Peter Anton, a 78 year-old resident of East Chicago, Indiana, creates paintings that illuminate moments of significance from his personal history. Many of them are based on photographs he has obsessively compiled into a massive autobiography titled “Almost There.”
Through the whole of twelve scrapbooks, Peter details his “life on a rollercoaster” – from his near death experience in 1934 at the age of three to his happy “movie star years” in the 1950′s organizing and performing in hundreds of talent shows, all the way through his ruminations on mortality in 2005 after losing his beloved cats and being taken from his severely deteriorating home by a social service agency. Despite his declining health, Peter perseveres. This exhibit – the first retrospective of his work – is testament to how art and the impetus to create it still thrives in even more dire circumstances.
Co-curators Dan Rybicky and Aaron Wickenden have spent the past four years documenting Peter’s environment and day-to-day life of creating art under brutal conditions. Inspired by the story of perhaps the most famous outsider artist, Henry Darger – whose artwork was discovered posthumously and only after three dumpsters of waste were removed from his apartment – the curators of Almost There will present an unvarnished view of an artist before his process has been altered or sanitized. Their photographs and videos will be exhibited alongside Peter’s paintings, scrapbooks and ephemera as a way to further contextualize his work. Visitors will have the added pleasure of experiencing this exhibit alongside the Henry Darger Room Collection, Intuit’s innovative permanent installation that evokes the obsessive artist’s original environment.
Poised at the intersection of biography and autobiography, Almost There: A Portrait of Peter Anton explores the curatorial complexities surrounding the discovery and stewardship of one man’s work, as well as the definitions of so-called “high art” and “outsider art.” By showing the decaying textures of Peter’s house, paintings and scrapbooks – of Peter himself – this exhibit asks audiences to contextualize his art and ultimately, their own aesthetic concepts of and emotional responses to memory, aging and pain.