Peter Max: From Positive Pop Art Prince to Human Rights Prisoner

Peter Max, Love, 1968, lithographic poster. Courtesy of ALP ©.

By STEPHEN WOZNIAK, November 2021 

This article is a review of the fine art and life of artist Peter Max, as well as the pressing human rights issues brought to the foreground by his current guardianship legal case. I had the good fortune to conduct an interview with Max’s daughter, Libra Max, the central force behind the #FreePeterMax campaign; Bruce Nahin, J.D. and motion picture producer; and Charles A. Riley, Ph.D, author of The Art of Peter Max and director of the Nassau County Museum of Art, excerpts of which are featured here.

“So, I guess I’ve had my down. And now it’s time for something up. Life comes in blocks of darknesses and light.” 

– Peter Max, December 3, 1973, CUNY TV’s “Day at Night” television program


“I am outraged that the guardian charged with looking out for Peter’s interests has done just the opposite by holding him in total isolation from his friends and family. Ms. Lissner’s heartless treatment of Peter Max seriously threatens his well-being.”

– Mimi Gelb, LMFT and 45-year friend of Peter Max, May, 2020, from her Supreme Court of the State of New York affidavit.

Peter Max on the cover of Life Magazine, circa December 1969.

Pop artist Peter Max holds a unique and highly visible place in popular American culture and art history. He should: he’s been doing it for over six decades. And he did it when historically honored Pop artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein initially gained critical and institutional success by transforming his signature peace-inspired psychedelic imagery into bright, cheery, effectively positive products of the everyday. But unlike the rare breed gallery goers and handful of art journalists in attendance of those artists’ exhibitions, the many-million users of his wares – from bed sheets to blue jeans – reveled in the inherent love he baked into each item, which inspired them during the late 1960s, a tumultuous period of upheaval and wartime marked as a crucial era in the human struggle worldwide. 

Peter Max-designed mugs and bowl, circa 1969. Courtesy of ALP ©

Max has spent the lion’s share of his years doing his best to create what he calls “up” artwork, live in the moment and make a lucrative fine art and image licensing business shine – all while shutting out the “darknesses.” But as the specter of time marches forward and wags its finger hither, Max has fallen prey to both divisive individual players and the extant system that have each supported the legal guardianship business, which often seeks the highest monetary return in exchange for very precious lives. After a troubled marriage, in which he was assigned a guardian on morally suspect grounds, Max was pushed further down the rabbit hole, wrenching him from the life, work and family he loved in a rapid period of time by June of 2019 to the present day. 

Britney Spears and Peter Max. Courtesy of ALP ©

His story now stands tall with other current, notable guardianship legal cases, including those of Pop music superstar Britney Spears and Star Trek TV series icon Nichelle Nichols. These cases, their rulings and the over 1.5 million American lives embroiled in tumultuous legal battles between guardianship victims’ families and private guardians are now being critically reviewed – and, in some instances, the rulings overturned – for the first time in decades. As his upcoming New York Supreme Court case approaches quickly, with the addition of Spears’ successful high power attorney Mathew Rosengart, Peter Max’s fate may take a dramatic “up” turn and with it, the greater awareness of the growing human rights violations being waged against the aged population in the U.S.

Peter Max-designed Expo ’74 “Preserve the Environment” 10-cent U.S. Stamp

It’s been a wild, loving, long, free-wheelin’ ride for Pop art impresario Peter Max. He’s done a lot to touch our cultural center and the artifacts that populate it since the early 1960s. He’s designed tons of advertising imagery for major brands, created world-famous musical artists’ album covers – from Yes to Taylor Swift – published zillions of groovy popular posters and even designed the Expo ’74 “Preserve The Environment” 10¢ U.S. stamp, among his many achievements in the visual popular and fine arts. Numerous books, feature articles and monographs have been written about Peter Max, including The Art of Peter Max and Peter Max Paints America. Max was featured on the cover of Life Magazine and dozens of other high circulation publications. Even the late Larry King interviewed him on CNN. His works have been collected in dozens of renowned institutions, from the Museum of Modern Art in New York to the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and exhibited in thousands of others. He freed the language of line drawing and the color palette of pastoral pictures, inspiring millions of image-makers and viewers around the world in the process. He has a magic touch and genuine heart, as his friends and loved ones will tell you. He’s sort of the Positive Prince of Pop Art, as I like to say. Though it wasn’t always like that and, right now, his legal guardianship life behind New York City Upper West Side apartment bars is, in many ways, much worse than his early, extended foray into this world. But let’s begin at the beginning. 

Part I: Positive Pop Art Prince

Peter Max (center) flanked by his parents in Shanghai, China in the mid-1940s. Courtesy of ALP ©

Stephen Wozniak: “What was your father’s early life like?” 

Libra Max: “He was an only child born in Berlin in late 1937. My grandparents – my father’s parents – escaped from Nazi Germany to Shanghai, China, with him when he was very young. They then moved to Haifa in Israel, then Paris briefly and made a bunch of other stops before he came to live as a teenager in Brooklyn, New York in the 1950s.  

“When he became successful in the late ‘60s, my grandmother was so proud of him. Not because he was famous. Just because he was happy, successful and had children – and created what was to be a beautiful future for everyone. It was an incredible source of joy for them. You see, they lost all of their relatives in World War II and everything they owned. So, his life – even from a young age – was a miracle.”

Charles A. Riley: “His Chinese experience was important. The family escaped from Europe to Shanghai in the ‘30s. That’s a place where an Austrian or German Jew could sometimes go. Peter had the clearest memory of a monastery near the family’s house on the southeast border. I have a lot of first-hand knowledge about China and Chinese art and culture. When Peter and I went through his Shanghai experience, that’s when our gears really meshed. It’s remarkable that he and his family even got there or that their ships were received in China.” 

Stephen Wozniak: “Max said that as a child, watching Chinese monks rake Zen sand gardens influenced him and his art. He related to the broad, curved, uniform gestures they created and the peaceful action of it.”

Charles A. Riley: “Yes. There was something else he told me, too – it had something to do the way water collected in a well or bowl. He remembered the eggshell texture of the stone that the water had worn down. And I thought to myself, ‘He’s not making this up.’ He remembered this and other minute details, like colorful sights and fragrant smells – and I know the smells. I know what it’s like going down a narrow alley in China and you can smell the fresh local peppers being cooked or a gasoline spill on uneven cobblestones. And there’s this young Peter Max on the run, collecting all of these sensual experiences. There’s a beautiful side to his early story.”

Stephen Wozniak: “What was it like growing up with your father at the most visible height of his career and artistic output in the early 1970s? What are your strongest memories of him and your family from that period?”

Peter Max and young daughter Libra Max meditating, circa 1971. Courtesy of ALP ©

Libra Max: “I just remember it was a really beautiful and creative period. I remember that he was always painting and drawing. Creativity filled the air. It’s what it felt like all of the time. Lots of painting, drawing, visits with interesting people and travels. It was really full. We spent a lot of time with Swami Satchidananda, going to different ashrams. In fact, my father brought him to the United States. It was a loving, exciting moment in our history. At the time, I didn’t really know that my father was famous because I didn’t have a context to compare it with anybody else’s life.”

“Also, my father gave me the freedom to be creative. I was always very musical. I was always putting on plays, drawing, singing and painting. I used to paint with him all of the time. In the early 1970s, his painting studio was set up in the living room of my home on the Upper West Side in New York. People came around a lot and sort of communed in that central place.”

Libra goes onto explain his core being and bedrock of strong values. “The other thing about growing up with him is that he was – and continues to be – the most loving, kind, warm, sweet person and very family oriented.” He was always her best friend: gentle, respectful and would always talk about anything, something that made her proud. “It shows how beautiful he is, too. In my entire life, never did he raise his voice at me. Not once,” she explains.

Stephen Wozniak: “How long have you known Peter Max and his art prior to writing his monograph coffee table book The Art of Peter Max in 2002, which covers both his life and notable works from the 1960s onward?”

The Art of Peter Max by Charles A. Riley II

Charles A. Riley: “Peter Max is fundamental. I’ve known about him forever. He’s been a part of our cultural legacy and lives. I think that’s probably his greatest claim in the history of art – not just his longevity, but his ubiquity. He’s been a part of so many people’s lives.” 

“I met him around 2000. I wrote a dense book about color theory and someone dragged me to his studio and asked that I talk about the artists featured as chapters in the book, including Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin and other Post-Impressionists and Fauves – and Peter Max, who was not in the book. And I thought, ‘OK.’ This is interesting because Peter was certainly influenced by the Fauves, but has done something else formally. Of course, his subject matter was different, too. I always thought Max was best comparable to Andy Warhol, though, especially his printmaking process. “

Stephen Wozniak: “What was it like to watch Peter Max’s art studio practice in action?”

Charles A. Riley: “Peter had a few people around who knew what they were up to, including an art dealer friend who said to me, “You have access.” So, I would visit and Peter and I would sit for many hours in his studio not talking theory – that’s not his thing, right – but just really talking about what he does, his studio process, the activity of it all. And I watched Peter’s team. The studio worked like a ballet and he managed it so well. I watched him pull prints. Then, Peter showed me something he was so proud of that the studio developed called ‘split jet’ printing on paper, which was advanced at the time. He loved that!”

To Libra Max, his prolific artistic output was “mind-blowing.” Whether in the studio, on the beach or even in the back of a restaurant on a tablecloth, he’d always be sketching something.

Libra Max: “It was like he was always channeling. With his hand on the paper, he never knew what was going to come out, but as long as his hand continued to move, something showed up. Then he would follow it with something else – then suddenly – it was a character, an image and it revealed itself through him. It happened because of the doing of it. He didn’t wait for inspiration. The inspiration came through him because he was actively doing. His life and work are a creation like that.” 

Peter Max enjoyed a great deal of early success by creating commercial art with Tom Daly in The Daly & Max Studio established in New York in 1962. Peter and Tom relied heavily on found photographic imagery from the earlier part of the century, like that used in Peter’s graphic image of French painter and illustrator Toulouse-Lautrec from 1966. The client base brands were broad and powerful, ranging from major record labels to breakfast cereal manufacturers. Daly & Max won nearly a hundred notable advertising awards within the first few years of operation.

Meade Lux Lewis album cover by Peter Max, circa 1964.

Charles A. Riley: “Peter, like a lot of those graphic designers in the late ‘60s that created psychedelic posters and album covers for bands like Led Zeppelin, thought it was important to note that they made conscious art history allusions. Peter did a very cool thing with Lautrec. He used Lautrec as a character to project a mood in really interesting ways. He was developing characters early in his design career before his iconic fine art characters in the later 60s and 70s.” 

Libra Max: “Before working in his graphic design company, my father studied under Frank J. Reilly at the Art Students League and was essentially a classically-trained photo realist, which many people don’t know. He used that discipline and expanded those skills in his creative commercial work.” 

Peter Max, Cowboy, 1958, oil on board, 24 1/5” x 15 1/5”. Courtesy of ALP ©

Stephen Wozniak: “What were the most significant influences on Peter Max’s work? He has variously said they included everyone from his, ‘nanny in China, who taught me how to use a brush to the German scientist I met in the mountains near Tibet, who first inspired my interest in space to Swami Satchidananda, the renowned Yoga master who taught me the art of letting go and being in the flow.’”

Charles A. Riley: “I can see many of those influences for sure. But I’d again say the Fauvist art movement is vital to his formal choices. The Fauves are the place from which Peter’s color pallet came from. I mean look at Matisse, Derain and even Braque. So vibrant, lots of figures on grounds and full of saturated color. Peter just did it in a more refined graphic manner initially.” 

And definitely Toulouse-Lautrec, whose life was similar in some ways, especially his media output. He also had a print studio and issued editions, creating a real cottage industry. Of course, Peter Max did the same thing, but on a massive truly American scale. 

Charles A. Riley: “Speaking of Braque. You’ve always got these funny pairs in art history. You’ve got Picasso and Braque. And I would say Andy Warhol and Peter Max. There’s Andy doing what he’s doing. I don’t necessarily love the really commercial side of Andy. But then it skews into something else that’s fine art. We just had an Andy Warhol show here at the Nassau County Museum of Art and we broke all attendance records. I got a chance – as I did with Peter – to review Andy Warhol portfolios and look at the way these images were printed, how the ink lays on paper and the color theory it supported, when I mounted the show. Not all of it was a home run, which was true for Peter, too.”

Peter Max poster for The Different Drummer, circa 1972. Courtesy of ALP ©

“One very good artist friend I spoke with said that if you make a large number of paintings, like Peter did using those bold colors, you’re gonna’ really hit it out of the park. Like Andy Warhol, I was less interested in the commercial side of the Peter’s work. But just like Andy, Peter made some brilliant fine art pieces, too.”  

Stephen Wozniak: “In an interview with James Day of CUNY TV in 1973, Peter Max talked a lot about living in the moment in order to “become the mood” that allows him to “exhibit an aspect of God – the God that we all are.” What do you think he meant by that?” 

Charles A. Riley: “That was Peter. Peter flirted with Hinduism and Buddhism. He spent his time in Ashrams. Especially, when the crowd was gone and he wasn’t sort of dealing with the ongoing business of his company. When Peter was in the flow – which we understand from musicians and artists that we know – he was being, not becoming. He wasn’t playing a role. Which was good – he was fully capable of doing that. I saw him in that – shall we say – more relaxed mode in the studio. And it was really totally earnest.”

Stephen Wozniak: “Some things changed for your father after his great visible success in the 1960s and early 1970s. How did your father’s life, career and business transform over the years through the 1980s, ‘90s and beyond?”

Peter Max on a tapestry of his original poster art, circa 1969. Courtesy of ALP ©

Libra Max: “In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, my father was the very first to license his illustrated images on a mass scale. Back then, fine artists and many others looked down upon it. Of course, everybody does it now. He was really kind of a forerunner and visionary. He wanted art to be accessible. He wanted everyone to own a piece of art, even if it was in the form of a colorful GE Peter Max wall clock or pair of Peter Max rainbow sneakers. It didn’t have to be rare fine art. He and his work were absolutely everywhere for years.”

Then, by the mid-‘70s, Max was a bit burned out and felt more than a little overexposed. The Max family spent a lot of time back and forth between Manhattan and the very creative enclave of Woodstock, New York, where Max had a house. 

Libra Max: “He wanted to get back to his inner relationship with the pen, brush and canvas. Todd Rundgren, Albert Grossman, Michael Lang, Bob Dylan all lived up there. So, he went into a creative retreat that was intended for a year or so, but lasted about ten years. He had massive success in a short period of time – the merchandise grossed a billion dollars for his clients then. The painterly gestural work he made from that ten-year period is very special art, but he chose not to sell a lot of it.”

Peter Max Kinney sneakers, circa 1970. Courtesy of ALP ©

By the late ‘80s, Max opened his studio on 65th street. There, he would hang out and paint with Rolling Stone guitarist Ron Wood and other notable creative types. And there was lots of travel. Shortly after East and West Germany reunited, the family flew to his birth country for something very special. 

Libra Max: “He was gifted a massive piece of the Berlin wall that he carved and painted a dove of peace from as a sculpture. There were a lot of his museum shows happening in Europe and Russia then, too. He designed the stages for the Moscow Music Peace Festival in 1989. He did the stage design for the 1994 and 1999 Woodstock Festivals, too. He did a lot.”

Peter Max and drummer Ringo Starr, circa 2012. Courtesy of ALP ©

Stephen Wozniak: “So, ultimately, he was happy in the big scheme of things?”

Libra Max: “His life’s goal is for everyone to be happy, to wake up smiling, to be soft, to be sweet, to be gentle. His art was not just visual. It’s something you feel. It is an entire philosophy. You can’t just look at his work and not be happy. His art was his answer to World War II. He grew up with a lot of trauma, having escaped a war. And his art was an answer to that.”

Part II: Human Rights Prisoner

Peter Max, circa 1992. Courtesy of ALP ©

By the mid-1990s, Max was busier than ever: painting, giving lectures, doing interviews on TV, expanding the business and living the September-of-his-years version of being Peter Max. During that time, he had met the woman – thirty years his junior – who would become his second wife and they were soon married by 1997. 

It has been reported that most friends and family members sensed something was not right with his wife, Mary, from her increasing states of mental distress to her not-so-secret financial motivations for marrying the wealthy artist. Despite Peter’s earnest love and efforts, as well as its ongoing ups and downs over twenty years, the carriage of their marriage became troublesome. Some say she wanted a way out of this world, while simultaneously having it all. She found a way.

Peter Max-designed Boeing jetliner, circa 2009. Courtesy of ALP ©

By 2015, Max’s wife got wind of something called “guardianship.” Guardianship of, say, an elderly parent is a legal relationship ordered by a state court that gives a private or court-appointed individual the right to care for the welfare and safety of said parent or elder who can no longer care for or make proper decisions themselves. Sounds almost loving on paper. In real life, it offers carte blanche control over another human’s life. It applies to both their person and their property. It’s kind of the worst subjugation imaginable or something nearly as devastating. So, Max’s wife petitioned the courts and had Max put into a guardianship – even though he was neither incapacitated, nor demented in any prodigious way. He was aging, as we all do, and maybe forgot a few items of personal history here and there, but there was essentially nothing overly wrong with his mental and physical health, according to friends and family. Luckily, the court had reviewed evidence brought up against Max’s wife via affidavits, depicting her significant mistreatment, abuse and physical threats against Max. So, instead of placing a friend of Mary as guardian, the court appointed its own guardian in order to effectively keep watch on her, protecting Max, ultimately. That’s how it worked for a few years and it was ostensibly good in a few ways. 

Stephen Wozniak: “What happened in 2015 and later, after the new attorney came in to effectively act as guardian for your father?”

Libra Max: “Well, there were a couple of ‘ethical’ guardians in the beginning. They were nice, they were humane. They put eyes and ears in my father and Mary’s apartment. They didn’t interfere in his life at all. In the first couple of years, my father and I traveled, went to art shows, and even booked a trip to Barbados. Life was really good. The only purpose for the guardianship was a way to protect him from his wife.” 

Fast forward to 2019, when Max’s wife took some almost unspeakable inroads to physically harm the aging Peter Max, as reported in the New York Times that year. Some even feared for his life. Since law enforcement sniffed around and began pursuing Mary, her rightful paranoia and precarious mental state led to what many concluded were the reasons for her ultimate suicide. The public record of Max’s guardianship scenario grew into a mounting stack of paper trails, not to be missed by another perilous player in this tragic story, attorney Barbara Lissner.

The very day after Max’s wife died, Holocaust restitution and estate planning attorney Barbara Lissner stepped in to supplant Max’s freshly resigned guardian – as in resigned the same day prior. Everyone was immediately shut out, including friends, family and anyone else Max made regular contact with, leaving him to mourn his wife’s loss alone. His cell phone was taken and his communications are now greatly limited with family. It was a very grim day, followed by many more. And, of course, by all accounts, it was all about the money – great deals of it – but the human consequences were and are far greater. 

In September of 2021, the New York Post reviewed accounting tabulated by Libra Max’s attorney, which rendered interesting and wildly lopsided results. The previous guardians incurred a mere $3,000 per month expense in a year and a half – a pittance in Manhattan – while Lissner racked up what amounted to nearly a million dollars in a little over a year. That is to say, Lissner’s guardianship spent about two dozen times the expenses of the past guardians. Something’s not right, right? Right. But oh, so wrong. 

Stephen Wozniak: “Since the formal and very public legal release of Pop music icon Britney Spears on November 12th from her father’s conservatorship only a few days ago, how do you see this event impacting your father’s pending court case at the end of this month in New York?”

Libra Max: “I have been fighting this quietly for two and a half years: me, along with my father’s life-long friends, loved-ones and my cousins in court – trying to release my father from his isolation. I didn’t take going public lightly. I thought once Mary died and the only reason for the guardianship ended, it would be over and I would have no problem.”

And the hope was, in turn, that Barbara Lissner would simply go away after Libra Max petitioned the court. It is clear that Libra and many close to Max believe he does not need protection from anyone. Then why are the courts in the Max family’s lives, why is a complete stranger telling Max what to do, who he can see, when he can see them, when he should eat, when he can take a shower, when he can leave the house? It took Libra two whole years to realize how broken – or rather set up – the system was and still is. At that point, she had spoken with many guardianship victims’ family members and saw the patterns.

Stephen Wozniak: “What are those patterns, the ones that seem to enable these for-profit guardianships to lock into place so quickly?” 

Libra Max: “In many guardianships, the protocol is: Isolate, medicate, steal the estate. The other one is intimidate, retaliate. I was warned when I intended to go public on this that I would be intimidated and threatened by the guardians. Even my father’s two previous guardians wrote affidavits to help get rid of Barbara Lissner. Everyone who has spoken against Lissner – who has no geriatric training, no therapeutic training; she’s just a lawyer, after all – has been retaliated against in court papers.”

“So when I went public, I knew – as any whistle-blower – you’re the enemy. And when there’s big money, like there is in this case, I don’t think anyone is going to go away lightly and easily. I kind of knew that and heard that from other victims’ family members.”

In other guardianship legal cases, some family were jailed or restrained when speaking up for a father or mother taken under guardianship. 

If you have not already seen the 2018 award-winning feature documentary The Guardians, it is well worth a watch to prime any readers here on the sheer danger, deceit, upset and utter inhumanity of much elder guardianship. It follows a few cases, in which court-appointed public and private guardians, judges, attorneys and others in places of municipal power have set up a series of steps that only they seem to be able to maneuver through, which shuts out most attempts to halt highjack guardianships where a profit can be gained. The movie covers the elderly-dense Las Vegas area, but could apply to anywhere in the U.S.

Libra Max: “In New York, and in my father’s guardianship case, specifically, the order in his judgment under Article 81 indicates that the rules of the guardianship should contain – I’m paraphrasing here – ‘the least restrictive measures and that family members are preferred. The guardianship may not interfere with family and children of the ward. The ward should be allowed liberal vacations. The ward’s children must participate in medical, financial and other critical decisions, etc.’ Even these specific provisions are routinely violated by the guardian. We don’t get much access; we are denied all information about medical conditions and decisions.”

Libra Max: “Felons can choose their own attorneys. But most wards in guardianship cases cannot. At the time of his guardianship, he had the capacity to choose his own attorney, but was not allowed to.”

Peter Max’s court appointed attorney, Elizabeth Adinolfi, as well as personal guardian Barbara Lissner and property guardian Lawrence Flynn, it seems, are brazenly breaking the rules and guidelines and have very likely violated the elder Max’s due process rights. Or as Libra plainly indicates, “They are also egregiously violating my father’s basic human rights and his civil liberties.” 

She knows there’s a bigger picture to be seen through her father’s experience and, in September of this year, testified to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the U.S. Constitution regarding toxic conservatorships. Her heartfelt letter detailing Peter Max’s plight were concluded with, “My father and our family have been denied the most essential Constitutional right to familial privacy – the right of the family to remain together without the coercive interference of the awesome power of the State. My wish for America is to raise ourselves to a place of integrity and truth telling about this demonstrably broken system. Imagine what we would most desperately hope for if we were forced to rely on someone else to fight for our lives. We owe this to our most vulnerable.”

Stephen Wozniak: “What exactly do the attorneys of Peter Max have to do in order to get some of these players to cease and desist – to effectively terminate his guardianship?”

Bruce Nahin: “Peter Max’s legal team needs an attorney who specializes in probate and guardianship. That attorney can make a motion to prove economic misfeasance of the guardian, neglect or that the guardian has performed actions that are inappropriate or caused a violation of the guardianship laws or agreement. That’s the burden of proof. Those violations generally have to be outrageous and obvious. You know, if you find the guardian embezzling or taking money – and can prove it with accounting – that will often help to terminate the guardianship. Sometimes, isolation and neglect are harder to prove.” 

The bottom line is that guardianship and conservatorship is largely big business. Other victims’ families will tell you this in an instant. Morally righteous family law attorneys will tell you this. Human rights advocates certainly told me this.

These millions of victims have fewer rights than the aforementioned convicted felons. And all for the filthy lucre. 

It’s critical to point out that once put into guardianship, a victim’s estate planning, healthcare proxies, and all of the legal measures and documents put into place to protect them when they cross the physical and mental health line of no return are voided. Those documented rights evaporate like rain in the dead heat of a Death Valley desert summer.

Libra Max: “Guardianship is the ownership of another human being. Your guardian can make every decision for you. You are owned and owned for profit. Your person and assets are owned. And it can happen at any stage, age or disposition in a victim’s life. It is essentially human trafficking. If these human rights violations were prevalent in other countries, we’d be all over it and it would be in the news constantly. It’s estimated that between $100B-$250B is grossed in guardianships annually. It pays an entire ecosystem: doctors, lawyers, administrators and so many more. It happens because there is a network. It’s cloaked under the guise of ‘protection,’ but it’s not.”

The fate of Peter Max and the visibility of these glaring rights violations are coming to a head very shortly at the end of November when his case is being tried before a new judge in the New York State court system. Already, Pop musician Britney Spears has been freed of her 13-year conservatorship as of November 12th from her father, largely due to the #FreeBritney movement and enormous support from fans who put on significant pressure for the release, which her father yielded. Britney’s attorney is now Peter Max’s attorney, so the resolution of this very serious game is coming into super sharp focus.

It’s steeply ironic that Peter Max, a person whose life’s mission has been and still is to preserve the environment, save animals, spread love and make people happy has effectively been imprisoned and trapped in his world without the people who bring it alive for the very social and also very alive Max.

Peter Max and daughter Libra Max, 2021. Courtesy of ALP ©

Libra Max: “I’ll tell you a story. I was in my father’s art studio one day. He was painting a lot, as usual, smiling, talking, taking in the sunlight and listening to jazz music, which he loves. Then he noticed something moving around in a large dollop of paint on his canvas. It was fruit fly or a gnat. He just saw it there – trapped in the paint. He went and grabbed a tiny nylon detail brush. He carefully scooped the gnat out of the paint and set it on a paper towel by the window. Then, he proceeded to lightly drip water on the gnat for almost an hour until it was washed completely and freed of the paint. As it dried in the sunlight, he waited patiently until it finally flew away. He had tears in his eyes when it was set free. It was so meaningful and humbling to him. It was a life and it wanted to be free and that was all he needed to motivate him.”

That’s all the motivation we should ever need. WM


Stephen Wozniak

Stephen Wozniak is a visual artist, writer, and actor based in Los Angeles. His work has been exhibited in the Bradbury Art Museum, Cameron Art Museum, Leo Castelli Gallery, and Lincoln Center. He has performed principal roles on Star Trek: EnterpriseNCIS: Los Angeles, and the double Emmy Award-nominated Time Machine: Beyond the Da Vinci Code. He co-hosted the performing arts series Center Stage on KXLU radio in Los Angeles and guest hosts Art World: The Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art podcast in New York City. He earned a B.F.A. from Maryland Institute College of Art and attended Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. To learn more, go to: and Follow Stephen on Instagram at @stephenwozniakart and @thestephenwozniak.

view all articles from this author