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  • Penley at Booth Museum
    Added: 3/16/2004

    Atlanta Artist Steve Penley Inspired by History

     

    The largest painting on display at the Booth Museum is Steve Penley’s depiction of Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders at San Juan Hill.  Measuring 10 by 18 feet it is larger than most rooms in a typical house.  While it perfectly anchors the entrance to the Booth’s Presidential and Cowboy galleries it was not commissioned by the Museum.  Instead, Penley painted it because he wanted to, despite the fact it was unlikely a buyer with wall space enough to display the work might ever show up.  This seemingly irrational action gives us great insight into the mindset of artist Steve Penley.

     

    Penley was born in 1964 in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, but grew up in Macon, Georgia where his father owned a piano shop.  From as far back as he can remember Penley has been drawing.  He says he never decided to become an artist, he has always been one.  His early subjects were taken from watching television, reading comic books and observing everyday, commercial items around him.  His parents were supportive of his hobby but dubious about his chances of making a living as an artist.  He spent time at the University of Georgia and the School of Visual Arts in New York studying painting, before returning to Atlanta in 1990.

     

    Atlanta art collector Robert Steed reports “discovering” Steve’s work hanging at a local restaurant where Penley was making a living as a bartender.  Steed commissioned him to do a portrait of his wife and introduced him to other collectors – many at high profile, downtown law firms.  This gave Penley the boost he needed to pursue his art full time.  Later Penley’s longtime friend Rob Matre opened a gallery in Buckhead, establishing a permanent place for him to sell his work.  In recent years openings at the Matre Gallery featuring Steve’s work have attracted large crowds and produced brisk sales.

     

    Penley’s main subjects are historical figures, flowers and sports heroes.  He says you don’t need a reason to paint people.  His style has elements of pop-art, photorealism and abstraction, a combination that would sound quite strange to someone who has never seen a Penley.  Yet he combines these elements to create dynamic and unique works of art in an unmistakable style that is entirely his own. 

     

    Of his historical subjects Penley says, “I’m not sure how I began to use historical icons in my work.  These images are a sort of accumulation of my life experiences from childhood on.   These paintings are not supposed to be a documentation of their subjects per se, but instead are representative of the common bond we all have with these familiar subjects, a bond each viewer brings to each painting.  Even with limited knowledge of these historical figures, we still have a tie to them.  This tie will hopefully help the viewer see each of these subjects in a new way.”

     

    Penley’s approach to these historical subjects will be showcased during the exhibition “Recent Works by Steve Penley” in the Booth’s Lower Level Lobby Gallery March 12th through May 2nd.  A special preview opening will be held Thursday, March 11th from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. with Steve Penley on hand to discuss his work and sign copies of his book.  All of the artwork on display will be available for purchase through Matre Gallery. 

     

    Penley will give a presentation on his artwork Sunday, March 14th at 2:00 p.m. in the Booth Theatre and will be available to sign his book, as well as copies of a limited edition poster created for the show, in the Museum Store following the lecture.  We invite you to delight in the way Steve Penley breathes new life into historical subjects during the exhibition “Recent Works by Steve Penley.”

     

    PICTURE -  Teddy Roosevelt and Rough Riders on San Juan Hill, © Steve Penley, acrylic on canvas, 120 x 216

     


    Contact: Laura Loving 347-249-4525 lauraloving@lauraloving.com All work © 2017 Anthem Gallery