"Even a one-eyed guy will wink at a beautiful woman"
Considered one of America's first "Pop-Surrealists", Philip Slagter is a self taught painter who was born on December 21, 1946 in Norman, Oklahoma. His grandfather was a “Sunday painter” of wildlife and Philip became interested in art through his grandfather who taught Philip to paint birds and animals. His grandfather was adamantly opposed to the abstract painters of his time so Philip was never exposed to art until he enrolled in Indiana State university. It was a very limited arts program and Philip majored in “commercial art”. He took only one painting class in college.
After graduating Philip moved to New York City and worked as a graphic designer and illustrator in various publishing houses and graphic design studios. Never artistically satisfied by the graphics world, he left New York and moved to Northeastern Connecticut to pursue painting full time. He felt as if he was on a mission to discover “truth” through painting. A quest he still enjoys until today.
In New York he was exposed to all the current and past artists of the world and was fascinated by the art antiquities in the museums and the galleries showing the painters of the day as well as the beginning of graffiti and street art. During that period he showed some works at the Allan Stone gallery and developed an unending passion and obsession with painting. His work was purchased by the Caroline Newhouse collection.
After Connecticut in the late 1970’s he moved to the New Mexico desert to experience an environment that was "completely alien to me". He lived in the small southern town of San Miguel. Influenced by the beautiful colors of the desert and the “no fear” attitude of the local Latino community in their use of color on their homes and vehicles his work started to take on a more abstract quality. He taught undergraduate and masters curriculum at New Mexico State University. While in New Mexico he started to exhibit at the Adrienne Simard gallery in Los Angeles and in the early 1980’s moved there to be closer to the galleries and other artists. During his time in Los Angeles he was represented by the William Boyd gallery and showed in many group shows. His work was purchased by collectors such as Eli Broad, Marcia Weisman and Marsha and Sanford Levine. He taught at California State University, Long Beach for a short period.
In 1989 one of Philip’s collectors purchased his entire body of work, some 300 plus paintings, drawing and prints.
Philip took this opportunity to travel and spent 5 years in Thailand painting and exhibiting. His daughter Dao Ann was born during this time in Thailand. During his time in Thailand, unfortunately the principal collector who had purchased his work had an accidental and untimely death. Her husband had little to no interest in art and the work is still in storage to this day. An occasional piece shows up in design or architecture magazines.
While in Thailand Philip’s two-year-old daughter was targeted by a child trafficking network and with the help of the American Embassy his family was able to flee Thailand back to America. Back in America he took a break from fine art to raise his daughter and painted many murals. He also did extensive carving for Las Vegas casinos such as the Mandalay Bay casino where he is responsible for all of the carved ceilings, column capitals and entrance decoration along with extensive work in many other casinos such as The Bellagio and Luxor. He spent 8 months in Macau, China working with a crew to paint 250,000 sq. ft. of sky in the Venetian Casino.
In 2010 Philip lost his right eye to a rare form of Glaucoma. It took him awhile to adjust to the difference in depth perception but in his own words, "I just didn't pay any attention to it. I didn't want to give it any power". The loss of his eye has not affected his painting at all.
When his daughter was old enough to understand her father’s love for her and his obsession with painting he moved to Montana to “let my daughter understand the cycle of death and rebirth, exhibited by the four seasons, and to remove her from the LA school system”.
In 2012 Philip’s daughter, then seventeen years old and a senior in high school, died in an auto accident on her way to school one morning. In his own words “I died at that moment. I constantly asked the universe why it had killed me but had still left me in this dimension. All my feelings were killed as well. No sense of love, beauty, joy and sharing with humanity were left”.
It was four years before he awoke from his “death” When he heard his daughter saying to him “Dad, you taught me we are here to learn what we can in preparation for the next step and share that with everyone. I have just given you the biggest lesson and opportunity of your life to grow. Do something with it.”
Philip is now actively and obsessively painting again. His work has been influenced by “every experience I have had in the past 72 years, remembered or forgotten” as well as his travels to Indonesia, Africa, Thailand, China, Central America and Alaska including his virtual travels from the beginning of television to the open highway of the internet. All these experiences come together in his recent work.
His most recent exhibition was at La Luz De Jesus Gallery, the home of pop-surrealism, in 2017 in Los Angeles, California.
Join him on his new journey.
Click HERE to link to an interview in “HEY! Modern Art & Pop Culture” magazine, published in 2018 in Paris, France if you would like to read more in his own words.