: It feels lazy..well, I don't know.
EC: It's just not your thing.
PF: Yeah. I feel like, y'know, you could title it. You could.
EC: Well, one could argue that artwork doesn't necessarily need a title. It's a painting..its a visual language, you get what you get from it.
PF: Yeah, but having the word "Untitled" next to it is just as much part of the visual. People are going to look at the placard. If there's not a placard, and there's not a title, then maybe I'll accept it as an excuse.
EC: Mmm. Text. So I haven't noticed much text in your paintings, but you do quite a few sketches of just text... or sketches involving text. Maybe I just haven't seen enough of your work to have seen examples of text in your paintings..?
PF: I've only really done two paintings recently that involve text in the actual painting. I wanted to try that. I really wanted to see if it would work. It was difficult. Anybody who does text paintings..they've got something that I don't. I think that I am just too messy. I can't make it look neat enough. I think that I can execute it in a sketch form maybe more successfully. The little two or four word combinations that I put together in a sketch, I don't know if they would necessarily translate into a painting. I kind of like it as this little thing. Like a little comic..or something that's always ever going to exist just in a sketchbook. I like it being exactly that, exactly there..whatever I was thinking about at the time, whatever it was that i was considering... just having it there, so I remember. I guess yeah.. the text in my sketchbooks is just so i remember.
EC: Bad memory.