* All images used with permission. Please do not distribute without first contacting the artist.
Nick Peña is a visual artist living and working in Memphis TN. He received his BFA from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, IL. After studying abroad at the Hospitalfield House in Arbroath, Angus, Scotland and taking a year off to work in adaptive technology, he returned to school to earn his MFA at the University of Missouri in Columbia, MO, where he was awarded the Dorothy L. Rollins Excellence Scholarship Award in Painting. Since graduating his work has been exhibited throughout the United States and featured in New American Paintings.
Peña’s work is centered in the American Dream, the history of landscape painting, and the effects that “cultural ideals” have on both our environment and our national psyche. Persistently researching these topics has led him to create landscapes built on dichotomies: past and present, representation and abstraction, analog and digital, and stability and instability. In Pena’s most recent series (The Way of the Worlds & Crosscut), he began exploring the tradition of decoration and painting, specifically the tradition of using a mat to “frame” artwork. A mat is a cut-out piece of paper-based material that separates the artwork from the glass of the frame and serves as an additional visual element. Peña activates this commonly overlooked material by using a nontraditional material, Sintra (a rigid sheet of PVC), and digitally drawing, using vector graphics, a “negative landscape” that is then excised. Though this cut-out might, at first glance, look hand-made, the astute viewer will realize that its precision is mechanically produced. The mat has been transformed from inactive decoration to digitally produced veil, adding meaning on multiple levels.
Was one of six students to receive the Rickert-Ziebold Art Award.