Olean resident and CCAC artist Gina Pennock attended Buffalo State College where she earned two BFA degrees, one in Painting the other, Printmaking. Working closely with the Western New York Book arts Center (WNYBAC) she is expanding her work from traditional oil paintings to graphic painted images over letterpress text as well as pursuing paper and book arts. She is hoping to open a papermaking facility in Cattaraugus County.
How did you become an artist? I was always drawing from an early age, anything I saw. I copied images I liked on Christmas cards, animated characters from magazines and comics. I even started my own line of houses where I designed blue prints following my mother’s Better Homes and Gardens magazines as examples. I loved National Geographic maps and magazines and also my mother’s medical books (she’s a nurse). I was doing all of this by the age of seven. In high school I focused on performing arts: theater and I music (piano and clarinet). In my last year of high school an art teacher encouraged me to follow my dreams and go to college for art. So I did.
What's the most enjoyable aspect of your work? The creative process I guess. I am always learning, by trial and error, new techniques to lay down paint or finding a new material to work with. When I asked a successful mid-career artist from NYC how to get more consistency in my work she said: Don’t! That as an artist you must be willing to express yourself by whatever means you can, be it print, oils, watercolor, throwing paper pulp on cement, or leaping into film making or performance. It was great advice. Letting go and learning new ways to create is my favorite part of my work.
You have a contemporary line of work as well as a representational. How do you balance the two? Good question! The new line is a homogenization of my two disciplines. The contemporary line is what I call “obvious.” One of my professors , A.P. Gorny, said, “You can never be too obvious when trying to convey a message in your work.” For me, the focus has been on landscape painting for years. Well, you can only tell so much of a story with that subject matter. I needed to say more and I had a narrative to tell. Print and words came to mind for obvious reasons. I feel comfortable using it and look forward to incorporating letterpress into more of my pieces.
Where do you find inspiration? Getting out into nature has always been my inspiration - driving in particular. I am searching for the perfect scene and conditions to plein-air paint or photograph to later paint from. I started a painting of an interesting perspective of some buildings in Ellicottville, but when I went back I noticed they are tearing some of them down. I am motivated to get the painting finished as it’s now a memory for most people who live or visit there. They will see the painting and say, “Oh, yeah, I remember when that looked like that!” Something similar happens with my small water colors of scenes from the area. People love them because they are vignettes that are eye catching and beautiful. Many people recognize these scenes because they are right on many of the roads we all travel to get from one town to the next out here.
As a former Buffalo resident, how are you finding the arts scene here/working with CCAC? Well, I’m finding it! It’s here and at this moment it’s being cultivated. The CCAC has been great. I really appreciate all of they do for the local artists and the community. I’m very excited to be down in Cattaraugus County at this time in my life. But I will always have a strong relationship with my Buffalo roots. It’s where I established myself as an artist. I’m a city mouse that likes the country, a painter and a print maker … did I mention I’m a Gemini. Ha!
What do you envision for your papermaking facility? I envision two places that could work. One being in an old building near the Alleghany River close to the main drag in Olean or Allegany or an old farm in the area. The latter is my favorite option because I’d like to have land to cultivate fibers that could later be used for paper and even a dye garden to grow plants with pigment properties. Then I could dye paper and textile fibers naturally. As far as the conservation of works on paper and restoration of books, the paper facility is important. Yet once established I’d like to run small classes to share the art of papermaking and book arts with the community. Another aspect of such a facility would be a place to order custom sheets of paper or even pulp blends (fibers suspended in water) for papermakers who don’t have a beater that properly mixes fibers into pulp. It would be an asset to the arts community from PA up into Canada and all of upstate NY as the only other places like this are in Brooklyn.
Cattaraugus County Arts Council | 100 W. Main St, Allegany NY 14706 | POB 406 Olean, 14760 | 716.372.7455 | firstname.lastname@example.org