Alexei Mansour & Erik Adriel Peterson
“That a memory,
caught and mounted
for permanent display,
is not much
like anything that happens
can’t be surprising.
But where does that leave us?”
- Rae Armantrout, from Object Lesson (2015)
This December, COMMONWEAL is pleased to be exhibiting mixed media works by Erik Adriel Peterson and Alexei Mansour. Peterson and Mansour make use of the ambiguity inherent in memory, both personal and cultural, to depict intimately scaled worlds which explore and expand upon contemporary definitions of queerness.
Mansour (b. 1991) grew up with a strong sense of cultural and religious traditions from his Middle Eastern heritage and the Antiochian Orthodox Church. Influenced by the rich traditions of his upbringing and his struggle with his queer identity, he has centered his work around these subjects and its multiplicity. The “otherness” achieved by the symbolism, flatness, color, and abstraction of the art of Greco-Roman antiquity echoes for Mansour the “otherness” of queer identity. Formerly a principal member and organizer of the collective New Boone, Mansour received his Bachelor’s in Fine Arts from Tyler School of Art in 2013, and has had his work exhibited in Rome, Philadelphia, Brooklyn and Pittsburgh over the past several years.
Peterson (b. 1990) creates imagery based upon their memory of events, experiences, and emotions. The spaces and occupants depicted in Peterson’s work accumulate into discrete psychological portraits. While autobiographical, Peterson's works imperfectly blur the lines between truth and fantasy. They encourage the viewer to bring their assumptions to Peterson’s ambiguity in order to develop a relationship between each other's worlds of experience. A graduate of the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts, Peterson has exhibited their work around the Philadelphia region over the past five years and is in numerous private collections. They are currently a 2023 MFA Candidate at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.