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6527212 March 11, 2015

Master Innovation and Me: New Interview

[caption id="attachment_1458" align="alignright" width="300"]One of their favorite works, She Leads and I Follow One of their favorite works, She Leads and I Follow[/caption] I recently sat down with my friend, Lina Bonell at the Master Innovation Group, LLC, (aka The Taylor Dynasty) headquartered in Soho, New York City. It was great to spend some time talking about my work; what drives and inspires me to paint; and what I'm currently working on. Here's a brief except of the interview:

Lina: What and who inspires your paintings?

PenelopeMy work is inspired by my own emotional complexity and that of women, in general.  That complexity exists in men also. I just happen to primarily paint women because I am a woman and so that feels more natural for me. It’s really about the human spirit.  Growing up in Louisiana in a conservative culture and moving to the Northeast in 1991 inspires a lot of themes in my work also. Also, my mother was an interior designer with quite a personality. Both aspects of her life inspire my work both emotionally and visually.  Because I’ve spent so much time writing and love stories, it seems natural that my art should include elements of story and character.

 Lina: Who are your main artistic influences?

[caption id="attachment_1399" align="alignright" width="237"]The World is Full of Magic The World is Full of Magic[/caption]

Penelope: As far as the greats, I have been influenced by Frida Kahlo and Van Gogh in terms of their emotion and honesty. I’ve also been influenced by Dorothea Tanning, Kandinsky and Picasso.  Past and current artists who push the envelope in unique, honest ways inspire me. I’m not impressed or inspired by artists who go for the shock factor, thinking that is honesty. That’s unoriginal to me; if that’s all they have to give, I find that sad.  I’m attuned to learning from others but staying true to myself.  Sometimes that takes courage because you look around and realize that what you’re doing or who you are may not fit the mold, may seem boring, or less chic than someone else’s work, but you keep going knowing that perhaps no one will care or notice the value that you may have to offer.

To read the entire interview, go here:


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6527212 February 28, 2015

What is Figurative Expressionism?

I don't need a movement; I just need to be myself.

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6527212 February 24, 2015

Deconstruction of a Southern Girl

I was taught through the church, and the Southern culture supporting it, that men are inherently superior to women. As if that wasn't enough, there was an underlying message that everyone was superior to me.

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6527212 August 28, 2013

Colorful Approaches to Recovering Addiction

“But I'm not a saint yet. I'm an alcoholic. I'm a drug addict. I'm homosexual. I'm a genius.” ― Truman Capote, Music for Chameleons

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6527212 July 13, 2013

Facebook and the Meaning of Art

... all it took was scrolling through Facebook to solve one of the mysteries of the universe. Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg.

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6527212 February 24, 2013

Some Thoughts on Figurative Work

Who Am I in This Crowd?
detail of larger work
I've been thinking a lot about the value of figurative work in terms of its ability to be progressive rather than retrograde in nature (as Currin said in a 2009 interview).  I also heard recently from an art dealer that figurative work is harder to sell because people don't necessarily want to hang a painting of someone they don't know in their home. I get that. The selling part of the comment didn't bother me as much as the idea that when someone looks at figurative work they might naturally feel removed from it.

In his 2009 interview, Currin also said that a true artist has less to say in the type of art he ends up creating than one might think.  I get that, too, and realize that, like Currin, figurative art seems to be my path. And I want people to feel uniquely drawn into my work rather than removed from it. I don't want to create a categorical wall between my art and the viewer simply by virtue of the work being figurative.

Seeing older figurative work and being hit with the realization that this specific person once lived can be a powerful reminder of the passage of time and the never ending surge of humanity. But what if the viewer could feel something less retrograde? What if I could capture something more alive than merely a specific person you've never met? What if you looked at the figure and saw every person, a common soul, emotion, and that recognition made you think and feel and somehow evolve?  

Detail of larger work in progress
Sometimes lately I think about the concept of God creating each of us. When I'm painting, I think about Him sitting there pulling each of us straight out of His own enormous soul. Putting us on canvases together in all types of colorful scenarios.

If that's true, I believe He does it for the sake of progress. He isn't looking back; He's looking forward. That's what I want to do.

False Dichotomy
23" x 15" Acrylic, Casein and Ink

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6527212 January 28, 2013

Can You Hear my Voice?

“This is the time for every artist in every genre to do what he or she does loudly and consistently. It doesn't matter to me what your position is. You've got to keep asserting the complexity and the originality of life, and the multiplicity of it, and the facets of it. This is about being a complex human being in the world, not about finding a villain. This is no time for anything else than the best that you've got.” 
― Toni Morrison

Can You Hear My Voice?
25" x  40" Acrylic, Ink & Pastel on Canvas
I spend a lot of time thinking about what art should mean, what my art means. Sometimes I get bogged down with the thought that, as an artist, I should be out fighting the good fight, championing a cause, slaying a villain through visual expression. These thoughts often become overwhelming. I'd love to do those things yet I still find myself painting particular images in a particular way. My way.

I wonder if I'm a horribly selfish artist. 

I think about all the great artists and their topics. I consider who was great and why. I tease apart the emotions we know artists such as Kahlo, Pollack, and Van Gogh had, for example. These people were not great champions standing on mountaintops showing the world what the next steps should be toward ultimate peace and tranquility. They were highly emotional individuals who often struggled, and they expressed those struggles through their art. They showed the world who they were and in turn, held up a mirror to others.  

While I was painting my latest piece, Can You Hear My Voice?, I thought about all this, getting bogged down and trying to remind myself that I don't have to solve the world's issue with a painting.  As usual, I began by creating a background for the work. Then I painted a face (as I'm into faces lately). Then I decided I didn't like it so I took the unstretched canvas off the wall and turned the whole thing sideways. I decided to ignore what I'd already painted and began painting another face. It made no sense really. That's the way I often paint. I plan very little. I just start and do what I feel like doing. I paint fast, listening to my emotions and instincts, to stop my hyperactive brain from over thinking.

As I continued working on the piece, I began to head in a downward spiral, thinking that it made no sense in any way and that, once again, it certainly didn't relay anything that would qualify as world-saving or villain slaying. That's when I started to get mad. Mad that I'd wasted my time and canvas. Mad that maybe I'm wasting my life. And then mad at myself for believing I need to satisfy "someone's" definition of art for it to be deemed valuable. Mad that I'd be judged and that I am judged. The angrier I got, the more I did whatever I felt like doing to the work based on my instincts.  

As I began to feel that the piece was nearly finished, I got happier. I liked the sort of sarcastic do-you-think-I'm-an-idiot? expression on the purple-ly faced girl and the red jagged line down the other's face. I liked the way it looked as if the entire left 2/3rd of the piece might be exploding out of the misunderstood girl's head with a small chunk of her brain exposed. I loved all the little creatures around them and the colors and the busy feel of it. I loved the realization that no one could replicate my work.  

Then I came across Toni Morrison's quote. I read it and knew that she's right.  And Kahlo and Pollack and Van Gogh were right. They painted who they were as individuals. They gave to the world proof that we are a vast composite of unique individuals, and that in its self holds never ending hope for our future.

I remembered a wonderful book I read by Kazuo Ishiguro. His novel, Never Let Me Go, is about a society who raises children for the purpose of donating organs once they mature into adults. The kids grow up in special "schools" and are taught their purpose early in life. One of the administrators involved keeps a program going for the kids that focuses on art. Their days are filled with creating art. They sense that it's important yet they don't really know why. It turns out that the woman believes art is the one tangible thing that can prove these kids are human. That they are individuals and worthy of life. The art displays their souls.

My art displays my soul. Perhaps very few in this world give a real f-ck about the soul of Penelope Przekop but I believe I'm capable of putting my soul on canvas and so I will do it, not only for myself, but for all those who cannot or do not care to try. Perhaps someday, my efforts will be valued individually, as part of a generation, or as a small part of the human race. I don't know, but I sense that it's important. 

So as I finished the piece and wanted to give it a title, I realized that, yes, it loudly portrays who I am as a complex human being in a way that is consistent with the work I've been doing over the last year or so. I took a deep breath and decided, Okay Toni Morrison, I will do this loudly and consistently.  I'm ready. 

Can you hear my voice?  Can you see it?  I hope so. 

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6527212 January 17, 2013

Who Am I in This Crowd?

I don't want the burden of feeling that it's my job to smooth things over with everyone in every situation. I don't want to feel that they are right, and I am most certainly wrong, that they are all surely better, smarter, wiser, more talented, kinder, gentler. That they know what is best for me.

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6527212 December 18, 2012

Five Years in Review (2008-2013): Penelope Przekop

"Painting completed my life."  Frida Kahlo

2012 has been a challenging year in terms of keeping up with my Aberration Nation interviews; I've been hyper-focused on my art work, which continues to evolve.  I'm considering changes to the Aberration Nation focus; details will be forthcoming.

Today the focus is ART!

I began painting in January of 2008; next month will mark my fifth year. At this point in my life, five years doesn't seem long, yet in these five short years, I've moved light years ahead in terms of my art work.

After having the urge to paint for several years, I finally began.  I never painted a single picture until that day, but had some deep arrogant conviction that I might just be able to do a decent job of it; I wanted to try.  For some reason, I needed to try. I had no idea what I was doing. I took 6 2-hour classes that covered the basics.  From day one, I chose to paint my original ideas.  I never had any desire to copy or paint anything that looked like a photograph. That wasn't what I was searching for or hoping to express, and I knew it.

Finally picking up a paintbrush was the best decision I've ever made in terms of both my creative and emotional growth. Five years later seems the perfect time to reflect.  

In addition to completing my life, in many ways painting started my life ....

2008 Representative Works:

Brute Strength

Stuck Inside

Piece of Meat

In 2009, I finished writing, Centerpieces, a novel based on the death of Vincent van Gogh.  As I attempted to gather some early review comments, I contacted Bob Hogge, Monkdogz Urban Art (NYC), to ask if he would read the book.  It happened to be the one moment of his life that he had a little extra time, so he agreed. He liked the novel so much that he decided to give me a call. As we chatted, I casually mentioned that I'd also begun painting. He asked to see my work but I was hesitant. He convinced me to send him a few jpegs; I was not too excited about this professional artist and New York City Gallery owner seeing my beginner work. After all, I was a writer not an artist.

To my surprise, Bob found something uniquely interesting about what I'd done in just one year and so we began to correspond about my work in progress.  He dubbed my ability, "a diamond in the rough." He encouraged me to be brave in all the steps I was taking to improve, to express myself, and to do both in my own unique way. That year, I began experimenting with layered canvas as well as other methods.

2009 Representative Works:

Economic Crisis

Stuck in Immovable Growth

Slice of Suburbia, 2009

By 2010, some of my early work had been shown by Philadelphia, California and Italy.  Also, the
Museum of Art in Caserta, Italy acquired one of my pieces.  I continued to work closely with Bob Hogge. I continued to layer canvas and began focusing on more figurative work.  By the end of 2010, I began to move back away from the layered canvas approach, instead adding complexity and depth to the work in other ways.

2010 Representative Works:

Paper Doll, No. 3

Paper Doll, No. 7

Shattered in Black and White
Throughout 2010, my early work was shown in a couple of New York City venues. Early 2011 was a turning point for me.  I began to gain solid confidence; self-identify as an artist rather than a writer; and to also break through my preconceived notions of what art was supposed to be, what I was supposed to be doing, and what I thought others expected of artists. I realized that to move forward, I had to drop all that behind and truly dig into what I could do as a unique individual.  My art began to evolve more quickly and so I started to view the work in terms of 6-month intervals.  I began to paint more and more with my fingers rather than brushes.

Jan - Jun 2011 Representative Works: 

Faceless Woman

Monster Stretching

Evolution of an Artist

Jul - Dec 2011 Representative Works:

Ridiculous Anger

I Was Born this Way ... please stay

I Never Meant to Upset You
During 2011 my work was shown by three New York City galleries, including Monkdogz Urban Art. Over the course of the year, the work became more complex and I began to understand the direction I wanted to go as an artist. It became more of a mixture of abstract and figurative art. I began to experiment with pastels and ink, and knives, almost completely dropping brushes. Brushes distanced me from my emotions; it was best to let it shoot from my own fingers where I could feel it. I was beginning to develop my own style. As 2012 began, I was extremely excited to take that style farther and farther. I had the wonderful feeling that I'd just begun, and that there was great potential for me as an artist. I began to believe!

Jan - Jun 2012 Representative Works:

It's All Inside

Powder Keg

They Follow Me

Jul - Dec 2012 Representative Works:

Monster Loose

She Leads and I Follow

What's the Point?

At this time, my work is presented by galleries in New York City, Central America, and Europe.  Monkdogz Urban Art (NYC) is currently featuring my work Gallery & Studio Magazine. My nudes have been selected numerous times by guest New York City gallery directors and owners on the Barebrush art site. Two pieces have been acquired by Italian museums, and other opportunities are in the works.

I recently made the following video to showcase some of the work I completed in 2012:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aH74OxasF3I]

Since 2008, I've painted approximately 300 works. Those shown here are a small representation of that body of work. To see more of my recent art and find a list of the galleries representing my work, visit my art site or join me on Facebook.

I'm still just getting started ...

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6527212 November 09, 2011

CALVET and Art: Isn't This What They Told Me About Jesus?

Okay, I realize this may be controversial for some folks; I may be struck down by the hand of God at any time today, but lately it's occurred to me that art provides many of the things that Jesus is supposed to give me ... redemption, purpose, love, meaning, joy, healing, etc.  Of course, I don't know that art can give eternal salvation, but I do know that it can save a soul.  It did just that for my friend, artist Jean Marc Calvet. 

I met Jean Marc a year or two ago through Monkdogz Urban Art (NYC).  We struck up a friendship after I interviewed him on Aberration Nation.  I later also interviewed Dominic Allan, the film director/producer, who was so taken by Jean Marc's story that he spent four or so years making a documentary about the artist's incredible life. 

This weekend, I finally saw the film, CALVET, in its entirety.  I knew a lot about it before hand.  What I didn't know was how deeply I would identify with certain aspects of Jean Marc's tale. 

We all have some sort of story; we have our own personal demons, although for some of us those demons are more terrifying than others.  The question I most often ask myself is how many of those demons were tossed at me, and how many did I conjure up myself.  And for those that I did create, how in God's name could I have avoided it? 

When I watched Jean Marc's story, and took in just how simultaneously tough and gentle he is, I could so clearly see how the circumstances of our lives turn us into monsters.  I wondered what makes a man look into the mirror and decide that he no longer wants to be monstrous, and if a true monster even has such thoughts.  Perhaps the true devils just keep on being monstrous until they finally drop dead and go to monster hell. Perhaps it's actually the fallen angels of our world who can recognize the demons inside and find the courage to battle them.  Like the incessant drive to create, maybe it's a simultaneous catch and release.  Good news and bad.

Some days I look in the mirror and see a monster.  Maybe you do as well.  I don't want to see it but I know it's there. I hide it.  I chase it. I squelch it and cover it up.  And in that never ending game--that dysfunctional relationship I have with myself--I sometimes love it, too. If I didn't, the whole stinking business wouldn't be so difficult.

For Jean Marc, it was ultimately the language of art and a profound love for his son that propelled him back to life.  This theme was brilliantly seared into my heart during a few pivotal scenes in the movie.

In one episode, Jean Marc recounts how he listened to his parents fight each night when the lights went out.  How he tried not to listen, but also wanted to hear what was being said.  How he buried his head in his pillow and then tried to forget the terrible things he'd heard when he woke each morning.  Jean Marc's expressive explanation of how this emotionally influenced him as a child slammed me straight back to my own small home where my parents fought 24/7.  Yelling, screaming, hitting, crying .... deposit after deposit of heightened emotional turmoil into the heart of a child.  How can we possibly avoid those early monsters ushered in by the adults we love?

In another scene, Jean Marc describes how as a teen / very young adult he was violently raped by a large, brutish stranger.  The audience sat holding our breath as we listened to Jean Marc's moving confessional.  How he sat outside on a park bench for two days after the incident, numb and dying inside, angered by those who had hurt him.  After the rape, the monsters in Jean Marc came into full force, determined to not only hurt others but to also hurt himself.  It's a punishment we need to inflict on ourselves.  Somehow we blame ourselves as a way to hide, to push the pain we can't bare away.  Let me feel this and that and whatever other horrible thing I can so as to wipe all this other stuff away.  In the end, it's an emotional trap.

At Monkdogz' exhibition of Jean Marc's work (which runs through tomorrow), artist Esther Barend and I talked about the scene and I said to her, "I've never been raped like that ....but I feel like I have." 

Isn't that a ballsy thing to say?  Should I be ashamed? 

No, because perhaps you and I haven't experienced exactly what happened to Jean Marc that terrible day, but we may have felt some of the same emotions.  Being used, physically hurt, and/or severely mistreated by someone bigger, stronger, and domineering causes a universal pain.  Jean Marc had the guts to tell us how it feels and as we listened, we knew we were hearing something profoundly honest.

The third scene that indelibly sticks with me is one in which Jean Marc describes how he stumbled upon art, and how doing so saved his life.  This is the part that reminds me of Jesus. 

I grew up being told that Jesus is the answer to everything.  I know there are millions of people out there who believe and will testify to the healing power of that message.  I've heard all the testimony.  I was spoon fed the information for year upon year, the same years that my own monsters were developing. 

Jean Marc describes how he stumbled upon some buckets of paint during the lowest point in his life, a time when he was literally taking his own life.  In a drug induced rage, he "fought" with the paint and the surfaces nearest to him as if it were all an extension of his misery, anger, and hopelessness. 

In my own way, I've experience a similar struggle.  I channeled life into something inanimate and then struggled with it.  I fought with it as if to save my life somehow.  In a fit of rage, I once sat in my car on the side of the road and violently ripped an entire bulky textbook apart into tiny pieces as if it was all that I hated, all that I wanted to conquer in myself that I couldn't pull forth and destroy.  Instead the book became something alive that I could hurt and once I started, I couldn't stop; I ripped every single page to shreds as if it were the flesh and blood of a person being ripped from its spine, and then I ripped the front and back covers from the stringy, tight center. It was in that same week that I also attempted to take my own life.

Such was Jean Marc's nightmarish battle times 1,000, and in the end, he stepped back and saw his emotions.  I too, saw my emotions in the mutilation of something I loved most in the world (books).  Maybe in some way, you've seen yours.  For Jean Marc, it was magnified and redemptive because in that moment he found salvation. 

He found art.

Jean Marc's remarkable discovery was the scene that brought back to me the idea of art being like Jesus ... the reason for the season.  The end of the road, the pot of gold we search for in all our suffering and flight from whatever monsters and demons life has shown us, and from those we've created for ourselves.

We're all apples and oranges of some sort, but in our heart of hearts, we're all human.  The depth of our capacity to experience love, shame, hatred, joy, degradation, etc. likely varies but our ability to feel it, to recognize it, lies deep in the kernel of who we are. 

Dominic Allan's CALVET takes one man's struggle and shows us our own.

I'll continue to think about art being like Jesus, and wonder if it could ever give us eternal salvation. It's a perplexing question because for Jean Marc, it just may do that.  His may be the testimony heard through the ages. The call others continue to hear when they seem to have nothing left.

If you get a chance, go see the movie.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wwoy3oocw9c]

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