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Perry Milou Invites Us Behind The Scenes Of His Philadelphia Studio
Perry Milou Invites Us Behind The Scenes Of His Philadelphia Studio
“I want my work to evoke an aura of beautiful feelings. I am constantly looking at the sky for color; it is the closest thing to actually watching God paint in the present moment.”
By Shelly Stone
Nationally recognized philanthropic Pop artist Perry Milou creates contemporary art inspired by global icons, Americana, and celebrities. Over the past 30 years, his career has invited rave reviews from critics and A-list collectors - Sophia Loren, Sylvester Stallone, Robert Herjavec, and Julius Erving.
"Alluring," "brilliant," "fresh," and "glamorous" are a few of the words often used to describe Perry Milou's work. We are thrilled to offer a few of his original pieces in FOUND by Robert Allen. You don't want to miss these one-of-kind dramatically brilliant paintings!
Born and bred in Philadelphia, he describes himself as a city boy at heart. We are honored that he made time to sit down with us for an interview.
Where did you grow up?
I'm, as they say, born and bred in Philly. My mom was a prima ballerina at a young age. And my father was in the restaurant business. So my pedigree for being creative was established through birth.
Where did you attend college?
I attended college in Tucson, Arizona. My stepfather wanted me to attend a state school that had an art program within it. So I went to the other side of the country, and it was a great experience.
I came back to Philly and started working in the restaurant business, not because my father was in it, but just because a lot of artists, whether you're a musician or writer or a painter, you go into hospitality.
How did your art career begin?
Ten years after I graduated college, I started teaching art to kids. I bought the business from a woman I had gotten to know. For two years, I taught 100's of kids a week. It was great timing because I was burnt out in the hospitality industry.It worked out really well, and my studio was successful, but then I got to the point that I had to ask myself, are you going to be an artist? Or are you going to be an art teacher? And I didn't want to be an art teacher anymore, even though I was making good money.
What did you do after you closed your art school?I opened my first Art Gallery in Philadelphia in 2003. I subsequently moved around the city and opened three or four other galleries. And in 2009, I learned about Art Basel, the annual international art fair in Miami. People travel around the world to go to Miami to buy art and see all these art shows. So I moved to Miami and opened my gallery in the Winwood Art District.
When did you move back to Philly?When the stock market collapsed in 2008, I lost a lot of money in 11 months, so I packed my bags and returned to Philly. I was dating my beautiful wife, Angela Mastrosimone, at the time. Shortly after I returned, we got married and had our first child. We moved to the suburbs outside of this city, and I've been here ever since.
What is your creative process when you're creating?I spend so much time thinking about art and what I'm going to do next. For instance, I kind of know what each piece is going to look like when I begin. I have been thinking about the colors and what I'm going to do with them. Visually I can see the evolution of the painting before I create it.
Can you elaborate on your inspiration and the story behind a few of your pieces?
(Perry Milou: Rocketman. 2021. Oil on SilverLeaf. 40 in. x 30 in.)
I have a friend, a big stock player, who buys a lot of art from me. He was buying a lot of these SPAC new interest blank check stocks, and he convinced me to buy a little bit of Virgin Galactic stock.
So I bought some of the stock and watched it ride up and down. Then Virgin Galactic (Space) launched a flight to the edge of space.
All this noise inspired me. And I like Elon Musk; I think he is just as brilliant as Einstein. I watched him on Saturday Night Live, and I was intrigued by him.
(Perry Milou: Gratitude. 2020. Oil on canvas. 72 in. x 48 in.)
The painting is the molecular structure of the Covid - 19 virus.
And what, what prompted you to put the word gratitude on it?
Last March, I brought my bags home from the studio when the world was scared to death, and we were all told to stay home.
I went into the garage, and I started working on this painting. After painting for two months, I finally completed the piece. I began to think inward and feel that we would be okay. It was a time that I was able to slow down and get to know my neighbors better. People were gardening, and the air felt lighter. Upon completion that spring, I felt a rebirth amongst ourselves. So I wrote the word gratitude on it.
(Perry Milou: Amy. 2021. Oil on Silverleaf. 40 in. x 30 in.)
About four or five months ago, I watched a documentary about Amy Winehouse entitled "Amy." And I was just blown away by her talent, the sadness, and everything. I started painting this right after. I'm not sure if you can tell, but the background is gold leaf. I chose to add a gold leaf over gold paint because gold paint will not give you this reflective kind of feel.
(Perry Milou: Lady. 2011. Oil/Mixed on Canvas. 48 in. x 36 in.)
Lady is a great mixed media piece combining several unexpected materials. Her hair is real caution tape. I had caution tape in my studio for some reason, and I thought it would be cool to use it for her hair. Also, these embellishments are Swarovski crystals.
I remember when she came out for the Grammys, it had to be about ten years ago, and she was wearing that dress with meat hanging from it. That's not why I painted it. I just made the piece. But I like how it turned out.
(Perry Milou: Coexist. 2013. Oil on Canvas. 60 in. x 48 in.)
This painting is a touching story. I didn't paint this alone. An artist named Todd Marone, a local artist from Philly, painted the background. I did the Statue of Liberty.
We met in 2013. I don't remember what was going on, but there was political unrest, and we talked about politics. After knowing him for about an hour, I invited him to come and collaborate with me. So we did this painting together at a show.
He was a brilliant art teacher in the area that I grew up in outside of Philadelphia. He was a famous public high school art teacher. He did a brilliant TED talk about art, how we can all make art, how art influences our minds, and who we are. He made an impact on a lot of people. Sadly, I learned four months after our collaboration that he tragically lost his life.
(Perry Milou: Woman. 2021. Acrylic, oil, mixed media, photography, resin, diamond dust on wood,48 in. x 48 in.)
This piece of Frida Khalo has a lot of energy. It’s one of my spin art pieces; you kind of see her - but you don't. That's the style that I want to cultivate now because it's a combination of Pop Art and organic work that I don't control.
I have to surrender control when I use Spin Art, contrary to Pop Art, where I know what will happen. I put her face on the canvas, and then I threw a bunch of paint on top of it and spun it. It took courage for me to do that painting. But the finished product is so cool. You have to be willing to take a risk sometimes. I have coined this technique - Spin Pop.
What is your dream project?
When I walk into my studio every morning, it's a world of color. And it's my imagination. And I'm free. I'm just in bliss because I'm using my talent. I'm using the gift that a higher source or God, so to speak, gave me.
What would it be if you could go back in time and give your younger self a piece of advice?
I wasn't evolved spiritually and emotionally yet, to the point where I could just go for it. Once I got more mature and evolved, that's when everything came together.
For instance, I paint in this beautiful park, and this marketing guy from my father's restaurants tells me, "If you concentrated as much on your art as you do on girls and having fun, you'd be a famous artist."
But that's part of being young. If I could go back in time, I would've told the younger Perry to evolve sooner. But you can't do that.
“We are always exactly where we're supposed to be at any one moment in our lives.”
How did you find out that you had a brain tumor?
In the fall of 2005, I was working on a painting with a friend when I started to get a terrible headache. The pain was to the point where I had to lay down on the floor, almost in a fetal position. It felt like a very hammering type migraine, but it went away in like 10 minutes.
The following month I went to Sicily when I felt the pressure again on the airplane. Eventually, after several Doctors appointments, I was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor.
So I immediately got some references and set an appointment with the president of neurosurgery at the University of Pennsylvania. He told me because of the threat of life-altering effects that we should take the tumor out.
At the time, they were just experimenting on doing robotic surgeries, where they wouldn't have to cut my skull. I was one of the first patients in the world in 2015, where they cut above my gum line and went through my nose to extract a tumor. It was a 10.5-hour surgery. It's documented on the University of Pennsylvania website.
It took six months to recover fully to be able to exercise and paint. Luckily It wasn't cancerous; I feel really blessed.
That experience inspired me to become very philanthropic with my art. So foundations call me all the time to giveaway prints or paint live at an event. It's such a beautiful feeling to give back to pretty much anyone in any organization.
“For me, life's not about accumulating; it's about what you can give away.”
It was such a treat to sit down and get to know Perry Milou. You can feel his perspective on life and the world in his art. Each piece has a story to tell. All of us at Robert Allen are enamored with him and feel lucky to be able to share his art with you. You can find several of his pieces listed in the FOUND By Robert Allen collection.