One of my highlights of 2017 was meeting pop artist Peter Max. I went on twitter one Friday night and saw that he was going to be at a gallery in Sarasota the next day, so I went for it and drove out there.
The gallery was small, and there was no cost to get in. Peter sat in a chair and had a line of about five people waiting to speak to him.
I have a large Peter Max tattoo on my upper arm, and was equal parts excited to show him and nervous that he wouldn’t like it. He’s in his 80s and a super famous artist, so I didn’t know if he’d consider a tattoo of his work a compliment or distortion.
I walked around the gallery admiring the art for a while. I couldn’t afford any of it. A guy gave out free champagne in the back of the room. I had a couple glasses.
The other people walking around browsing the art were very friendly. A few of them noticed my tattoo and stopped me to talk about it. I was the youngest person there, save the guy giving out champagne. There were definitely hippies in the crowd, including a man with a braided beard. I overheard another person say, “He taught my yoga class this morning.” A woman came up to me, took her backpack off, then took her sweatshirt off to reveal another sweatshirt with Peter Max art on it. “This was made in the 80s!” she said.
It was a fun scene.
Before I got up my courage to stand in line to talk to Peter Max, his assistant spotted my tattoo and called me over. She was also the one who took the photos of us–I was nervous about being rude and hadn’t planned on asking for photos.
Peter said he loved my tattoo. He couldn’t stop staring at it. He asked who the tattoo artist was, and marveled at what a good job the artist had done. (Note: the tattoo artist was my high school friend Chris, who works at Maximum Tattoo in Wheeling, Illinois.)
I stuck around while Peter Max talked to a few other people. It was clear he has memory problems, but he maintained a happy, kind attitude the entire time. I kept thinking I’d like to age that way. Each new person who approached him had some sort of story of how they’d met him years ago, or how his art affected their life. My favorite was the couple celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary. They brought in a gigantic painting, asking if he could write a note on the back. The husband teared up when he explained the painting was a wedding gift they’d bought for themselves with money they’d received at the wedding.