Bright, cheerful colors of renowned artist Peter Max filled the S.H. Kress building during a show of his work on Saturday night.
The event was particularly special for fans because the artist was there to chat with them and sign his work.
“I love you,” Edie Rabin told Max.
“I love you too,” he replied. The sights and sounds made it feel like the late 1960s were back.
Max greeted starstruck fans warmly as a Beatles song played. He signed artwork patrons purchased, and obligingly autographed other items.
At times, Max seemed as amazed as his fans when he talked about his life and accomplishments. In particular, he noted that his work greets people coming into the U.S. at Canadian and Mexican border crossing stations.
“I can’t believe that happened. I love this country so much. This is absolutely the greatest country in the world,” he said.
He recalled painting all of the Beatles more than once. He was close to them, and still enjoys a warm relationship with Ringo Starr. He painted Barack Obama 44 times in recognition of his status as 44th president.
At the Kress Building, a psychedelic portrait of golf legend Jack Nicklaus was for sale, along with an equally colorful painting of singer Taylor Swift.
“My favorite person is the one I’m painting,” he said.
At his Manhattan studio, he has a full-time deejay who plays music while he paints. He lives a vegan lifestyle and practices yoga. He takes 15 flights of stairs in Manhattan without a second thought.
“I feel like I’m 42,” he said (the artist is 74).
At first, he was not sure about art as a career. There was no example in his life of a working artist.
“I never knew that artists could survive. My mother said, ‘Do what you love,’” he said.
He followed her advice, and learned about business from his father.
As for how he got his style; “It just evolved. I must have had it always. I just like colors,” he said.
Thomas and Christie Spangenberg spent $17,500 at the show to add to their Peter Max collection.
“We’ve got it hanging all over our house. It makes us happy,” he said.
The Peter Max show continues today from noon to 3 p.m.