FEATURED ARTIST: Grant Penny
The $2 Art Contest is has evolved over the past few years. I went from sorting good work from bad to sorting good work from great work. Lately, I am sorting great work from great work that would be more appropriate at a different time of the year. It is getting harder and harder, but I am appreciating both the work and the honor of getting to review the work more and more as time goes by. I always appreciate simplicity when I don’t have to actually live it. Sometimes it is the absence of something (or the absence of many, many of things) that makes you notice the details.
This month’s artist has stripped down scenes and objects to focus on the line, continuity and impact of the parts. Like a perfect roundness of a glazed donut, Grant Penny wallows in the fatty decadence of simplicity. His artwork has a sort of simplified retro elegance without a true retro reference–but rather a nod to modernity. Perfection.
Grant Penny grew up in central N.C. (Sanford). His mother, an artist, art teacher and graphic designer, gave Penny the solid foundation in the arts that fuel a lifelong passion. He and his wife, Carly, (then girlfriend) would regularly visit Asheville, NC for the occasional long weekend and…
“We knew that if we didn’t live here we would look back in 20 years and regret it.”
They have called Asheville home since 2003 and haven’t regretted it for a moment. Penny reports the city is full of genuinely good, happy people. Great food. Great art. Since moving to Asheville, he got married now has daughter Emaline. The recent addition to the family is actually the inspiration for my his new paper airplane series. Originally a theme of “anticipation” evolved into something different as time went by. A small paper airplane piece now hangs in his daughter’s room, the message being:
Talk to me about inspiration. Most of us can see the beauty in a fern frond, branch, a flower. But you have found beautiful inspiration in traffic lights and power lines. Talk to me about that.“I find my inspiration in “simplicity.” It’s often a curve or a line that gets my attention. For example the powerline pieces you’ve mentioned – It’s that never ending line that draws me in visually. It just keeps going and going and going. I follow it with my eyes as I travel down the road.
“Often there is flip side to the visual. Something that amuses me. I look at powerline/telephone cables and think about what those silly looking, seemingly hap-hazard wires hoisted up on big sticks are doing there? They’re doing simple things – warming the water for a bath, connecting a phone call between a grandmother and a child, keeping my beer cold.”
What do you consider your media? Are these pieces strictly collage or do I note a touch of photographic work? There even seems to be the appearance of silk screen. Explain.“My media is strictly paper – specifically ‘Lokta”’paper which is hand made and dyed in Nepal. I do shoot photos to create the composition. But what you see in the finished pieces is cut paper. I coat the pieces with layers of acrylic medium which gives some texture to the surface (and really brings out the rich saturation in the papers).”
Clearly, graphic design has a strong influence in your work. Can you appreciate what it brings to your sensibility despite your efforts to produce hand-made work to specifically separate yourself from your graphic design? “My graphic design background plays into my work especially when it comes to composition. I tend to leave large expanses of blank space which certainly comes from years of doing layouts where I needed to balance images with content. I really enjoy those empty spaces. I tend to crop the subjects in my work so that you can’t see it entirely. I find it makes it more interesting. More intimate maybe.”
You know we have to talk about food. What is your favorite? “All things PORK. What a magical animal. Bacon, Ham, Pork Belly, Ribs, BBQ … On a radio show, maybe 10-12 years ago, I heard of a specific Spanish ham that wasn’t even available in the U.S. at the time–called ‘Jamón ibérico.’ It’s made from free-range Black Iberian Pigs raised on a diet of acorns. I never forgot about this amazing sounding ham for all these years. Just a few weeks ago I finally had the pleasure and experience of tasting this most wonderful pork delicacy. Oh. My. God. Drop your fork delicious.” For those of you that are regular readers, you’ll note that this seems to be a trend–the love of pork–amongst Featured Artists. Interesting
So, what’s coming up next for you? “I’ve been going after (and getting in) a few shows lately. Tip of the hat to your blog for wonderful advice and encouragement. I will continue to pursue more opportunities to show my work. The main and constant focus is Work Work Work! If I don’t get ample time in the studio the quality of everything else around me suffers.” Happy to have nudged you along the way.
Thank you, Grant for reminding us of the beauty in simplicity–from a cold beer to paper airplanes. You have reminded to not let life wash over me in a clutter of the wholeness of it all but to celebrate the simple details.