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Conversations with Peggy Reavey

Today we’d like to introduce you to Peggy Reavey.

Hi Peggy, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
In the late 1960s, I studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. I loved it. I also loved all the handsome boys flirting with me in the art studios—so talented and rebellious and sure of themselves and their work. I fell for one, got pregnant, got married and had a beautiful baby. Five years later, I was a single mother in California. My daughter and I shared a sunny West Hollywood apt on Rangely Avenue ($100 per month). I worked doing various illustration jobs, but as an artist, I was without a voice of my own. The drawings I made were well executed, and sometimes paid for, but I felt any good art student could have done them, nor were they paying the bills. Freelance writing jobs, on the other hand, were everywhere. Much in demand were synopses of books for Movie Studios, interviews of actors for small magazines, (the kind you read at the hairdresser), and promotional copy for exercise equipment. So I wrote and got paid for it.

Lots of things happened during subsequent years. I fell in love with and married a handsome carpenter who rented the next apartment over. The three of us moved to the South Bay. I had a bunch of jobs there: sold Hummels at a gift store: edited a fledgling magazine: sold no clothing at a Manhattan Beach clothing Store and was fired. With a friend, I wrote two TV scripts which were sold, but never produced.

Eventually, I made my way to the MFA program at UC Irvine—not in Fine Arts, but in Creative Writing. I knew I had the heart of a painter, but the galleries were full of conceptual and abstract art I could not begin to connect to. Where would I belong in that world?

My MFA thesis novel, however, was about a woman painter. After graduating, I kept revising and revising it. What the point of that novel was I do not know. But the paintings my heroine painted became more and more important to me. Eventually, descriptions of her paintings were all I cared about. Through her, I saw the way to my own voice, my own paintings.

The opening line of my first artist statement was this: “My art is a marriage of William Blake and Ann Landers.”

So twenty-five years after leaving art school I became a serious painter.

Rather than talk about the next 25 years I’m going to show you some of my paintings.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I think the biggest obstacle for me as an artist is forgetting to shrug off the rules and constraints I unconsciously place on myself. There is always more unknown space to be explored. It’s good to remember to do things wrong sometimes, to explore ideas that are probably goofy or pointless. Otherwise, I will just repeat myself.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I paint in oils on wood panels or canvas.

my paintings are figurative—humans and animals–and suggest a story. I hope to create starling imagery which is ultimately recognized as familiar.

Can you talk to us a bit about happiness and what makes you happy?
Long, deep connections with friends and family.

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