Brooklyn-based modern artist Jeremy Penn (@jeremypenn), was born in 1979 in New York City. He studied Fine Art and holds degrees from both the University of Maryland and Pratt Institute. Since his first solo exhibition in 2008, his works have been exhibited globally and received honors from curators at museums such as The Museum of Modern Art, New York and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. In 2017, Penn’s work was studied and exhibited alongside Picasso & Rauschenberg at the University of Michigan’s Museum of Modern Art. Penn’s paintings are held within some of the most prestigious institutions and modern art collections in the world.
In 2018, Penn cofounded Good Luck Dry Cleaners, a speakeasy-style gallery that showcased the work of street artists from around the globe and partnered with brands including Saks Fifth Avenue and Lululemon to help them incorporate art into the ethos of their corporate culture.
Tell us a bit about yourself and the pieces that you’ve created for Portion's Street x Pop Art Week.
I’m what some may call a “classically trained” artist because I spent 15 years of my academic life focused on fine art. I love the purity of the craft but I think of myself as a tribrid of a painter, alchemist, and sociologist.
My goal for these pieces was to find a space in the metaverse to house my paintings. Something where digital reflects physical and enhances it with movement while showcasing the actual painting process.
While my work has shifted throughout the years to evoke many styles, being able to showcase my drips in motion while incorporating my illustrative portrait work, feels serendipitous as art for the digital space. While I have used many iconic figures in my portrait work, there is a much deeper story behind them. Most of the subjects are female and they make either direct or indirect eye contact with the viewer. The differences in these two opposing gazes has to do with the polarity of dominance and submission. They are studies of human behavior and a celebration of the divine female.
Where do you find inspiration? What’s your creative process?
Ah, this question is truly impossible to answer directly, but I’ll do my best. I’m super interested in people and their energies and specifically how they interact. I’ve studied mindfulness for years because I believe there is an inherent beauty in the calm.
Without getting into the weeds, my personal life wasn’t always as zen as it is today. When I enter my art studio every day, I make a commitment to full vulnerability. There will always be a special kind of intimacy between myself and the work. I rarely see a finished painting in my head and paint step by step to complete what I was envisioning. For me and especially with the way I paint, the process must be fluid. Each step inspires the next. The last time I thought a painting was too formulaic, I set the entire thing on fire. It looks better now (IMO).
How did you find your way into NFTs and crypto?
Crypto caught my attention in 2013 before it was a household name so to speak. Unfortunately, it didn’t land me a private island or jet, BUT it definitely sparked an interest for me in blockchain technology and all that it could solve for our world. Outside of the obvious opportunity to invest and trade, blockchain brings plain truth to the forefront.
When NFTs started popping up in my news feed, I knew immediately it was something I wanted in on. The idea of connecting directly to my collectors as opposed to a third party who watered down the connection was attractive to me on so many levels.
I started creating NFTs as I got more interested in the space. The more I created the more I got excited about all that the metaverse opens up for us as artists. Simply, I just loved how I was able to bring these pieces to new life so I took a chance on introducing them first.
Do you think we're experiencing a creative renaissance on the internet?
I honestly love it. Creativity lies in all of us. And if the Internet is allowing more creativity to flow into our world that can only mean good things for our future. The world is a weird place in this moment in time. If creativity falls at the epicenter of our “new normal” culture I’m excited for the world my children are stepping into.
I think and hope that NFTs and blockchain technology allow for a new version of ownership and digital interaction that will last.
What opportunities do you think NFTs present for street artists? How is releasing a digital artwork different from the other art you make?
Some of the most thought provoking art I have ever experienced has been on the street here in NYC and I believe street artists have an inherent love for sharing their art with the world. This question makes legendary street photographer Ricky Powell. He was a friend and true artist who captured the streets of NYC in the most authentic way possible. His work taught me that reality is what makes art feel decadent, close, vibrant. I would’ve loved to hear his thoughts on NFTs.
Much like the streets of NYC, my work is heavily layered and is a balance of grit and glam. I tend to be rather aggressive with my work, throwing paint, scraping back layers, and lighting the surface on fire. I’m a bit like the Swedish chef from the muppets (if he were a painter) and then I switch gears and incorporate mirror-polished metals as part of the foreground. Because the work is so layered and reflective, I feel like it’s something that needs to be experienced in physical form. NFTs allow me to showcase the process in motion as part of the art. As an artist who gets very deep in the process, being able to share that is a very big deal to me.
What are some of your observations about the emerging behaviors in the NFT community?
It’s truly a modern space and it’s been very refreshing to explore. The traditional art world can be both intimidating and dismissive to many artists. When I came up in the art world, nobody seemed to have the time to advise emerging artists. It was a real sink or swim world. However, in the NFT space, I see artists elevating other artists. I spent 3 months on clubhouse just listening in on the NFT rooms and the level of support that I have witnessed between artists has been inspiring.
I also see a space where female artists are celebrated and honestly killing it. I’m hoping this is indicative of a burgeoning bigger world where equity is the norm.
What do you think digital art collecting will look like in the future?
I am no futurist, but I can say that having your own personal museum that can be stored on your phone in your pocket sounds pretty rad to me. Is the metaverse ready for an NFT Good Luck Dry Cleaners?
On 6.14, Jeremy will drop 2 works on Portion. Preview the pieces here.
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