Christian Letts Celebrates his Second Gallery, Pietro: A Chat With the Artist

by Flaunt Intern

“Canvas glow, I just wanted to see them and I just wanted to do it,” Christian Letts tells me about his painting origins as we are standing in the middle of his latest exhibit, taking it all in.  

Letts--of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros--is not only the band’s guitar player and songwriter, but an artist in his own right who has been painting since the tender age of four. This artist currently has a gallery at Voila! named Pietro, which I later find out is named after his father.

As I walked past the black currents and into the gallery I am immediately taken with the tenebrist paintings. I take a quick look around before circling back to Letts--seeing that he finally has a free moment. Almost instantly, it feels like I’m meeting an old friend. Letts is bursting with energy as he begins telling me about his work.

“I’ve sort of been learning how to be fearless of any mistakes that happen and not be so precious,” he tells me handing me a glass a wine.

The Boxer (Golden and Broken) 2017, Epoxy Resin, 24kt. Gold Plated, 13x6 inches

The Boxer (Golden and Broken) 2017, Epoxy Resin, 24kt. Gold Plated, 13x6 inches

He’s now indicting one of his sculptures, “The Boxer (Golden and Broken),” when he says:  

“I’d done a casting on this resin and I was holding it and it slipped out of my hands and it shattered. I thought, 'Fuck, man! What am I going to do about this.' I read about this thing where you can fix ceramics with gold and all this other shit when that breaks. I was like, 'Well, what if I get this plated in gold and see what happens.' I did and I think it was just an amazing way to accentuate the imperfections and it became really powerful leaving it the way it was. It’s one of my favorite pieces actually.”

For Letts, this piece also is a strong representation of the idea he hoped would come across about the dual realities between time and memory. “There’s something powerful about seeing the human moment and also time passing and things crumbling, he says. "I think a lot of the whole collection is about time and memory and this became a perfect representation.”

There was one painting in his collection that particularly caught my attention and I just had to ask Letts about it. That painting was “Bird Man (Bottom of The World).”

Bird Man (Bottom of the World), 2016, Oil on Canvas, 84 x 42 inches

Bird Man (Bottom of the World), 2016, Oil on Canvas, 84 x 42 inches

“We were in the South of France, in Bordeaux and I saw a sculpture of this cardinal, and yeah it just sort of haunted me. I just kept thinking about it, and thinking about it. Eventually I just had to paint it. To sort of make room for something else, another thought. But this one is very reckless painting, too. I really enjoy this process of ripping the paint off the canvas and not being as precious as I am with the other ones, sort of these two--'The Boxer (Golden and Broken' and 'Bird Man'-- are in the same world in that way.”

“Which are the some of the ones you are more particular about?” I ask.

“My dad,” he answers. We walk over to the painting known as “Pietro.”

Pietro, 2016, Oil on Canvas, 48 x 24 inches

Pietro, 2016, Oil on Canvas, 48 x 24 inches

“That’s my dad. Yeah, we had a tricky relationship and he just recently past away, a couple of months ago. So this one was a big moment for me to capture him. I purposely painted the look he gave me before we were about to have a situation and have a disagreement. And I finally got it and once I got it, it really allowed me... 'cause I had about four or five months left on the painting and I was staring at this person who has been a difficult person for me in my life. But it allowed me to get used to this look. And I started remembering all these amazing memories that I had not had before, so yeah this one is very precious. And the show is named after my dad, too. His name is Peter but I called him Pietro my whole life.

Why, I wonder. But the truth is simple and free of a long story. “I don’t know I just started when I was about four,” he laughs.

Pietro is the artist’s second exhibit with about two years of incredible work to showcase. Some of these pieces have already gone; however there is still time to make it down to the gallery. For more information click here.

Written by Evelyn Mateos