Jim Peters




Jim Peters has been referred to as a constructionist as well as a figurative painter.  He is both.  He likes the idea of "trapped energy" -- boats in boxes, or figures in dark, confined interiors.  His canvases are always under construction.  Known for work that depicts the darkly erotic interiors of relationship between lovers, Peters usually starts with a female figure.  One could say that she is the "hero" or "main character," for the painting takes on a narrative as he works.  Continually revising and repainting, he moves through the story in a dialogue with the work.  "My paintings are like an ongoing film, the characters constantly moving, the scenery changing."  He does not make preliminary drawings, but works out the composition directly on the canvas stretched over panel.  His character may start out reclining on a bed, become a woman standing by the bed, move to a chair, perhaps the bed disappears altogether, a wall appears, a window is cut, and so on until Peters "stops the movie" when the tension is right.  Sometimes there is another character, a male, looking on.  Then the viewer may experience the disturbing awareness of his own participation in the movie, in watching.  Discussing Peter's paintings in Art in America, Ann Wilson Lloyd wrote:


[Peters'] figures are nude or nearly so, normally on or near a messy

bed, and the scenes are rife with psycho-sexual implications...these

paintings contain an intense emotional force or hint at an intriguing

cinematic narrative: like a single frame or film, they evoke feelings or

glimpses of private fantasies or places whose full narrative import can

only be guessed at.


Responding to his dark palette and subject matter, primarily his depiction of women, Peters is quoted in a 1995 Provincetown Magazine interview:


          I like the night, I like the darkness.  I'm interested in the mystery and

            I use a lot of dark lines because I love to draw.  I want the painting to

be full of anticipation.  If a naked woman is in the painting, is a naked

man going to walk through the door?


Peters uses his skill saw and saber saw, a broom, a brush, pieces of wood, tin, photos, wire, glass.  Construction, deconstruction, reconstruction.  Physical energy is added and subtracted, repositioned, extended as Peters works on a painting.  He relies on the energy of the process to know when the work "is right."  In the juxtaposition of the 2-dimensionality of illusion and the 3-dimensional reality of the piece itself, the "object" is the crux of Peters' "trial and error" process.


It is not surprising to hear the work "energy" in Peters' talk about his art. Peters graduated from the United States Naval Academy in nuclear science. The Navy sent him to MIT where in 1969 he received a degree in nuclear physics.  "My whole life changed," he says, "out of uniform, on a city campus, surrounded by those psychedelic bands."  He painted his first picture.  He didn't want to be in the Navy anymore, but he stuck out his contract. He set up his first studio in the bowels of the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy.  After the Navy, he studied art at Maryland Institute.  In 1982 he was a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, where he continued as Chairman of the Visual Arts Committee through 1989.  In 1985 Peters was named one of nine artists to be shown in the Guggenheim Museum's "New Horizons in American Art" exhibition, which brought him national recognition.  After living for five years in upstate New York, Jim and his family returned to the Cape, to Truro, where he and his wife, Vicki Tomayko, a painter and children's book illustrator, built their own home.


Peters has had numerous one-person and group exhibitions in New York, California, Massachusetts and Connecticut.  His work is in many important private and public collections including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Centro Cultural Arte Contemporaneo, Mexico City, and the Provincetown Art Association and Museum.



April 2001


©2007 Rena Lindstrom All Rights Reserved