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Gallery Space: A Fountain of Youthful Creativity

The wild world of Wallace Peck

By Kate Liebers

Published May 1, 2012

Wallace Peck uses a magic marker to capture the essence of early childhood.

He transports viewers to a time when life was a collection of shape-shifting figures set afloat in a bewitching cloud of colors.

Peck paints people he admires, animals, Jesus, and figments of his imagination. Their faces stare directly at the viewer, their eyeballs swirling.

The paintings have a youthful quality for which his audience longs, said Sharon Dorsey, an art facilitator and assistant to Peck.

“People are drawn to the naïve nature of it,” Dorsey said. “He taps into something in themselves that they’ve lost.”

The abstract markings embody an otherworldly playfulness, which comes naturally for the prolific Peck. He spreads the ink around the canvas so voraciously, it’s as if he’s racing against time to document his vision before it dissolves from memory.

“First and foremost, he’s intuitively loaded with talent,” Dorsey said. “The first time I saw his work, I knew there was something special about his talent. There was something amazing that came to him naturally.”

Not until recently did Peck, 48, fully realized this talent.

Peck, who has moderate developmental disabilities, had little opportunity to create art until about three years ago, when he enrolled in Open Door Studios. The studio hosts exclusively those with a spectrum of developmental disabilities, providing artistic assistance, materials, and a venue to create and sell original art.

Peck said he’s always felt like an artist, but did not have much opportunity to express it in the past. In the few years that he’s been at Open Door, however, his work’s popularity has exploded amongst art collector communities.

His work has been an Open Door top seller at the annual Columbus Art Festival. With an artistic reputation that now precedes him, this year will be the first in which he’ll have a booth devoted solely to his own work.

Peck’s paintings are as inspiring as they are mesmerizing, particularly for professional artist Wendy Phillips Yeager.

Yeager, 46, met Peck through Mother Artists at Work (MAW)’s “This Inspired That” collaborative project. When MAW chose the Open Door Studio artists as last month’s muses, Yeager was instantly drawn to Peck.

“I was attracted to the abstract elements,” Yeager said. “My own work is normally not as playful as his, and I really wanted to capture it.”

She said that Peck’s portraits reminded her of her earlier works, which she described as “more joyful.”  Peck’s painting of two dogs, titled “My Imaginary Friends,” took her back to that time.

“Not only is it well-painted, it also has a soul to it, a spirit,” said Yeager.

While she applauded Peck’s technique, his awareness of space and placement, and his eye for color, only one thing is important to Peck: making people happy. 

His life, from painting portraits of and for friends, to working as a greeter at a retail store, is about putting smiles on faces.

“I just like coming here, to be proud of myself, to be nice to people,” Peck said of his time at the studio.

With Open Door Studio’s priced-to-sell policy, Peck’s bounty of work is quickly spreading throughout Columbus. One of his larger paintings, a 40’’x 40’’ acrylic on canvas, for example, is priced at $275.

The profit from his work seems to be far from Peck’s mind. His top priority is meeting new people, which is what he’s most looking forward to at Columbus Arts Festival next month.

After all, a new face could become the next inspiration for one of Peck’s portraits.

Peck will be one of a handful of emerging artists that will be featured at the 2012 Columbus Arts Festival, scheduled for June 1-3 on the downtown Riverfront. More information is available at www.columbusartsfestival.org. His work can also be seen throughout the year at Open Door Studios, located at 1050 Goodale Boulevard, Grandview Heights. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 12 to 5 p.m. Hours are subject to change, so visitors are asked to call 614-486-4919 before arrival. More information is available at www.opendoorartstudio.org.