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Madison inspires Terrence Adeyanju to lay down visual footnotes to his human experience

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As told to WeTransfer

Reading time6 minDateFeb 16, 2022Published byTerrence Adeyanju
Photography by Nate Ryan

Terrence Adeyanju—or PEELD®, as some people know him—discusses his greatest act of rebellion as a creative, the overwhelming tension that can come with labels, and the ephemerality that comes attached to our life experiences.

How do I describe myself? Boxes are a little weird for me. In this world, it feels like we address everything with labels—and then those labels can be used against us. You’re only a graphic designer? There’s no way that someone will hire you for a mural, or a video project. Even if you’re more than capable, or even fantastic at the craft. So I tend to just think of myself as a creative person—someone who likes to make things.

I’m not sure if there’s a way to get creativity wrong. And there’s no right or wrong way to be expressive. It’s just about being present. Staying aware. Letting whatever is necessary come through in the moment—it can come on in many forms. Creativity is how we speak, how we think, how we act. And most of the time, it’s more about just allowing it to happen.

I typically like to be alone. I’ll put on music, and kind of just zone out. Often, I’ll have like three different things playing at once: a random TV show, an album, and maybe I’m reading something. Sure, it can sometimes feel like I’m all over the place, but inspiration tends to hit from whatever is surrounding me at that moment. You just have to make it work, and it’s easy to make it work here in Madison.

I’m not sure if there’s a way to get creativity wrong. And there’s no right or wrong way to be expressive. It’s just about being present. Staying aware. Letting whatever is necessary come through in the moment.

Photography by Nate Ryan

Some people might know me as PEELD®—it’s an alias that has kind of stuck over the years. It came to me at a time (honestly) when I was having a nervous breakdown. I’ve been a graphic designer for almost 14 years, and I was at a point where I was tired of the work. I felt unexpressed, in many ways, and was processing quite a bit of generational trauma. I wasn’t sure who I wanted to be in the future. PEELD® just felt natural. As if I was pulling back a lot of layers. And each layer came with its own set of realizations. So that’s the concept.

My works are visual footnotes on my human experience. They’re reminders to myself that this life is going to change. I have no clue where it’s going—because it’s coming from whatever I’m experiencing in the present moment. It’s not even conscious. My art is just a way to watch that process live. You’re watching me work through whatever I’m working through to hopefully show up better in the world. And if it inspires other people to do the same thing, then amazing. If not, at least I’ll know that I can do it for myself, and that’s enough.

I’m going to accept the parts of myself that I’ve been conditioned to shake off. I’m not really trying to get anywhere specific. More so, it’s just about learning how to love myself properly. Maybe I didn’t know how to love properly. But doing the work—making this work—is helping me to learn how to be more gentle to myself, and therefore learning how to be more gentle with others.

The most punk thing is to just be yourself. To be yourself is a rebellion. And that’s something that I’m still learning, you know? If you’re not conscious of what you want to be, that’s fine—but you can drift into spaces that aren’t healthy for you. Or, at least I did.

Life is not promised, and that fact makes me look at life with a bit more love. I’ve been through so much in this city. I’ve gone to jail in this city. I’ve lost friends in this city. I’ve made love in this city. This city—Madison—taught me how to live, and be. And I’m grateful for this city.

Madison is my biggest reminder to excel in the moment. I believe that our environments are influences for the positive or for the negative—constantly. And I’m the product of every place I’ve been—every place that’s played a role in shaping me. I grew up in Madison. Moved here when I was two, when my mom moved from the Dearborn Housing Projects in Chicago. And we stayed at a—I forget what it's called—place where you go to transition from being an unhoused person. They take in people that don't have a house yet. And then I grew up on the East Side.

A lot of creative friends have helped me down that path. Stefan and Ethan, and so many other creatives throughout the city. I feel like so many people go under the radar here, but I also don't think I would have anything at all without that community.

It feels like the city’s on the verge of figuring out what it wants to be. It’s a beautiful thing to see in motion; I’m proud of what Madison is becoming. We’re all changing along with the city, just visual footnotes in the larger narrative.

Photography by Nate Ryan

Before COVID, we were throwing art shows constantly. There were music shows with underground artists—people were just having fun creating anything and everything. It was a full ecosystem, almost a thread that tied us together. Even the most miniscule things have been connected. This project led to this project, and this project led to this project. It’s like the work I create belongs to everyone. It’s not something that’s selfish. It’s everybody’s thing to own. For Madison.

I go to Chicago often—it’s a much more intense vibe than this city. When I was younger, I’d head in that direction because I didn’t really appreciate Madison much. Then I became a creative professional, and things changed as I searched for spaces to clear my head.

But Madison’s flush with nature. It’s been the biggest source of rebalancing myself, and I never expected the city would have that much influence on my creative process. It’s spread out; it’s not very dense compared to other, larger cities. I’ve always been very sensitive to stuff like that, so when things feel dense and cold it tends to give me anxiety. The Capitol Loop here (on a bike) will change your life. Or heading to all the state parks in Wisconsin. Those are the quaint moments that I’m looking for. The hidden gems.

Combined with an overwhelming creative prowess, it feels like the city’s on the verge of figuring out what it wants to be. It’s a beautiful thing to see in motion; I’m proud of what Madison is becoming. We’re all changing along with the city, just visual footnotes in the larger narrative.

Madison is waiting.

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