Society Swoons for the Pirate Perego

Mr. Perego has not given this question much thought. “I don’t have idea,” he said. “I just believe in my dreams, the sun in the face, wind in the back, the rest take care from the destiny to dance with the stars.”

One answer may be found in some of the themes of his work.

For about a year now, the iPod has been a fixation. In the Sept. 20 show the iPod popped up in roughly half his works, including a painting of a DNA chain made up of tiny, brightly colored floating iPods, as well as a giant nine-foot-tall, mixed-media sculpture of an iPod. Trapped in its screen is an enormous photograph of Mr. Perego, shirtless and wearing a terrified expression.

“People are using technology and sometimes they forget the human content,” said Mr. Perego, who hastened to add that he loves iPods. “They close themselves in a bubble and they don’t connect with each other. You go out with a beautiful woman and you use your Blackberry. My idea was just … don’t close yourself. If you do, evolution will go back from progression if you close a bubble.”

It is a message he thinks resonates more in New York than in Europe. New York, he says, is a city where the people are at war, but still manage to remain bubbled in. “For me it is important that people remember human content,” he said.

Mr. Perego considers the New York show the high point of his fairy tale so far. He credits the city itself for allowing him to rise up from the gutter.

“In Italy when you are young, if you make it in Italy everybody say, ‘Why you make?” he explained. “If you make it in New York everybody come and say, ‘Oh, good job. Come. Keep going. Catch your dream.’ That’s the big difference.”

Mr. Perego insists that his New York life hasn’t changed much either since leaving Spanish Harlem. Though he’s found love.

“I love my girlfriend, is a beautiful girl called Jen Rose,” he said. Ms. Rose is a 24-year-old model. The couple have been going steady for a year and a half.

And a measure of fame has also brought many new acquaintances and many more fancy parties.

But he still eats cheap most days and has the same four good friends in the world.

“It’s the same,” he said of city life. “Because I never forget where I’m from. I go the same. I am the same kid. I love to sit down and be like a voyeur. I love to watch people, and feel like a pirate.”

He added: “My friends are the best pirates in the world. I promise.”

Society Swoons for the Pirate Perego