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  Exhibition Review from ¡Vamanos! Magazine, Ruidoso
News, Sept 9 - Sept 15, 2011

GUARDIAN ANGEL, 1996

Famed allegorical painter Peter Rogers, resident of San Patricio and husband to Carol Hurd, (daughter of Peter and Henrietta), survived the bombing of London during World War II by the Germans. His parents took Peter and his two sisters out of London and they went all across the English countryside seeking a place out of harms way.

"At the house near Exeter I remember a German plane coming down so close I could clearly make out the pilot's face. I was seven at the time and well remember the big black crosses on the plane's wings." Peter and his sisters went from roaming the fields looking for mushrooms to seeing who could find the biggest piece of shrapnel.

He survived to go on to art school at St. Martin's in London just down the street from the National Gallery where he spent many of his lunch hours. From an early age he had always known he would be a painter.

Peter intended to fulfill his destiny as a painter even if it meant years of enduring life as "the starving artist." He completed a stint in the army and dropped out of art school - the result of falling in love with Jenny, a ballet dancer. The two married and moved to Monaco, in the south of France while Jenny danced with her ballet company, under contract for two years.

"This time in my life was amazing because I was essentially a penniless art school student. But we were treated like royalty, eating at the best restaurants, etc. It was all very posh, the whole of Monaco treated its ballet dancers very well and since I was the only 'husband in residence' they treated me very well too."

While dining at one of these black-tie restaurants, Peter was approached by a tarot card reader who insisted, "You will spend the main part of your life in America." Peter scoffed at the prediction, it couldn't be further from his focus, his desires, or so he thought.

THE CRUCIFIXION, 1957

During this time in Monaco, pictures of the Shroud of Turin surfaced and Peter determined that an exact, perfect painting of The Crucifixion did not exist - in fact, all the evidence of the shroud indicated that previous paintings had been inaccurate. Peter was so inspired, he became convinced that it would be he, who would gift the world with the ideal painting of The Crucifixion - the entire British art world would herald his arrival, which meant being exhibited at the Royal Academy!

In the end his 10 foot high, five feet wide painting was rejected by the academy. His in-laws and parents acted as if he'd disgraced them. Peter was devastated. Feeling for the young painter's profound dejection, the vicar at the church where he and Jenny had been married, offered to hang it in his church.

Within a month, Peter received a letter from the president of the Royal Society of British Artists, who happened to be a member of the congregation, offering to exhibit it and, most importantly, offering him a full membership in the society, not merely an associate, but at the tender age of 24, as a full member. "Mind you, the Royal Society of British Artists was founded in 1823 in defiance of the Royal Academy, so this was especially meaningful."

As I look at the painting, in a book on Peter's life, I am struck by the three crouching Roman soldiers at the foot of the cross. It is a a goose-bump moment - the three so completely personify evil, even though, as Peter points out, the soldiers were only doing their job.

I point out that the way he painted Christ also is quite compelling. Unlike other hanging-on-the-cross. paintings, Christ here does not look near death nor defeated, in fact, in Peter's painting, Christ's body appears ready to fly off triumphantly. It implies huge power and acceptance, as if he is saying: "my heart is open to all this."

"Incredible that you zeroed in on those three! That trilogy of 'evil' haunted me for a long time, I began doing a series of paintings, 'Images of Evil' - all based on those three soldiers from The Crucifixion."

"I eventually became disgusted by the negativity of the paintings. I wanted to paint something positive - the very opposite of evil - but how on Earth do you paint 'good.' Perhaps the answer was not so much an IMAGE OF GOOD, as of God, but that was equally impossible to paint. I was stuck."

Here began the pivotal moments in his life, where Peter, like all seekers and visionaries, yearns for guidance, or direction - and gets it. It was before marrying Jenny. He was writing to his and her parents seeking their approval and support of the marriage: "I needed an argument that would appeal to them but since I was an almost penniless student, I was unable to think of one." In that moment, he heard a voice, loud and c1ear: "Seek first the kingdom of Heaven and the rest shall be added onto you."

On the matter of "good versus evil," and how to capture it on canvas, Peter again got what he needed to hear. "I was on a train bound for London, it was so crowded I had to stand in the corridor. I was alone and I heard a voice. It seemed to come from a few feet away. It spoke slowly and distinctly, "The illusion of separateness... the understanding of oneness."

"Was I being told that my Images of Evil were really images of the Illusion of Separateness? If so, then the second phase was the opposite I had been looking for. No wonder I had failed to find it, I had been thinking in terms of an evil power, but if evil is the result of our sense of separation from God, and if the state of separation is illusory, then the power of evil had to be illusory too.

The quest for this seeker was about to take him to a new continent. The marriage with Jenny failed when she fell in love with a fellow dancer in Italy. Peter ended up in Spain, nursing his broken heart and through mutual friends met Carol, daughter of Peter Hurd and Henriette Wyeth, the sister of Andrew Wyeth. Until meeting Carol - Peter, like most Europeans at the time, was completely unaware of the "Brandywine School," the legacy of the Wyeth's nationally - and the importance of the Hurd's to the Land of Enchantment. Peter and Carol fell in love, and it was agreed they would marry and live in New Mexico.

It was dark when he landed at Roswell Airport, "As we crossed the desert, I thought, my goodness, how desolate and barren, this is like the moon with missile silos!" He had no idea of the verdant Hondo Valley that awaited him, until morning broke.

Peter's months at the Hurd compound were difficult, "With good reason. When I arrived, the Hurds did not know what to do with me. I'm sure they thought I was a 'gold-digger.' I was put to work doing odd jobs on the ranch but soon graduated to cowboy and I did all the things a cowboy does, like rounding up cattle and branding them."

This did not last long, once Peter's luggage arrived from England, everything changed. Among his belongings were all the newspaper and magazine articles touting the young talent Revealed in the "Illustrated London News," was the fact that he was represented exclusively by Arthur Tooth and Sons, one of the top British art galleries of the time.

"To find out all this about his son-in-law came as quite a surprise to Peter Hurd. He changed toward me and for the better, once he realized that I'd enjoyed a certain amount of success as a painter in England. As a result, he turned over a commission he'd decided he did not want to do, namely paint the history of Texas as a mural in the State Archives and LIbrary Building in Austin."

Peter accepted more commissions, even travelled to Alaska to paint oil rigs for the Atlantic Richfield Oil Company. Other commissioned work included pen and wash landscape drawings, portraits and landscape paintings - a great amount of diverse work.

Initially, Peter fretted that doing work that "paid the bills," would distract him from the kind of work he longed to do, metaphysical, spiritual paintings replete with universal symbols that would help the viewer in their own quest for enlightenment.

Peter had begun to meditate and what followed in short order: paintings of Jesus washing the apostles' feet; driving the moneychangers from the temple; mentoring Mary and healing the blind. The process gave him clarity, "…it had given me a valuable insight into how the life of Christ relates to you and me. It seems that we have a choice: we can associate with the Christ of our being and so receive our inheritance as children of God, or we can associate with our ego, or small self, and suffer the consequences."

For nearly 60 years, Peter Rogers has been unrelenting, seeking to define on canvas what we know intuitively - what the song by The Police spells out so melodiously: "we are spirits in a material world." Peter has added to the "spiritual treasure of man," fulfilling the mission of his life by producing over 1000 haunting and evocative Quest paintings, not to mention the rest of his body of work.

He is being honoured with a retrospective at the Roswell Museum and Art Center through Jan 29, 2012. The short drive is well worth it to see Peter's work and begin a similar quest toward the magic of ascension and understanding.

In his words: 'Those who make a commitment to the Quest quickly realize that they are not alone. Precisely who or what is helping them they cannot say, but they become aware that someone or something is directing their way in a purposeful fashion… there will be cases of synchronicity and improbable rescues; truths will be revealed by means of the right book at the right time and by helpful encounters with others on the same path. Is some guardian angel behind all this? It certainly feels like it."

Roswell Museum and Art Center, 100 W. 11th St, Roswell 575-624-6744

enter, 100 W. 11th St, Roswell 575-624-6744