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Art in the Balance: Student works double major, multiple art theses

For this intro installation for the In the Studio visual art series, we met our subject Peter Pendergrass, and we got to know a little bit about the honors art thesis he’ll be working on this year.

Drinking water from old glass jam jar in an eclectic room in St. Anthony Hall that he calls “the library,” Peter Pendergrass notates in a fresh Moleskine calendar.

Though the iconic notebooks are often used as props to suggest an artistic demeanor, Pendergrass, an artist himself, uses the calendar to chart out his hectic life.

A double major in performance studies and studio art working on multiple art theses, Pendergrass shrugs off his list of artistic projects as just another part of what drives him.

“Focusing on theses in two majors — it’s kind of a crazy thing to do,” Pendergrass, a senior, said.

Pendergrass will look into the function of dreams and the unconscious as a part of his performance thesis, he said.

“A lot of my art deals with vivid dreams,” Pendergrass said.

For the artist, dreams play an important role in his efforts to connect perception and reality, he said. The interpretation of reality and dreams has become a recurring theme in some of his most significant work.

Pendergrass’s thesis combines his studio art background with visual performance to further his interest in the exploration of dreams.

“The dream is, and has always been, a source of mystery, intrigue and inspiration,” Pendergrass said in his thesis proposal.

For years, the artist said that he has been transcribing his dreams, and has recently developed work translating these dreams into visual forms.

His project is large, but sitting in a room full of old VHS tapes and dusty books, he couldn’t seem more at ease.

“Most of the time the people who take on this kind of commitment have begun to view themselves as artists rather than art students,” Beth Grabowski, associate chair of the art department, said in an e-mail.

“Peter has a passion and commitment that is internal, not motivated by deadlines set by teachers or the institution.”

And though Pendergrass doesn’t have studio space in the Hanes Art Center, he still spends a lot of time there.

“I think it’s important to make Hanes Art Center your home, in a way,” he said.

In addition to his sizable academic commitments, Pendergrass is involved in an impressive number of independent art projects.

He is currently showing large scale abstract art at Nightlight, the Chapel Hill art venue and bar where he works.

“His life is very much a creative one,” said Pendergrass’s friend Laura Melosh. “He’s very brave in how he expresses himself.”

Pendergrass is also a part of the Performance Collective, a small performance group that emerged from a communications studies class.

The group is planning a show in November.

Pendergrass runs Pool Party Records — “a very DIY record label” — that looks into the music of local artists.

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The label is named after a party he holds in his back yard each year — a kiddie pool party showcasing local artists.

He is in the process of applying for an international travel scholarship that would entail six months abroad, he said.

And though he might have plans for graduate school, they are far off.

“For right now, I just want to spend time living and being an artist,” he said.

Contact the Arts Editor at

artsdesk@unc.edu.