May 22, 2014
EXPO Profile: Artist Arthur Pennock
: video by Mark Bocek.
: Arthur Pennock (AR '14) at the Art BFA Exhibition. Photo by Mark Bocek.
: Photo by Mark Bocek.
: Photo by Mark Bocek.
Newly minted BFA Arthur Pennock charts a course into the belly of the beast called “Fame.”
Don’t rush to judgment when Arthur Pennock says that shameless self-promoter Miley Cyrus is a role model of his. Though he’d probably be OK with that. He might even be delighted. He doesn’t see himself as an artist, but as a designer of art, begging a fine distinction. Art as lifestyle plays a big part in his art practice. His ambition is to see his works not in the city’s top galleries, but available in bulk at IKEA and Target. It might be a while until you’ll see Arthur’s work for sale at one of your favorite retailers. But you can see his work at EXPO 14’s Art BFA Exhibition. The Art Exhibition is on view through May 24 in the Centennial Labs building on the Cornish downtown campus.
So what is this young artist up to? Arthur (arthurpennock.com) says he turned to digital art because painting took too long; it robbed him of time for staying up late partying with his friends. It helps to know that Arthur has made a particular study of Andy Warhol and The Factory, Warhol’s studio/social experiment/happening/endless party. The very name “The Factory” suggests an industrial location for producing products for mass consumption. In Warhol’s case, one could say that normal people went in one door of The Factory and came out the other famous (or sometimes infamous). Warhol was grappling with art in the context of an overtly consumer-driven culture where even the most mundane among us gets his “15 minutes of fame.”
A few generations later, Arthur is also looking to confront society with its obsession with fame. America understands fame, it worships fame, and it doesn’t care how or why fame is conferred. In his corner of the exhibition, Arthur has installed a group of paintings dominated by a large — reverent, one might say — image of Miley Cyrus with a cigarette (contents unknown) in her hand and smoke pouring out of her mouth. Perhaps best understood as posters rather than traditional paintings, it is not hard to imagine any of these pieces mass-produced and for sale at Urban Outfitters or some other purveyor of popular culture.
In contrast to Arthur’s bright, poster-paintings is his installation of a rough slab of bare plywood with plastic beer cups set up like ten-pins on either end, an apparent paean to a drinking game. Maybe this is a look backward for him. A yacht or a beach house on Long Island may be where Arthur is going, but where he is from is a small, former logging town—Snohomish, Washington. He went to Snohomish High School, where he says he was happy and had a good time. “I was the approachable gay,” he says with a knowing smile that seems to suggest he knew how to work things out to his advantage.
Now that he has his BFA in hand, Arthur is clear about where his next step will take him—California. He and his fashion-designer boyfriend plan to set up in San Francisco and begin their cultural conquest of America.
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