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Nothing to Fear

Laney Contemporary

Savannah, GA


Nothing to Fear reflects the impact of the artist’s upbringing in southern Ontario in the 1990s, from the seemingly endless expanses of disquieting farm land to the pervasive cultures of extreme sports, alternative music and satellite television. Drawn to the supernatural and steeped in folklore at a young age, Penny’s work probes the distinct feeling of awe, terror and wonder that initially sparked this fascination. Nothing to Fear highlights the multifaceted nature of the sublime and its existence between aversion and fascination that rests on the edge of human understanding and in the orbit of the ridiculous. This exhibition speaks to the artist’s longtime use of artificial intelligence, programming, video and projection—tools frequently likened to magic and supernatural phenomena due to their apparent seamless and inexplicable capabilities.

The exhibition was built through highly varied, personal and influential cultural references, including the artist’s longtime affinity for early animatronics, the X-files, ice hockey and the tchotchkes that decorated his family’s home. Penny draws from these eclectic references and from his bank of collected digital media to generate layered compositions in various mediums, namely acrylic paint, resin and silver nitrate. Repurposing and deconstructing found objects, the artist highlights ubiquitous items from his youth, such as out-of-vogue trinkets and t-shirts. Through alchemical processes like gilding and hydro dipping, these objects come to distort the boundaries of past, present and imagined realities. Similarly, the juxtaposition of a 24-hour virtual reality experience and a furious montage of 90s-era commercials emphasizes the warping effects of technology and its ability to shape our experience of time.

In part a nostalgic exploration of the formative images and experiences of his youth, this exhibition asks us to consider what it means to search for the unknown, whether in pursuit of a reported Sasquatch or exploring uncharted territories of new artistic mediums. In an era of rapid technological developments and big picture questions about the threat of automation, digital sentience, and originality in the face of artificial intelligence, Nothing to Fear is a reminder to make light in the shadow of anxiety.

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