• PrintMag

POZ Takes On the World!

I’ve worked with Peter O. Zierlein as an art director at PRINT and The Nation, where his quirky, conceptually based illustrations never failed to delight. His editorial art has also graced the pages of the NY Times, The Washington Post, Berliner Zeitung, The Boston Globe and myriad others. Over time Peter, who signs his work POZ, has moved onto the streets and into the third dimension, with street installations, many centered in his current state of Massachusetts. Most recently he created a large outdoor sculpture, “Thrive,” for an an affordable public housing project, Live 155, one of five such art installations at the site, in cooperation with Public Art Consultant, Cassandra Holden and WayFinders, a community based organization.

Poster for a juried exhibition that will travel nation wide with the Norman Rockwell Museum through 2020

I recently interviewed Peter about his career and public art.

Where were you born and when did you relocate to the USA?

I was born in Bamberg, Germany, came to the states at age 19 with a student exchange program and stayed to study at Pratt Institute. A few years after that my visa was expired and I moved to Hamburg, Germany and soon after to Berlin. in 1998 I returned to New York and got married.

How many years have you worked as an illustrator?

I’ve had the first illustration assignments while still at Pratt and could live on my artist income since 1991. You do the math – in numbers it sounds too scary…

When was and what prompted your move to instillation art along side your editorial work?

Since about 2008, when the internet replaced newspapers, suddenly most of my connections in newspaper and magazine publishing dried up and I had to apply myself in new ways. I started concentrating on paper cut art. First I created paper cuts for display, then for illustrations, book covers, poster designs, to create wallpaper and textile patterns, greeting cards, soon paper cuts became large installations,

I began using stencils to create murals and public art. When the Live 155 project put out the artist call it was the first time that I considered doing a sculptural piece because the art had to be installed on six wall anchor installation points designed to support sculptural art on the new building facade.

How did the Live 155 project come about?

Live 155 is a unique building project that took WayFinders, the owner, many years and two mayors to complete and in the end they did everything right, a four story, residential and commercial mixed use, mixed income building, beautifully designed and cleverly conceived detail, as well as a budget for art. My design “Thrive” fit the owners philosophy to give low income renters a chance to thrive and live in this new downtown structure.

What was this experience like?

Working with metal on this scale was new for me and i couldn’t have done it without the help of the great crew at Salmon Studios, LLC of Florence MA. These guys suggested to break up my flat design into a bas relief by creating three different color layers and spacing them 2 inches apart from one another. I could think of the design as a setting with a physical background, middle ground and foreground. I made the paper-cuts for the different layers and created vector files from that. That means there was no loss of detail when the design was enlarged to 9.5’ x 21’ and cut from 3/16” aluminum. At this point I gave up control over the piece to craftsmen as the industry techniques were beyond my wherewith-all. That also meant I had to patiently wait for each step along the fabrication. It took six months after I handed over the vector files until the piece was up. The three color layers were cut, powder-coated, then assembled in one piece on an aluminum frame. The monstrosity was forklifted on a trailer and transported to the site where sign installers with a sixty-foot boom lift picked up the entire piece into place to the connecting points on the building with another guy in a cherry picker to connect the sculpture to the wall. What a sight! The job needed a lot of people to get it done and it was a great experience pulling the project together as a team. Now I’m looking to do more public and sculptural jobs like this elsewhere.

What advice do you give your students on the current field of illustration?

My advice is: Push your art! Become the only one that can do you. Find opportunities and create your own opportunities. Create the work you’d like to get commissioned. Become known as the artist to go to for that particular look, style or thought behind it. And then just keep doing that until you’re old and grey, rich and world famous!

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