L.A. Time Slip: Marie Peter-Toltz

We invite you on a studio visit turned mushroom fueled interview between L.A. based artists Marie Peter-Toltz and Katelynn Mills. 

  Photography  by Jake Davis, 2017.

Photography by Jake Davis, 2017.

At Bar Stella in Silverlake, Los Angeles Marie Peter-Toltz discusses her new work and upcoming show at Nanda\Hobbs Contemporary (Sydney) over cocktails.

Los Angeles is a place where one can walk into a thrift store, find true vintage, your friend’s cousin’s band T-shirts, designer wear, merchandise the sex shop next door couldn't sell, century-old jewelry, and try it all on at the same time. Looking at a Marie Peter-Toltz painting is often not a dissimilar experience; we can really have it all.

 Marie Peter-Toltz, Centauresse, Née des Océans, 2017, oil on canvas, 54 x 48 inches (Courtesy of the Artist and Nanda/Hobbs Contemporary, Australia).

Marie Peter-Toltz, Centauresse, Née des Océans, 2017, oil on canvas, 54 x 48 inches (Courtesy of the Artist and Nanda/Hobbs Contemporary, Australia).

Upon viewing Centauresse, Née des Océans, a feature painting in Tonight Think of Me; an upcoming solo exhibition of Marie Peter-Toltz at Nanda\Hobbs Contemporary (Sydney), we are immediately pulled in by the eye of Horace in clown makeup. The eye belongs to a woman’s beautiful, blue face — the face belongs to the rest of the body as much as it does the blue atmosphere in the background. Her sherbet ice-cream hair is adorned by a tiger skin crown. The female centaur in her of herself is a peculiar subject (possibly a Rodin reference?), no less strange for sporting her never-before-seen brand of pasties on her medieval-sphere-breasts.

She has borrowed a fish scale shawl from her mermaid friend for her journey through the ocean.

In this picture, the centauresse has invited us to the sea during a red tide to explore the bioluminescent bacteria sparkle and glow in the waves. I couldn’t help but to, literally, feel the ocean rock beneath us on our psychedelic mushroom enhanced interview at Bar Stella, the cool-crowd hotspot of Silver Lake. I looked down at the painting on my phone, to the Alice in

Wonderland tile on the bar patio floor, to the same checkered “sea shore” of the painting, to our bartender, Erica, and back down to the painting. “I was thinking about her when I did the white figure,” Peter-Toltz said to me, almost kissing the rim of her full cocktail glass and taking a light sip, “she maintains such an attractive balance of male and female energy.” Erica, in her well fitted white club jacket, kept pulsing through the centauresse, out of the picture, and onto our “ship” which was the bar, and then back into the image on my iPhone where she belonged. “This is the only way to look at your paintings, Marie,” I laughed. “But really,” I followed up, “I can’t help but feel like we’re on the sea and everything from this painting is breathing in and out of our reality.”  

“I hope this doesn’t tip you over the proverbial edge, but I've been reading and painting Homer’s Odyssey. We’re on the Island of Lotus Eaters, Katelynn! Now get back on that ship!”

Peter-Toltz exclaimed, as she pulled a copy of the book from her purse/ magic bag of endless goodies and read:

On the tenth day, I landed on the island

of those who live on food from the lotus flowers.

 Artist Marie Peter-Tolz at work in her studio. Photo by Jake Davis. 

Artist Marie Peter-Tolz at work in her studio. Photo by Jake Davis. 

we gathered water, and my crew prepared

a meal. We picnicked by the ships, then I

chose two men, and one slave to make the third,

to go and scout. We needed to find out

what kind of people lived there on that island.

The scouts encountered humans, Lotus-Eaters,

who did not hurt them. They just shared with them

their sweet delicious fruit. But as they ate it,

they lost the will to come back and bring news

to me. They wanted only to stay there,

 Marie Peter-Toltz,  Glück ,  2017, oil on canvas, 54 x 48 inches (Courtesy of the Artist and Nanda/Hobbs Contemporary, Australia).

Marie Peter-Toltz, Glück,  2017, oil on canvas, 54 x 48 inches (Courtesy of the Artist and Nanda/Hobbs Contemporary, Australia).

feeding on lotus with the Lotus-Eaters.

They had forgotten home. I dragged them back

in tears, forced them on board the hollow ships,

pushed them below the decks, and tied them up.

I told the other men, the loyal ones,

to get back in the ships, so no one else

would taste the lotus and forget about

our destination. They embarked and sat

along the rowing benches, side by side,

and struck the grayish water with their oars.

At this point we were in full swoon. Psychedelics have a way of breaking down the barrier between the inner and outer lives we experience in the same way Cubism breaks down the separation between the figure and ground. I could hear the thoughts and processes churning within each member of this throng of young professionals, locals, and savvy hipsters waiting for their Tinder dates to arrive. Coming into immediate contact with any one of them would cause such an intimate, intense level of transference I’d become nearly paralysed -- unlike Marie, whos reaction was much more outward and audible. The tiki decor of Bar Stella tricked us into the thick of the jungle. Marie was Ulysses, I was the journalist, and we were using her painting as the map. While on the outside we may have appeared to be wide-eyed, spracked-out lunatics reprimanding patrons for hogging all the available seating, in reality Marie was fending off the Lotus-eaters and ensuring a place to rest for her weary travel companion as we documented all the wild, new phenomena our work would later reveal.  

Peter-Toltz, the gracious and fearless captain that night, guided me through a number of her other paintings of creatures and tropical landscapes that she’s been working on as real-life characters continued to swim in and out of our interview. We saw a young boy wearing a designer Glück jumpsuit ride a unicorn, sexy butts, and tiger-women monoprints as Erica kept our custom cocktails coming.

Though I didn’t weep when it was time to board the Lyft and go home, I couldn’t help but feel bittersweet pangs for having to part with the truly immersive experience that this artist delivered and I can’t wait for the next opportunity to join her for an adventure; whether via painting, real life, or some insane mixture of the two.


[i] HOMER, The Odyssey (translated by Emily Wilson), Book 9: A Pirate in a Shepherd’s Cave, pp 242-243.


Marie Peter-Toltz is represented by Slag Gallery in Brooklyn New York, Nanda\Hobbs in Sydney (Australia) and BMG Art in Adelaide (Australia). Peter-Toltz earned her Master of Fine Arts in Painting from the New York Studio School. Her forthcoming solo exhibition Tonight Think of Me opens April 26 at NANDA\HOBBS Gallery in Sydney. You can follow her on Instagram @petertoltz.


Katelynn Mills is a painter and Art History Professor teaching at Santa Ana College. Her writing has been featured in a number of publications such as Artcritical and Painters' Table. Mills continues to make contributions to the research of The Cybernetics of Painting, the topic of her dissertation conducted at the New York Studio School (2014-16).