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Live Art Critique: Matthew Penado

Matthew Penado
22″ x 28″


Clara Lieu, RISD Adjunct Professor

Clara Lieu
Art Prof & Partner

Artist Statement

“My point of view as an artist has a lot to do with how I myself as an individual identify as and what I’m interested in. I’m a transgender queer Hispanic person and am a first generation U.S born who will be going to college.

Growing up Catholic, I tend to use a lot of religious imagery in my artwork, especially halos around people in paintings. Being Hispanic, I draw upon my family’s various cultures(my mother being Mexican and my father coming from El Salvador) and reference it in my artwork. This can be seen in the vibrancy of colors or in the different landscapes I will use sometimes. When making my art, I tend to be inspired by my own ethnic culture and also the literature I read, current events, and my own personal feelings and experiences.

I’m a very passionate person and am extremely empathetic. I’ve been told that my artwork often times feels soft, feels harsh or feels honest. Over the years as I’ve been able to improve on my technique over the basic principles of design, I’ve learned that different mediums can help accomplish a sense of something in a piece. I tend to use different mediums and mix them in one piece because I feel like using just one won’t accomplish what I’m trying to do. Often times I spend a long time in the planning process for that reason. Multiple pages in my sketchbook are dedicated to exploring mediums and different ideas. Whenever I do use just one medium I like trying to see how far I can push it.

For this piece I decided to use acrylic as the medium as it was intended to be submitted to an art festival and I only had 24 hours to do it(and the medium dries fast). I used a matte medium to create a gloss effect to the acrylic and create a wash for the blue dashed background. I decided to refurbish an old sketch I had that focused on DACA students and being a first generation student and re-contextualized it to be a piece on female empowerment. I knew Women’s Day was coming up in March and I wanted to do something in regards to it, but also I wanted to create a piece that held a message if I was able to have it in a venue that I knew several people could see it.

All in all, this was not a love letter, but a THANK YOU note to all the queens in my life and I hope it exhibits the power, creativity, and the sheer kindness and solidarity the ladies in my life inhibit every day. I referenced a photo in which several women were piled up on each others heads and supported one another.

I manipulated the image to a great extent, all the women in the original photo were one ethnicity whereas in my piece they’re from different backgrounds. Their physical appearances such as hair, make-up, and clothing were also altered. I added in little details like the LGBTQ + shoulder tattoo, hoop earrings, Star of David necklace, and cross tattoo.

In the original sketch I had a red border around the piece and the words, ‘American Dreamers’ included in a thicker portion of the border (which would have been the bottom), almost like Barbara Kruger’s collages. I decided to not include that as I felt it wouldn’t have added anything of value to the piece.”

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Dreamers, Acrylic Painting, Matthew Penado

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