Peter Makela ’04: 2024 Alumni Artist Exhibition

Ali Schwartz ’10
This year’s alumni exhibition features work from the Sky Paintings series by Shipley alum Peter Makela ’04 and will be on display in Speer Gallery from April 9 to May 5. Celebrate the fine arts at Shipley with an artist reception in Speer Gallery on Friday, May 3, 2024, from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. The Alumni Artist Reception is part of Alumni Reunion Weekend and is open to family and friends of the Shipley community, we ask that you please register online or contact with any questions.

Peter Makela ’04 is an artist who has spent the last two years living and working in the Himalayas of Nepal and the Kingdom of Bhutan. In 2022, Makela was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to Nepal to pursue a series of Sky Paintings in relation to his study and practice of Vajrayana Buddhism, particularly Madhyamaka Philosophy which investigates emptiness and innate luminosity. Makela has been a student of Himalayan Buddhism for over a decade and in that time has spent much time in the remote Himalayan regions of Bhutan, Pemakod, Ladakh, and Mustang, as well as the Kathmandu Valley. The elements in his work are greatly informed by his immersion in the cultures, landscapes, and religions of the roof of the world. 
He holds an MFA in painting from the LeRoy E. Hoffberger School of Painting from the Maryland Institute College of Art and a BFA in painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Peter has recently moved back to the United States and looks forward to reconnecting with the Shipley community. Visit to learn more about Peter and view additional works.  

Each Sky Painting is an exploration of Buddha Nature, impermanence, interdependence, and the illusory nature of everything. 
My current body of work of Sky Paintings which I’ve engaged in over the last five years has provided me with ample opportunities to explore an intersection between perceptual painting, abstract painting and states of contemplation. The act of painting allows me to apply presence and react to what's in front of me as well as engage in analytical meditations on questioning what is perceived and who is perceiving it. Through this process of staring at and responding to the ever-changing sky I use this time to contemplate formlessness, as the sky has no form, it is pure space and luminosity just like how Vajrayana masters describe the true nature of mind. The longer I engage in this practice the more profound the experiences. 
In Vajrayana Buddhism, a reverence for lineage—expressed by devotedly studying the masters—is of the utmost importance. At the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where I received my BFA, I was trained to always study and revere the great painters of the past: a principle that has never left me, and that has contributed to my real veneration for and devotion to both Vajrayana and artistic masters. Painting the sky has become a way for me to engage with and honor a lineage of painting that has always been dear to me, the romantic perceptual landscape painters of the 18th and 19th centuries, JMW Turner, Boudin, Courbet, and Monet. I hope to follow in these great painters' footsteps and bring this lineage of exploring nature, the mind, and their interdependence into the 21st century.


The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.