We had the good fortune of connecting with Jerry Peña and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jerry, what role has risk played in your life or career?
By definition risk has a negative connotation because it associated with the act of exposing oneself to a type of danger. But as an artist I think we view that danger as something exciting and new. I don’t want to sit here and speak for everyone but to me the presence of risk is something I need constantly. Without it comes stagnation and that is very unsettling for me. Art and existing as an artist is constantly fueled by risk. Many of us have to take calculated decisions not only in our practice but as well in our finances. Embracing taking risks and acting on them has been difficult as I grow into this art thing but as of now it has opened many opportunities and has connected me with a lot of intelligent unique individuals. The day that I lose that excitement for risk taking in my career I might as well close down shop. Risk is necessary to flourish as it is a new avenue for adaptation and that is how I grow, how my practice grows.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I feel like I always describe my work as a minimalist view of the working class experience here in LA. I am heavily influenced by minimalism and in my work I use the materials my parents have used in their multiple employments since arriving to the U.S. My father has done everything from construction, to carpentry, and finally settling in the steel industry while my mother has always been in the custodial field. My color pallet on the other hand derives from California car culture. These are the two worlds I have always survived in and eventually I started to pick up on the minimalist compositions that exists in them. From the fetish finish paint jobs to the completely obliterated textures of walls from the architecture around me I felt a need to represent these in an elevated form. Pretty much trying to capture these mundane often ignored parts of our daily life found in our neighborhood. Finding these moments in a photograph, sculpture, or painting is what excites me the most in my work. The constant intake of information mixed with the constant research and the production of a visual object is where I find a lot of joy. Finding that balance in a work is exciting and very frustrating to be honest but that challenge is where the thrill lies. I fell into art by chance to be honest, it really started with film photography in high school then it led into physically manipulating the objects I was shooting in that case it was old classic cars. Once I got into cars it opened a whole world of design, color theory, and the understanding of these mechanical moving sculptures. The amount of art that is intertwined with the LA car scene is unfathomable. From there I decided on going onto college where I found more courses in art theory and studio practice which eventually led to it being my major. The journey of being an artist is not easy. From the start I have sacrificed relationships with partners, with my own father, and even with friends. On top of all that our finances will also suffer but non of that to me makes chasing an art career not worth the while. It’s an addiction, a therapeutic outlet, and being creative is something I need and I hope to pass that knowledge and passion on one day in an academic setting. Ive learned many things about life and myself because of art. Ive learned that it takes more than it gives most of the time, that it will drive you to a point where social and family expectations will perhaps not be achieved, and that it allows you to be very comfotable with the constant pressure to just survive. But I have also learned that its important to have the right people around you and that a voice is better heard than suppressed by expectations that aren’t meant for everyone to follow.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Absolutely no where touristy, I would never do that to a real friend. I would take them to all the places that make LA what it is. The places where I experienced what it means to be from here. I am not going to specially list them but lets just say bring hard cash, clothes you don’t mind getting dirty, and a big stomach. I think to me the most interesting and fun places to visit are places that you can experience other people in their most comfortable existence. Places that might push you out of your comfort zone. Places that will help you learn and understand more about the human experience and that allows you to be more empathetic to the struggle your perhaps don’t have to face. A picture in front of some lights and shaking some mouses hand isn’t going to do it for me.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
It’s hard to name exact people because there has been multiple indirect forms of love and encouragement in my life. From a very early age I have always been a very unruly spirit and because of this I have always found myself in situations where a form of discipline was required. This has resulted in a lot of people stepping into that role of disciplinary and those are the people I want to thank because there’s been several instances where I legitimately believed that screw up at the time was definitely setting a path to the end of the road. But these people came in and set harsh and sometimes unfair disciplinary actions but being that I am very stubborn and up for a challenge I always surpassed the expectations which led into a new chapter. I hope these people know who they are and read this because I owe them everything. At the time I didn’t recognize these things but with age I have come to acknowledge these moments which unfortunately resulted in a very late thank you and that’s why I want to use this space for that.
Other: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org