On Saturday, January 25th, downtown Los Angeles’ Corey Helford Gallery will unveil a new body of work from Marion Peck, one of the most recognized and sought-after artists among pop surrealism worldwide, in Gallery 3.
Peck’s politically motivated new series Red Clown, Blue Clown, featuring nine new oil on canvas paintings, marks her first solo show in the U.S. since 2013 and return to Los Angeles since moving to Portland after years of living in the city.
In describing her new show, Peck explains, “I have long enjoyed painting clowns. Clowns have depth. They are disturbing, like strange spirits, mysterious characters emerging from the depths of the psyche, which is why many people fear them. Clowns convey pure emotion. It can be very cathartic to paint them. The paintings I made for Red Clown, Blue Clown allowed me to express some of the intense, difficult feelings I have living in these crazy times, when everything seems poised to fall apart. Sometimes it feels like all a person can do to keep from going insane is to sit back and watch it all happen, just like watching a circus.
I would say this work is more political than my work normally is. These are strange times, and it felt somehow impossible to just carry on as usual. I saw a talk on the psychology of climate change which impressed upon me how urgently we all need to talk about it with each other. It is just so huge of a thing that it’s almost impossible to take it in, much less talk about, so we shut it out; some people to the point of denying it altogether, while most of us just push it to the backs of our minds. Even for those of us who care desperately, it’s so hard to talk about…it’s depressing, to say the least! I made ‘Red Clowns in a Landscape’ [seen above] in order to try to talk about climate change, and the rest of the show, the clown portraits, followed.”
Asked the influence of living in Portland on her art, Peck shares, “I think my palette has gotten darker than it was when I lived in Los Angeles. Mostly I’d say living here [Portland] is good for my work. There’s nothing better than painting while it’s raining outside! So peaceful and cozy.”
A limited number of giclee prints for “Red Clowns in a Landscape” (seen above) will be on sale at the gallery during opening night (1/25). All proceeds from the prints will be donated to the Environmental Defense Fund, one of the world's largest nonprofit environmental organizations addressing today's most urgent environmental challenges.
Marion Peck was born in Manila, the Philippines, in 1963, while her family was on a trip around the world. She grew up in Seattle, WA and currently lives and works in Portland with her husband, the artist Mark Ryden.
Her childhood was full of artistic support and creativity, and when she got a bit older, Peck enrolled in The Rhode Island School of Design in 1985, where she received a BFA. Subsequently she studied in two different MFA programs, Syracuse University in New York and Temple University in Rome. While she was in Italy, she had the possibility to absorb its traditional art, typical landscapes, food and atmosphere. This was a key moment in her artistic career, since it was in Italy that Peck thought about her high aspiration of painter to reach the masterful level of technique and skill achieved by Italian masters of the 16th and 17th centuries.
Later on, she incorporated all the knowledge and teachings she had learned from those masters into a fresher, more contemporary style, and found what she defines a combination of Pop Art and Surrealism. Peck became known for her magnificent artworks in the contemporary field of figurative art, called Pop Surrealism, and has exhibited her work all over the world.
Peck’s art, coming out of a perfect oil technique and a bright palette, takes us into a wonderful world full of solitude and detachment that is simultaneously sweet and absurd. Her compositions are characteristically cartoonish and the style she uses is promptly recognizable, focusing on a specific sense of humor, which ranges from joyous to quite sarcastic, while depicting unusual subjects in a way that resembles a dream’s vision. “Challenge” is a key word in Peck’s compositions that are usually presented as an official artist statement regarding contemporary political, cultural issues and social icons. These latter are turned into surreal parodies, ironic images that distort reality and reduce it to mere farce. Peck’s artwork does have many elements, such as the narrative component, which recall the Italian Renaissance pictures surrounding her during college time.
They all have a specific story to display. The dreamlike scheme can be attributed to Surrealism, but all her subjects and the way they are depicted can be defined as pure Pop art. Peck’s artworks are full of fantasy, outlandish landscapes inhabited by circus creatures, furry characters with big, puppy eyes.
When asked to describe the story behind some of her pieces, Peck responded: “If there is a narrative to emerge from my paintings, I hope it would be just like a very short poem.” Her artistic pieces are filled to the brim with memorable characters drawn by the stream of dreams; Peck’s subjects are full of life, sometimes simply adorable, soft or extremely funny.
Peck has exhibited her work all around the world both in galleries and museums. Her work has also been used for album covers, such as Waking the Mystics by Portland art rock group Sophe Lux, and publications from Peck include: Cari Estinti Exhibition Catalog (2006), Paintings by Marion Peck (2003), Sweet Wishes (2008), Animal Love Summer (2010), and Lamb Land: The Art of Marion Peck (2016).