Penny Cagney, working primarily in painting and drawing and in the figurative genre, is a second generation SAIC graduate. Born and raised in the City, she often visited the Art Institute of Chicago as child. There, at age 11, her grandmother bought her a first art book on Michelangelo. She assiduously copied the nudes in the book; a practice that frequently landed her in trouble at her conservative Catholic grade school. She has shown in juried exhibitions at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Arts, CA and in Phoenix, AZ: the Arizona Artists Guild; Artlink and New City Studio. Penny attended Loyola University (BFA magna cum laude) and Columbia College (MA). She has taught arts administration at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Columbia College, Chicago, and was a Distinguished Visiting Professor at American University in Cairo, Egypt. She resides in Santa Cruz, CA and Tempe, AZ.

Artist Statement

Liminality, numinosity, death, identity, loss, time and aging are my themes as seen through the lens of the figurative genre and the traditional medium of oil painting. These paintings are a series on the physical effects of the sublime experience. Once associated primarily with landscapes, the sublime’s location (somewhere between the internal unique state of beholder and the external stimulus) cannot be set in any specific place. The sublime is inextricably entwined with the extreme emotions of awe, horror and fear that accompany encounters with the unknown. The sublime is ephemeral, the experience a solitary and unique one. Thus art can only be about the sublime; artists can only gesture towards past sites and experiences. Or show how it affects us.

Sublime Reaction #1, 2020, Oil painting on linen, 20 x 30 in.
Sublime Reaction #2, 2020, Oil painting on linen, 30 x 20 in.
Sublime Reaction #3, 2020, Oil painting on linen, 20 x 30 in.