Virtual Exhibit: Nick Peña: Familial (Selected Works from 2005-2018)

Nick Peña: Familial

(Selected Works from 2005-2018)


Online Artist Talk with Nick Peña
Friday, January 6 at 11am Central/12pm Eastern


By Krishna Adams, Director of Visual Arts, Craft, Media, and Design –

Nick Peña

Memphis-based visual artist and educator, Peña creates art to reflect his perception of the contemporary American landscape and the effects that ideal has on our shared environment and national psyche. His paintings and installations play off the contrasts between past and present, representation and abstraction, and stability and instability.

“I feel like Familial works as a show title because my umbrella subject throughout the series is family. Additionally, the work, in general, is related.” – Peña

Cubes, chevrons, and other geometric shapes are often incorporated into his paintings and act as visual building blocks. By placing these patterns into a repeating sequence, thereby creating partial tessellations, Peña looks to see how to simplify the shapes. He also takes the idea of a mat that traditionally frames a painting and physically transforms it into part of the work, no longer separating them. This effect adds another layer to the painting and extends the visual story. The mats are drawn digitally and then transferred and cut onto Sintra board, a type of durable PVC foam. See the virtual exhibition here.

Possible Impossible, Possible, 2018, watercolor, acrylic, Sintra, 24 inches diameter

You may be asking yourself, where are the people? While at first glance, his paintings seem to depict vacant homes and seemingly abandoned vehicles, for Peña, the figure is assumed simply by the representation and presence of the man-made objects themselves. For Peña, those objects represent bodies that hold bodies, a maternal aspect that humanizes the objects.

Peña earned a B.F.A. in Fine Arts from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale and an M.F.A. in Fine Arts from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He also studied abroad at the arts center and historic home, Hospitalfield House, in Arbroath, Angus, Scotland.

Peña’s work has been exhibited extensively throughout Tennessee in Memphis, Nashville, Murfreesboro, and Johnson City. Outside of the State, his work has been shown in Columbia, MO; New York, NY; Chicago Heights, IL; Batesville, AR; Ruston, LA; Savannah, GA; Seattle, WA; Santa Fe, NM; and Tulsa, OK. He’s been an artist in residence at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, Crosstown Arts in Memphis, and North Louisiana Virtual Residency —The Ross Lynn Charitable Foundation in partnership with North Central Louisiana Arts Council. Peña has also been a guest lecturer for the past 13 years. His work is in numerous private homes in addition to the collections of Memphis organizations, including LeBonheur Children’s Hospital, Memphis International Airport, City of Memphis, and Memorial Park in Jefferson City, MO.

Associate Professor of Art at Christian Brothers University, Peña teaches courses in Concepts and Creations in the Visual Arts, Drawing I, Oil Painting I and II, Introduction to Printmaking, and Beginning and Advanced Digital Imaging. Additionally, he is the co-founder/owner of Wonder/Cowork/Create (WonderCC) a flexible co-working space for creative thinkers to connect, grow, and create. Future plans for Peña this spring include participating in an upcoming group show curated by local artist, Jamond Bullock, titled, Young, Gifted & Dope, Episode 3. See more of Peña’s work here.