Last week Beautiful Savage began the Young Underground Artists Series to showcase the works of five compelling artists in New York City. This series was created as a window into the underground creative scene. Our first installment, featuring artist Zoe Ligon, started quite a buzz. We love to tell stories about young artists who pour themselves into their creative work, and they are the heart of this series.

Introducing Peter Giovanni Barnes—a Brooklyn based multimedia artist whose work is woven with abstract undertones, yet on the same token, some of his pieces are beautifully classic. His work exudes a feeling of anxiety-ridden thought—a personal trope he wishes to impart.

To connect with Peter Giovanni Barnes, head over to

Peter Barnes in studio. Photo by Macy J Foronda

Peter Barnes in studio. Photo by Macey J. Foronda

INNY TAYLOR: Where does the inspiration for your work come from?

Peter Giovanni Barnes: I have to say most of the inspiration for my work comes from—well right now—growth. Whether it’s growth within your self or within a community or the planet. It also comes from environmental issues and just the need to create. I can’t just come home after work and sit down and watch the TV or enjoy a book. I always have to be creating something. I think that’s the main inspiration for my work. It’s just the need to be doing something.

When did you decide that art was the road you wanted to drive down?

I’ve always drawn and painted for my entire life. My dad actually wanted to be an artist as a kid and ended up having to change his career path so he was definitely supportive. As a kid I just drew things—thinking that was what everyone did, not thinking it was a career really. If I couldn’t afford something as a child or if my parents couldn’t afford to get me something as a child, I would then just draw it instead, and that almost even more satisfying. I spent my entire life thinking I was going to be a pro-skateboarder or even a musician and didn’t realize I wanted to be a visual artist until late high school. My teacher opened up the possibility of it becoming a career.



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What response has your work garnered from being an underground artist?

Well I don’t want to say—my work isn’t very political but the one time I did do something political it was for the newspaper back in my hometown of Boise Idaho. Boise is a very Right-Wing state. The piece I did was actually anti-Sarah Palin when she was running for president, and it was for the cover for Boise Weekly. The response that it got was, death threats, complaint letters and smashed newsstand boxes. That was definitely the most dramatic response I’ve gotten from my work. Other than that I like to make creepy sort-of decaying pieces—I don’t know. I have anxiety and I want to translate that into my work and make other people feel anxious at the same time. I think anxiety can definitely lead to other feelings—stronger feelings—no matter what that feeling is.

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What are your goals in the art world?

None at all! The future seems so bleak for anything, everywhere. I just find it easier to live in the moment and that usually takes you further than planning things out.

What inspires you?

Just the creative people I’m around. I work as an art assistant so I get to work with a lot of great artists who are also in the same struggle as me, or who are making it as an artist. We really can bounce ideas off of each other, and you know, it makes our work place almost a small “artist critique” instead of just work.



What aspects of art don’t you like?

Definitely. There’s more aspects of art that I don’t like than I do like. I don’t know–I only think I’m an artist because I don’t know what else to do. But with the whole Jeff Koons, Marina-Abramovic-Jay-Z-bushwa scene blowing up right now, the money aspect of art is really making me believe less and less in art in general.

Is being a young artist in today’s society challenging?

It depends where you’re coming from and what kind of support you have. Living in a small town for most of my life, it was definitely one of the most challenging things I could of chosen to do. There’s not much art culture where I’m from—or cultural support as far creative things go. It’s definitely risking a lot because it’s not a set future.

What medium do you primarily work in?

My work has been transforming so much in last couple of years that it’s really hard to explain—or I won’t say hard to explain but it’s even hard for me to grasp. I don’t even know where I’m going with it these days. A lot of the art I was exposed to was tattoo art. I spent time apprenticing in a shop and working around tattoo artists. My work started out very representational, and then when I moved to the city and experienced a whole different side to the art world–now my art has taken on an abstract path while still trying to maintain some of the representational aspects to it.

Peter Barnes at work. Photo: Macey J Foronda

Peter Barnes at work. Photo by Macey J. Foronda

How important is being social in the underground art scene?

There’s all sorts of different niches in the art world. So I guess it depends on whom I want to be social with. I have a lot friends who are artists and I love talking to them about art but when it comes back to well-off artists, I guess that’s when my anxiety comes back. There’s a lot of faking it until you make it—and I don’t want to be a part of that.

In short, who are you as an artist?

Born in the woods in Missoula, Montana, raised in the suburbs in Boise, Idaho, and currently residing in Brooklyn, New York. As far as where I want to go? No plans about that yet. I want to travel. Hopefully my art will take me to the various places I want to see and experience, just to gain that same culture shock over and over that I gained when I moved to the city. I guess, I just want people to look back on primitive times and see how far we’ve come now with all these luxuries that we could definitely do without.