In an interview with ArtNet, Los Angeles-based artist Alia Penner discusses her work with high jeweler Piaget and the pieces commissioned for its new Rodeo Drive store.
When asked how she went about creating the pieces for Piaget, Penner said, "In the beginning stages, I really wanted to figure out, Who are my main characters? I found these amazing old magazines from 1923 and 1925, movie magazines from the silent era. I loved the paper quality and how they were photographed, and I went through them for a long time. It’s interesting to look at these magazines because even though it’s a hundred years ago, to me, it feels so relatable, like almost nothing has changed. My main character for the larger piece is the movie star Marion Davies, who was William Randolph Hearst’s mistress for his whole life. I love the Hearst Castle; I love the blues of the Roman pool.
"The other painting features the actress Marie Prevost, but it was really inspired by Dalí. There are a lot of archways in his work, which I think of like portals into the art. Have you ever seen his tarot deck? It’s really beautiful. He does this thing where he’s almost collaging these lithographs with painting. That was an inspiration for what I was creating."
When asked how the Piaget collaboration came about, Penner said, "I got a call from my friend Apple Via, who I’ve worked with in the past. We did some cool political installations during Occupy. And she was like, 'I have this new client: Piaget.' I didn’t know its history of working with artists like Salvador Dalí, and how it’s been around forever. So I was very honored when they asked me to participate in this project."
Penner was then asked about the paintings she was hired to create, to which she said, "Getting to make paintings that are framed, that are going to be hung on a wall, is something I haven’t done in a while. Especially when you’re something that the art world can’t necessarily nail down, being able to put your work up on the wall and be like, “Yes, I’m an artist” is really gratifying. It was really fun to make these. They’re much bigger than what I normally make. And there was really a lot of freedom."
When asked about her creative process, Penner said, "It probably sounds crazy: I went through those one-hundred-year-old magazines, and I cut them up. There’s something magical that’s infused in the paper—if I didn’t put that into the work, I feel like it would kind of lose its magic. I don’t sketch anything out. I really just put the collage piece onto the paper and I see how the lines can come from them, and go around them to make them part of that specific space.
"I used gouache for these pieces. I have not painted with gouache since I was in college. I love how chalky it is—it feels almost plastic-y. And I like to mix my colors based on the color that came before. So each color tells me what to do next. It’s vibrational."
Information originally sourced from ArtNet.