"The Art Virgin"
By Penelope Przekop
Column 1: 20 Oct 09
Sorry to bust up your illusions of a sweet young thing batting an eyelash while swooning over provocative New York-
worthy art. I’m not that kind of virgin. I’m simply an artist who hasn’t been screwed by the art world. I’ve lived through
quite a few turns of the publishing screw; no virgin status there, my friend. I’ve been writing my entire life, forging ahead
against impossible odds, driven by an insatiable desire to express myself.
Then two years ago, I found myself holding a paintbrush after several years of having a freakishly odd urge to slather color
across something blank and lifeless. I began to wonder if all that I longed to express might not fit into words. I wondered if I had
creative ideas that might be best expressed visually.
The primary definition of art is the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is
beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance. How is this so different from literature? Sure each requires different tools
and techniques but the common denominator of creativity is there. Why I should limit myself to one form of expression?
According to author of Party of One: The Loners' Manifesto, Anneli Rufus, artists hear what no one else hears. They see what no
one else sees. They say what no one else says. They must. And to do this, they traffic in the slippery yield of their own souls. They
bring to earth the wrack and lode of depths that only they can reach and still come back alive.
If something beautiful, authentic, and meaningful can emerge, the dive is worth it. If I can create a visual expression that not only
produces a response in the moment, but that expands into a lasting memory, or at least an afterthought, I may succeed. This is, after
all, exactly what I strive to do using words. At the heart, it’s all about vitality, sensory input, and the unlocking of the psyche through
human emotion, the link we share despite time and place and circumstance. It's the song that validates through its perfection and the
movie that touches a personal or societal nerve, lingering in the mind. It’s the book that lays something significant bare, cracks it
open, even if it’s simply your own heart, and perhaps it’s the painting that dives into your gut and pulls out the thing you thought you’
d lost, or the thing you never knew you had.
After two short years, it turns out that the slippery yield of this art virgin’s soul has miraculously gained the attention of New York
art guru Bob Hogge of Monkdogz Art Gallery; he’s taken a shine to me. Initially, Bob agreed to read my new novel, Centerpieces,
and potentially provide early review comments. Vincent and Theo van Gogh are key characters in the novel, which takes place in
Paris and New York. Bob liked the book so much that he stopped reading, put down his morning coffee, and called me up. He went
on to take a look at my art as well.
Now we're in cahoots.
I've come quite far in a short period of time, but now I'm ready to touch the light fantastic, swing on a star, and lasso the
moon (corny but true). Stick around to see what happens ... now that Bob found the art virgin. I’ll take you along for the ride
here on The New York Optimist. Bob says, “It’s like f--king gladiator school out there.” My response? “So what?
I’m going for a dual degree.” At a time when the New York publishing and art worlds seem to be crumbling, will I be screwed or
will I survive? Just watch me.
How’s that for optimism?
I've written four books. One is a business book published by McGraw-Hill, and three are novels. The first novel I wrote,
Boundaries, is based on the true story of a highly creative person/artist's (me) early years struggling to overcome the
boundaries placed upon them.
Along with my column, The Art Virgin, Boundaries will be published in serial fashion here on The New York Optimist. Our aim is to
give you a unique past and present view into the mind of a writer and artist. There are a million stories out there and mine is merely
one. But if you want to understand the undying optimism of the art virgin, take a look into the past. If you want to know exactly
what makes up the wrack and lode of a creative soul, I’ll show you.
Whether you have a special interest in the creative psyche, you love a good story, or you’re just plain nosey, stick around to read
Boundaries every week here on The New York Optimist. I’ll take you to a world much different from your New York existence. Let’
s go to Louisiana, the year 1984 …
Page 1, Boundaries
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
This parable begins and ends at a fraternity house off Line Avenue. If you’re from Shreveport, you may remember the place and its
broken down charm. When I close my eyes, I still see college students crowded onto its wraparound porch, big laughs, bottles in
hand. I smell the beer and the mildew. Madonna is singing. It was a time when I believed frat houses were glamorous and life was
akin to fairytales. As with Jesus, there were twelve flawed men filled with good intention. Together they brought a message of
salvation, but not the one you’re expecting.
I was born in 1966, at the height of what was dubbed the charismatic movement. It swept through the Bible Belt, and through my
mother like fire, they said. On her twentieth birthday, she was filled with the Holy Spirit. I’ve yet to find anyone who loves the Lord
more. Not Billy Graham. Not even Mother Theresa.
Jesus speaks to her frequently and even visits. Once he walked with her on the dusty side of a road, just as he had with the twelve
disciples. She says his hair is lighter than most people think. Apparently, he does wear brown sandals. Needless to say, a confusing
mix of evangelism, mental illness, and lack of attention complicated my childhood. That story led me directly to this one; it was
And so it goes that in the summer of 1984, I met Matthew Adler at the frat house off Line Avenue. When my eyes close, I’m both
frightening and beautiful again, so small inside my sleek peaches and cream skin. I’m self-indulgent, reckless, and sinful; don’t
expect to like me.
I notice his legs just as I cross the threshold. They are long, but not too long, and bowed just the right amount. They lead to a waist
that is higher than mine, something I notice because I’m tall and have long legs. When I finally look at his face, it welcomes the smile
I’ve wasted on all the others. If Jesus exists, he is weeping.
My mother thinks she understands why but she doesn’t.
“Nice legs,” I say, moving past as if I belong. I try to blend with the crowd while searching for someone I know. Anyone will do. I
tug at the edges of my shorts and wonder if I still have lipstick on. Jungle juice flows from the nipples of a bald mannequin named
Lolita. An ugly sign bears her name. I glance around the dark room searching for the guy with the perfect legs. He stands in the
kitchen doorway staring at me over the 7-Up he’s drinking. He stands perfectly still. I stare back as if straining to receive a message,
not realizing he’s only the first of twelve.
He looks as if he knows a lot. A sort of residual nerdiness overlays his handsome face. Nerds are big due to Revenge of the Nerds,
and so I have a theory that there are two types. The first, call him Type A, is shy and intellectual. He’s socially unskilled on many
levels and knows it. This may or may not be painful for him, but he chooses not to fight it. Type B is also intellectual. He may not
always be shy in social situations, but his ability to relate on a deeper, interpersonal level is lacking. For this type of nerd, there’s
most certainly a painful realization. Although he knows how he should behave, he can’t quite pull it off.
I continue to stare, lost in thought, until he finally comes slouching toward me. Comfortable.
Not like a nerd at all.
"The Art Virgin & Boundaries Part I "
Penelope Przekop is an emerging talent to watch, according to acclaimed journalist and author, Marcia Layton Turner.
Penelope is an author and artist whose talent and imagination seem boundless.
Her books include Aberrations (Greenleaf Book Group) and Six Sigma for Business Excellence (McGraw-Hill). For nearly twenty
years, she wrote while pursuing a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry where she was most recently a global director at
Johnson & Johnson. In late 2007, she took a step back from the pharmaceutical arena to focus on her writing. At that time, she also
began painting. After painting just short of two years, her work has gained attention in New York. She is currently working closely with
Bob Hogge (Monkdogz Urban Art Gallery) on artist projects and exhibition works.
Penelope’s writing has been featured in the New Jersey Star Ledger, the Shreveport Times, the Baton Rouge Advocate, the Detroit Metro
Times, and several other publications. Her blog, Aberration Nation, has been praised by acclaimed authors Anneli Rufus, Marya
Hornbacher, Terri Cheney, Marisa Acocella Marchetto, Melissa Walker, and Susan Cheever. Her blog post, NOTE to … Glamour
Magazine, garnered a personal response from Glamour’s top editors, and helped spark the current Lizzie Miller body image craze.
Author, Consultant, Artist
Agent: Christi Cardenas (christi@ThePlainsAgency.com)