Another 100 Colorado Creatives: Peter Strange Yumi
Peter Yumi in the studio.
#96: Peter Strange Yumi
Collage artist, musician and videographer Peter Yumi spends a lot of time in the studio, where he creates ever-changing works from scraps and borrowed images and swatches of paint. Lately, they've begun to spill out of the frame into three-dimensional forms. For Yumi, it's all about honest work: He's a one-man assembly line piecing together something graceful and well-designed from the nuts and bolts of a scrap pile.
We asked Yumi, an artist looking for a forum, to take the 100CC questionnaire, and his answers came out as one might expect: deliberate and straightforward, from the heart.
If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
I woke up this morning thinking this: I wish I could have met Franz West before he died. He seemed to be a truly remarkable man. I like what he did with collage sculpture, and I want to learn as much as I can about his process and his work, and incorporate it into my daily work.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
McKenzie Wark, the author of A Hacker's Manifesto. I think of a creative person as being a hacker, changing the structure of things and reworking them into something new. Wark's book is about us now -- it's the new economics. He wrote it back in 2004, and it is becoming more and more apparent that his economic model of the information age is extremely accurate. I used to create music and interactive video work from coding, and in an odd way, it's how I came to collage, because in my case I rarely actually coded, I just copied and pasted what others had done.
Collage is like that, it takes from existing media structures and rearranges them into something new. If people could teach themselves the power of this, I truly believe that we could have real change happening, not just people posting online about how angry they are. We can transform society and make power more democratic if we actually want to. People can learn to have a voice.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
Tintypes and, believe it or not, collage. I just see a lot of the same thing over and over again, and I think artists should be willing to take risks and even put themselves in situations that set themselves up for failure.
What's your day job?
I do a variety of jobs, from graphic design to IT work, but I am currently unemployed and spend most of my time in the studio, working.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
I recently started having some conversations with an opera singer about the children's book I Never Saw Another Butterfly. The book is a collection of children's art and poems made by children while in concentration camps, knowing full well that they would most certainly be killed by the Nazis. Those kids were given a voice in such an extremely evil situation. Art, especially collage, is an extremely powerful means for people who have no voice to express themselves, even under conditions less horrific than those in a concentration camp.
If I had unlimited funds for life, I would dedicate myself to teaching those who should have a voice in our society to develop and use it. Art is, at its core, communication, and it can radically change everything about a person and even society. Growing up in extreme poverty, I thought I did not have a voice. Being an artist has shown me differently. I would like to create art that expresses my voice authentically and teach others to do the same.
Peter Yumi, "Elegance of Chaplin."
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
I am not really an expert on such a giant concept. I am more of a blue-collar artist -- I punch the clock and make art. But I recently read an article in the New York Times about artists in New York City who can't afford their studio space, and I thought: They should move here -- it's cheap, and the weather is really nice, and there are, of course, the mountains to enjoy. I think competition would really invigorate the Denver arts community. I wanna see more. I wanna hear from a wider variety of voices. The community here I can't really comment on, because I am very much a homebody, but it seems vibrant and full of life.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
Sarah Rockett. She puts her head down, and she works. She is extremely inventive. I adore her work, and I love spending time with her -- she really is a jewel of the city. I am also grateful to my mentors Phil Solomon and Stephen Batura. Without their belief in me and their guidance, I would not be as hard-working and determined as I am today.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
I am looking, after five years of woodshedding, to show my new paper sculptures and 3D paintings. I've put my head down and worked nearly every single day for the last five years to figure out exactly how I was going to say what I wanted to say. It's been like writing a novel, patience and editing and practice, and like any good writer, reading. Or in my case, looking at a ton of art and asking questions of those artists. I shared most of the process of my woodshed experience online via social media, which turned into an art project of its own. I am very shy and reclusive. I can say now with a tiny degree of eloquence that others might take something from it, as well. I'm ready to share my voice. So I think I will join a co-op. My new work is rather elaborate and needs a great deal of space to show it adequately.
Who do you think will get noticed in the local art community in 2014?
Naomi Scheck does these hypnotic, giant, strange, detailed drawings. I love them. And Loriann Vrchota is one of Denver's hidden gems.
Learn more about Peter Strange Yumi online.
Throughout the year, we'll be shining the spotlight on 100 superstars from Denver's rich creative community. Stay tuned to Show and Tell for more, or visit the 100 Colorado Creatives archive to catch up.
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