Kenneth Peloke practices a visual form of pay-it-forward: he paints imagery that leaves an impression on him and in turn, he hopes his paintings leave a lasting impression on others. This dynamic is writ large in the exhibition of his new work, aptly titled Lasting Impressions, which runs from July 5 to 16 at Altamira Fine Art.
“I want people to be struck by the work, so much so that they keep thinking about it. The images—and what they represent—leave an impression on me. They are important to me. There’s a piece of me in each painting,” Peloke said.
This self-sharing confers communion between artist, subject and viewer; all three are connected through the work itself. The soulfulness of his paintings is inescapable—a characteristic writ large in his new portraits.
A favorite composition, bound for Altamira, personalizes the profundity of Chief Joseph. “I don’t do a lot of portraits,” Peloke said. ”I’m really picky about them.”
The Chief Joseph portrait is based on a photograph of him that carries significant historical weight, and yet, his gaze softens such resolve, speaking to the soul. “I’m always thinking back to the past when things were different, perhaps simpler, more black-and-white: you protected what you had and what you believed in at all costs,” Peloke said.
A devotee of Western imagery and culture, Peloke has long held the impression of Chief Joseph close to his consciousness, and yet, he only felt ready to paint him now within the framework of sharing strong impressions.
“I’m very moved by Western culture and all its complexity. I’ve been learning about Native American history; it fascinates me and saddens me,” he said. “I wanted this piece to be really important to somebody—that’s what inspired me to create it. I think it does Chief Joseph justice. I did the best that I could, and I’m proud of that.”
“I say a prayer before each piece—that it will end up in a home where it is loved,” Peloke said. “I also pray that I have the strength to finish and focus. I usually don’t think about where the piece may end up, but this piece was different. I thought for a while about who’s home it may end up in and hope it can be important and touching to someone.”
Ever moving between genres, Peloke pairs his portraits with bold abstractions—siblings in impressivity. These abstract works find him experimenting with composition; instead of isolating his subjects from context, he is adding elements of background. Consider a cowboy galloping forward: in previous iterations, he would have been alone as he rode; now he bounds headlong into the foreground against a sliver of a horizon.
“Some abstract work I admire makes perfect sense; it’s like the artists figured it out,” Peloke said. “It’s not that easy for me. Sometimes pieces come together and it feels a bit magical. Others I can’t get right. Typically I strive to work through it and make something out of nothing. I pride myself on that nowadays. In my younger years, I’d destroy the painting and just start over. It’s interesting to try and manipulate the art so that it still makes sense composition-wise even though you may not have a final vision in your head. That’s the most challenging aspect of art for me.”