Santiago Pérez | Fantastic Tales

By Devon Jackson

WONDROUSLY BIZARRE AND IMAGINATIVE. That’s the best way to describe Santiago Pérez’s paintings. Clearly, they conjure up the golden earthiness of Pieter Brueghel, the surrealism of Hieronymus Bosch, and the childlike phantasmagoria of Maurice Sendak, and Pérez would be the first to say so. But despite the similarities, Pérez’s artistic universe is his and his alone. There’s no mistaking, for instance, his eggshell people, his two-footed eyeballs, or his monkish penguins for someone else’s.

And what makes them doubly appealing is not just their originality but the sense that this cast of make-believe characters is very comfortable with who and what they are. And with where they are: in a fantasy world where things are most definitely happening. “Painting is an action thing for me,” says Pérez jovially inside the barn-size studio he had built next to his house just south of Albuquerque, NM. “I want action or something happening—or at least the impression that something’s happening.”

Working in the studio, he is surrounded by hundreds upon hundreds of books—The Republic of Dreams, The Golden Bough, artists’ biographies, art magazines, art catalogs, artists’ monographs—as well as computers, printers, and vintage western photographs. Everywhere there are electric fans blowing dry the varnish on his latest series of paintings, which are laid on slats on the floor, propped against the wall, resting on easels, and leaning against bookshelves.

Seeing him in this environment, it’s easy to picture a childhood in which he plowed his way through story after story about knights and gods and wizards, imagining himself as the characters he read about.

Featured in February 2007

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