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[whitespace] WG's Carlos Perez is swimming (and painting) with the sharks

Willow Glen--When San Jose's new, free public art exhibit descends upon the grounds of the city on August 1, Willow Glen artist Carlos Perez will have created at least one of the 100 pieces of shark, er, art.

Perez has already been commissioned by the Silicon Valley Community Newspaper Group (which publishes the Willow Glen Resident) to fashion one of his six submissions into reality.

Based on the successful "Cows on Parade" public art exhibition in New York and Chicago, SharkByte Art will feature artistic renderings on 100 6-foot long fiberglass sharks to be displayed throughout San Jose's sidewalks, parks and plazas from August through November 2001.

Local businessman Joel Wyrick adapted the concept for San Jose, enlisted Brian Eder and Cherri Lakey of Two Fish Design Group as the project's artistic directors and the San Jose Downtown Association to coordinate the sponsorship, marketing and logistics. Each participating artist receives a $1,000 honorarium, while each sponsor designates a nonprofit organization as its beneficiary. Ninety percent of the auction proceeds will be forwarded to the designated beneficiaries and local arts programs.

While sharks on parade may sound a bit strange to outsiders, the idea grew on Perez, whose artistic, cultural and financial success as an artist has as much to do with his creative ability as his pragmatic approach to art and attitude about his work.

Working out of the studio in back of his home at 1525 Hervey Lane, Perez, 50, focuses on solving problems for clients, encouraging budding artists and, most of all, having fun each day.

"When I was 7, the head schoolmaster at my school in Mexico observed some creative ability in me and I began working with her on Saturdays. What I recall most vividly about that experience is having fun--and that when you're having fun, you put a lot more effort into what you're doing," Perez says.

Unlike some artists, his parents always supported his creative endeavors; unlike many more, he's experienced both financial and creative success in his work.

"I happen to be one of the fortunate artists who've been able to make a living at my art," Perez says modestly. "To me, art isn't just about the fine arts of painting and sculpting, it involves my whole visual arts experience--whether it's designing a graphic page for an Applied Materials ad campaign, or teaching homeless kids how to express themselves through art in murals."

He finds artists sometimes limit themselves by the medium, instead of recognizing that commercial work is fueled by people, businesses and organizations that simply need someone to solve their design problems through art, whether it's a piece of literature, or a bench for a public park.

Perez' clients include the San Jose Office of Cultural Affairs, San Jose Arts Council, Ballet San Jose-Silicon Valley and MACLA, (he designed MACLA's logo).

"When I was first approached by Roma Dawson about the SharkByte project, I was a bit hesitant," Perez admitted. "Then, David Cohen of Metro called and asked if I'd consider a sponsorship, and I became more interested because of who was asking."

After downloading the project details, he played around with roughly a dozen concepts on his computer before submitting six different ideas. "As I started looking into more metaphors for the shark image, it became more exciting. This project is something that will engage people, and make them look, think and laugh about art in way that's playful and fun, the way art should be," he says.

Perez' commission features a weathervane, with the initials for the North, South, East and West directions forming the acronym NEWS--a singularly appropriate one for the Silicon Valley Community Newspaper Group.

"That's what I try to teach the valley's young people that work with--to enjoy whatever there is they pursue in life. I think the reason people get unsatisfied with their jobs is that they do the same thing day after day," Perez says. "Being self-employed, I can be flexible about what I get involved with. I can be creating graphics on my computer one day, then working physically outdoors with paint the next, which adds a nice flavor to my life. A lot of people gripe about their jobs. I have nothing to gripe about--and that's a positive thing."

Anyone interested in seeing the artist at work can observe Carlos Perez painting live at Art Made to Match, located at 1000 Lincoln Ave. in Willow Glen on May 26, at 7 p.m.
Michelle C. Crowe

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Web extra to the May 24-30, 2001 issue of Metro.

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