Northport painter and gallery owner Pier Wright is part social butterfly, part hermit, depending on the season.
“[For seven days a week in] the summer and fall I have an art gallery representing about a dozen artists as well as myself,” he said. “It’s a very social time for me as well as an opportunity to save money like a squirrel.”
The rest of the time the painter is a creative hermit, creating oils on canvas or acrylics on plastics.
“In winter, I prefer a routine in which each day is nearly the same,” he said about his days, which generally include yoga, meditation, cross country skiing, and work.
“Jim Harrison described writing as working in a coal mine,” he said. “Similarly this routine allows an opportunity for intense, mostly pleasant, and sometimes brutal focus.”
HOW I GOT STARTED
I got out of college and traveled west with a backpack full of books, wanting to be a writer. I traveled to San Francisco and on up to Sacramento, Portland, and Seattle…[I worked at] a crappy job and each day I would come back, sit on the steps of that place and do a watercolor of the same mountain.
One of the Tetons was right there. I knew they were bad paintings, but I loved making them. When I ended up in Florida about a year later, I started taking classes at the community college where I met a teacher who talked me into quitting my day job and going back to school full time. So I enrolled in the art program at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
THE STORY BEHIND MY ART, MY INSPIRATION
Most artists make very little money. It’s not something you go into to get rich. There are those whose work is hugely successful in their lifetime, but it’s a very, very, very small number. I’ve known several incredibly talented artists who gave up their practice in order to find a more reliable source of income so that they could take care of families and also themselves.
Nevertheless, I believe any artist you talk to who has somehow managed to keep practicing their art will tell you what an enriching way this is to engage with the world and how incredibly lucky they are.
WORK I’M MOST PROUD OF
Anyone who I have helped along their way. Young or not-so-young artists who I have in any way encouraged.
YOU WON’T BELIEVE
I worked as a waiter on a riverboat, the Mississippi Queen out of New Orleans. I wasn’t very good. One line cook was so angry with me he came at me with a knife. I jumped ship and went back to New Orleans.
MY FAVORITE ARTIST
There’s always Guston and Morandi and Giotto, painters’ painters. Among the living there are so many: Amy Sillman, Dona Nelson, Brice Marden. And I am blessed with many friends who are amazing painters.
ADVICE FOR ASPIRING ARTISTS
I was asked what kind of person becomes an artist and my short answer would be that if I, who had no art background, can become an artist, then anyone can.
Artists really do come from all walks of life, from all economic backgrounds. But to succeed, a person needs to be willing to work very hard and question everything. People look at a big colorful painting and say, ‘That must have been fun to make.’ But it’s not. It’s hard work. It’s a piece of yourself made visible.
A person must be content spending huge chunks of time alone and somehow be self-motivated and deeply driven. As Baudelaire said, ‘To be an artist is to be willing to fail like no one has failed before.’ I highly recommend it.
MY WORK CAN BE SEEN/PURCHASED
All summer at Wright Gallery in Northport. My work is here, along with about a dozen other artists - some local, some from around the country and a few from other countries, like Germany, England, Netherlands and Israel.