BIOGRAPHY

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Note about my biography.

 

    It’s been nearly twenty years since I’ve written my own biography or artist statement.  Somewhere along the way I'm sure I've lost my professionalism.  In the past my former art dealer would normally preform such duties, providing a well needed interface between my own sense of what is relative and what is not.  

 

    I have written this biography with hyperlinks so the reader can choose what they wish to read.  Long before I ever dreamed of being an artist I had a keen fascination with art history, and as an avid reader, I’ve always enjoyed biographies on artists.  My goal in writing my own biography is to be comprehensive, but yet don't wish to over load.  A good compromise seems to let the reader choose how deep they wish to go.

 

    Some of my favourite books on art is In Montmartre” by Sue Roe, “The Art of Rivalry” by Sebastian Smee, and “Kiki’s Paris” by Billy Klüver and Julie Martin.

 

    SVP

 

1

 

    My life has been a reflection of the society I was born into, at times accepting or fighting against the forces that have attempted to instil their values and ideas on me.  I was born into a broken family.  There are tales of past great deeds by our ancestors that had long lost the lustre of shine.  Alcoholism destroyed the family my mother was born into.  When I hear stories of her childhood, it gives me a glimpse behind the curtain before it would raise on my own life, setting the stage for a dysfunctional childhood that was interrupted when I left my home at age fifteen.

 

    I must confess that it took a few years of living on my own to forgive my mother, when one day I was turning eighteen and realised that if I had been in my mother’s shoes, I would already have a two year old son, and the difficulties that must have introduced to her life.  That indeed, she also had an interrupted childhood as well, having me weeks after she turned sixteen.

 

    My father is a man I would hardly know.  Even the word ‘hardly’ isn’t sufficient.  I don’t know much about his life, except that he died in his early thirties after an eight year stint in prison for attempted murder charge of a partner in crime who had ratted him out on a burglary job the two had pulled off.  My father was biker, was in a gang, but that was long after he soured.  The man my mother knew was more like me.  Gentle, kind, loving.     

 

    My only real memories of him is when he visited before his prison term, when I was no more than nine years old or so.  He had a reputation of being quite the artist, and I wanted him to show me how to draw barbarians and knights.  He instead showed me how to make a homemade tattoo gun, in case I ever served time I would have a skill that would protect me.  I still remember how to make it to this day

 

    My family life was spent in a fluctuation of happiness and fear.  When I left home I realised that the effects of my childhood life created this need to be stable, to seek out security in my own home.  The contrast could not be more stark.  As a child I had moved too many times to recall all the various places.

 

    I began life in West Germany, moved to Texas, then various places in New England.  From New England we lived in the Pacific Northwest, in the American Southwest, in various cities and towns, including a time on the Navajo reservation.  We lived in Northern California, not far from the Oregon boarder.  Then back to the Southwest, and then back to the Pacific Northwest to live in various places.  In my eighth grade year of school I had gone to three different schools, in my ninth grade year, two, in my tenth grade year, five. 

 

    On my own, I’ve lived in very few places.  New Mexico and New York.  

 

2

 

    One of my first memories is of drawing Popeye in the back of my mother’s antique Mother Goose book that she had as a child, and getting spanked.  The man I thought was my father until I was told otherwise at age seven, was a Green Beret, an elite military operative, but very heavy handed in doling out punishment.  He had spanked me until I peed myself.  I am certain the reason I remember this event, which I must have been four years old at the time, has more to do with the spanking than it does with Popeye.

 

    I was always drawing and reading.  I was reading advance books by age eight, starting with the Wizard of Oz series and the Hobbit.  I would draw the characters in the book, which on one occasion had landed my drawings in the trash bin by an over religious family member who said my drawings were “of the devil.”  My books were thrown away, including library books I checked out, and the whole episode deeply wounded me.  Partly because money was hard to come by, although I had been working at a golf course my family ran since age seven (my last day of working for my family was at age sixteen).  I recall once I had worked all summer, only to have my money, fifty dollars taken by my mother for food, it was explained, and I understood.  

 

    The removal of the books and drawings represented much more than theft of property, these were characters that were almost real to me, that I had bonded with.  My first crush in life was on Ozma of Oz.  

 

    Drawing was a form of escape.  In my room, which I was lucky enough to almost always have my own room, having a younger brother and younger sister.  I was constantly doodling or drawing something, even in class I would be in the back drawing rather than paying attention to my lessons.  

 

    In the tenth grade the art teacher pulled me aside and told me that if I kept up the work I have been doing, I would be assured the scholarship to the Art Institute of Seattle, that I would be a shoe in.  I had to drop out of school in the eleventh grade year, which destroyed that goal.  It was a goal I had made a priority, taking advance classes that one needed a note to get in.  I would take classes in commercial art at a time when the computer was not yet a big part of graphic design, and the techniques I learned was more in line with a long tradition of fine arts for centuries.  I did however use the computer allot, and although I was a poor kid, I always got hand-me-down computers from my uncle’s business.  

 

    One day I was drawing my hand, when my Uncle, Armando walked up behind me and was excited over what I had drawn.  He asked me if I had drawn this or got this out of a book.  I told him I was working on it right now.  He said it looked like a drawing from the old masters. 

 

    Armando had come into my life when I was sixteen, and was the only bright spot in a life filled with bad examples of how to be a man, how adults act, and other horrid behaviours and ways of thinking.  He was an artist, born in an aristocratic family in Mexico City, educated at Juilliard for piano, a photographer for Mexican Vogue, a one time professional golfer on the Pro Circuit, an actor in black and white movies, he had given up a high life of running the family business, of wealth and status (his family knew Diego and Frida) for bohemianism.  

 

    I had never really thought of art as something one could do as a profession until I was offered the scholarship to the Art Institute of Seattle, even then I never thought of an art career translating into the fine arts.  That was a life reserved for those who were “better than I.”  

 

    From that point on, I began to “honour” my talent, as my Aunt Pamela and Uncle Armando worded it.  I practised daily, eventually opening my first studio at age seventeen.

 

3

 

    I would eventually meet a woman from New York City, a well known poet and writer, and journalist.  We would get married, and she insisted that we live in NYC, although by that time I was an avid rock climber, hiker, and utterly a New Mexican, which I do identify with even to this day, and will always.  Although the choice to move to NYC seems to be self evident and the only right choice for a young artist, I wasn’t so sure.  I’ve always been about the quality of life more than any other element.  And I must say, the quality of my life in NM was amazing.

 

    It happened that moving to NYC was the right choice, although I was always homesick.  My life in NYC was utterly amazing.  When I retell some of the events from the past, those who didn’t know me as a New Yorker have a hard time believing me.  I met lots of famous people and had the time of my life.  My career took off, and I was barely twenty five years old.  I had this need to get a country house where my wife and I could have a duel life in the country side and in the city.  I ended up turning my back on everything, spending much of my time in the country, only going to the city when I needed to.  

 

    Eventually the marriage proved to not be as sustainable as our friendship would be, and I would move back to NM at age thirty four, where I became a leader, reinventing the art scene in my hometown.  

 

4

 

    My dreams have all come true, in ways I never imagined.  When I was thirteen I began a journey in the underground scene that would eventually, at age sixteen get known as “grunge.”  That is a topic onto itself.  In NM I lived a life devoted to nature, and got to experience a life amongst the Navajo and Zuni Indians.  In NYC I got to hobnob with the stars, got to be in the middle of things.  My life has allowed me to experienced both poverty and extreme wealth.  Owned a motorcycle collection of amazing bikes.  Had my work shown in front of over fifteen thousand people for a number of years, and got into museums.  The only thing left to do is get my prices up and find reliable outlets to show my work. 

 

    However there would be one catch to the trajectory of my life; my health has been poor since age twenty nine, when I would suffer my first heart attack.  Apparently I have a congenital heart condition that would eventually result in five heart attacks (although the doctors believe I’ve been suffering heart attacks since I was a child, the first one I remembered was when I was fourteen), and a heart transplant at age forty.  

 

    As a rock climber, my body was super strong.  My calves and legs were huge, my chest was huge, my arms were huge, I was bench pressing 270 pounds since I was a teen ager.  I was a semi pro skateboarder, so I was powerful and agile.  My life since age 29 was not so different than before, only really changing after my heart transplant.  I was active, strong, but a slimmed down version of me, which I really liked more than the muscles.  The heart transplant took all of that away.  I became a 250 pound person, my wealth was depleted,  and I entered into a sad part of my life.  I’ve had to fight  in my post transplant life to get back into shape, losing most of the transplant weight in the first year.  I’ve also had to fight to retain some of who I was once was, and as I continue to fight, I hope I also improve my mortality expectations.  I’ve been on a healthy diet, a cardiac diet since age thirty, and the treadmill is often out in my studio being used.  The doctors tell me that it didn’t matter what I ate, how active I was, eventually I would have been in the situation I am in.

 

    I suppose I am getting old, although I still look young.  And with my health situation, I know death in ways most people don’t.  There isn’t anything quite like sitting on your hospital bed being told various times that I might not live for too much longer.  But there is something powerful in beating the odds.  And that is who I am, that is what my whole life has been about, beating the odds to create and become and retain the greatest piece of artwork I would create, me, Shane Van Pelt.  

 

Thank you for reading!