George Peterson debuts a collection of sculptures made from used decks in the exhibition Shred / Grind / Carve, opening on Friday, June 3, 6-10pm, at Altered Space Gallery on Abbot Kinney in Venice Beach. We caught up with him beforehand for a little back story.
You’ve been quoted as saying you “channel a lot of destructive energy” into your work. Sounds, well, destructive.
You can take any feeling and channel it into art to get a result. For me it tends to be an aggressive energy, almost vandalism. My process is pretty destructive. It’s physical—I cut and I sew. There’s an emotional quality to that act, to creating a scar and exaggerating it.
The sewing almost looks like African art.
Yes, there is definitely that aesthetic. And there’s an implication of cultural history in that look. There are actually a lot of parallels between African and Western society. Take tattoos for instance: intentional scarring for stylistic purposes. Tattoos definitely influence my work.
How exactly did the wood “scars” come about?
My work hasn’t always been so destructive. I used to strive for perfection in my earlier work. I began using unseasoned wood in an attempt to keep up with demand and the warping and cracking started appearing. I loved seeing the wood like that. It lets the wood speak and adds a lot of character to the finished piece.
Music has a big influence on the finished product. You’ll see my work respond to what I’m listening to at the time—Social Distortion, Rancid, Jack White, Dead Weather, Fu Manchu, the Flaming Lips, DEVO, the Hives, the Kills, Nick Cave, the list goes on. There’s a harmony between the chainsaw and the electric guitar or the percussion in a song and the chopping of wood.
I like to carve and paint on almost anything: old doors or furniture, used plywood, logs…and then one day I was looking at my skateboard and I thought, damn, that’s a piece of wood, why haven’t I carved on a skateboard? Still, it took me awhile to do it. I was hesitant because there is so much deck art being done these days and I thought it might seem somewhat kitschy, but after I did that first one, I knew it was on. I’ve done about 300 of them in the last few years. I really have fun making them. My goal now is to do larger and more complex installations of them. One day, I’d also like to make a big skateboard totem out of one piece of wood. It would be my version of those chainsawn bears you see everywhere. How cool would that be? A 10 foot, primitive skateboard, charred with fire and then left to weather? Oh baby…
Are you skating at all these days or is it studio-time all the time?
I have a ramp in my studio and skate all the time.