Steve Perkins of Rye Brook mimics the gestural movement of his large scale painting titled “Lifestyle” from his 2006 exhibition in Bangkok, Thailand.
Steve Perkins of Rye Brook mimics the gestural movement of his large scale painting titled “Lifestyle” from his 2006 exhibition in Bangkok, Thailand.
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Steve Perkins has always been artistic, but it was film that initially caught his interest and it's a good thing, too, as that is how he met Jim Menges.

The two took a film class together in the early 1980s with Menges serving as Perkins' cameraman on a couple short films. They went different directions after that with Perkins pursuing "art and poverty" and Menges "engineering, electronics, and fat cash," Perkins said.

"He basically started setting up microchip plants around the world," the Rye Brook resident added.

They stayed in touch, however, first through letters and then email. Perkins meanwhile earned a graduate degree in filmmaking at Columbia University, where he first took up visual arts as a much-needed break from screenwriting. An art show in California and another in Brooklyn followed, as did getting a book in MOMA's permanent collection, in addition to his ongoing work in the film industry.

It was not until a family vacation to Italy that Perkins started his Lifestyle Art Project with pieces inspired by his travels. It took about six months after leaving Italy, however, before he actually did any Italy-inspired artwork.

It was then, in 2006, that Menges challenged him. "What would happen if you came to Thailand and had all this
stimuli?" Menges asked him.

During the two-week, all-expenses-paid trip, Perkins visited Bangkok and some of the surrounding areas, ending at a country home outside the city complete with a large studio furnished with art supplies. The humid, 100-degree heat apparently worked its magic as Perkins produced 100 works of various sizes.

Because of the large body of work Perkins created, Menges helped organize an exhibition of it in Bangkok and flew him back for it six months later. While there, Perkins met someone else interested in sponsoring him for a trip to China for a similar experience, then Taiwan, then India and most recently, Turkey.

"I keep getting these amazing offers to go to these amazing places," he said.

Twelve pieces from Lifestyle Art Project: Thailand will be on display at Serenity Labs at 80 Theodore Fremd Ave . in Rye from Thursday, July 25 until Sept. 20. While past artwork has sold for $12,000, the price range will be from about $200 to $3,000. All the paintings are mixed media collages on paper or canvas. In keeping with most of his art, they are abstract but inspired by spirituality, he explained. His work is graphically oriented, often using letters and letter shapes, which sometimes spell things and sometimes do not. Despite that, each series differs in style as the art is stimulated in different places.

"The whole idea of the work I've been doing is that I go to this place without a predetermined style," he said. "I open myself up to what is going on in that place."

Each place is very different "in terms of the flavor, not just of the food, but the flavor of the colors and the atmosphere of the place," he added.

The opening reception will be from 6 p. m. to 9 p. m. on Thursday and Perkins said he may bring some of the stamps he used in the art and other raw materials.

Additionally, there will be a slideshow and video of Perkins creating the artwork in Thailand courtesy of Menges who hauled out his video camera, just like old times, to film Perkins. "Nobody has ever watched me paint for more than 10 minutes," Perkins said, adding that his wife and two daughters have only ever seen him work for brief periods. The video also shows some of the places Perkins saw in Thailand that inspired his work.

The display is titled Mai Pen Rai, a common Thai phrase meaning "no problem" and "don't worry about it." An attitude inherent in Thai culture and one that Perkins tried to incorporate into his art.

For those who cannot make it to the opening but still want the opportunity to hear Perkins speak about his work, the artist recently started hosting dinner parties at his Rye Brook home that are themed around his art. The salon type gatherings, named Devour, include performance art, food, drinks and his artwork all inspired by a specific location. So far, the events have been made up of family, friends and friends of friends, but Perkins said he would love to get new people involved. Anyone interested can email him at sp@ originalmind.com.