Study No. 5 · Alia Penner · Artist
“If i’m not buying books, then where is the joy?”
Life is a Technicolor cabaret for L.A. pop artist Alia Penner, who at the young age of 28, has achieved quite the glitzy resume. Her Busby Berkeley-meets-Peter Max collage style, and signature “rainbow portal paintings” have led to collaborations with Anna Sui, Warby Parker, the Parisian dept. store Colette, as well as designing a “Secessionist-meets-Navajo” tent for the newly opened L.A. Ace Hotel. Alia’s creative endeavors are deeply inspired by the eclectic art books she has stacked all over her colorful, art supply-filled hillside home. Always immersing herself in pop-culture history, her penchant for creating memorable visual vibes has also resulted in a custom-painted piano for Katy Perry's home, a Coachella backdrop for Father John Misty, and an animated title sequence for a Missoni fashion film directed by Kenneth Anger (whose cult-classic book, Hollywood Babylon, is one of her all-time faves). Her father is an accomplished cinematographer, and showbiz’ clearly runs in her blood . . . she’s just made her directorial debut with PopWrap; a short film celebrating Diane Von Furstenberg’s collection of Andy Warhol-inspired frocks. Her next project; textiles for the Australian fashion line, Romance Was Born. Following that . . . we may all be viewing the World through rainbow-colored reading glasses.
Introduction Image: Alia on her couch overlooking East L.A., holding a treasured copy of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a picture book she found at a flea market, by Czech puppeteer and director, Jirí Trnka, featuring stills from his 1960 stop-motion animated film based on Shakespeare’s play. Above: A peek at Alia's personal pop-culture research library.
An Otis College of Art and Design alum, Alia is a disciplined painter who rarely isn’t working on an inspired project. Above is one of her many “Rainbow Portals” . . . this one painted on a 6 ft. tall door (2010), and balloons from a past performance piece.
Left: Les Folies du Music-Hall by Jacques Damase (with a forward by Noel Coward, 1962), purchased from one of her favorite booksellers at Pasadena’s Rose Bowl Flea Market (second Sunday of every month). Right: Above Alia’s records and vintage turntable, hangs her 2011 painting, Black Rainbow Flag.
Alia paints inside her copy of Kenneth Anger’s cult-classic 1975 tome, Hollywood Babylon . . . “I love when you get books and a little kid colored in them. This is a good way to keep doing that”. In keeping with her Golden-age Hollywood fascination, she frequently designs posters and curates "dress-up" screenings for the L.A. revival movie house, The Cinefamily.
Left: Alia sharing her beautiful accordion-folded copy of A Flight of Butterflies by Sekka Kanzaka; re-published in 1979 by the Metropolitan Museum of Art from a rare 1904 Japanese printing. Right: Her treasured collection of L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz books, also pictured on her art table (in image below).
Not a fan of online book shopping, Alia prefers to peruse at her fave L.A. bookshops; Amoeba, Lead Apron, and Alias, of which she says “it feels like it’s my bookstore!”, (if you squint, the sign could read “Alia’s books”). It’s also where she finds her “nudie books”, referring to her penchant for entertainingly tacky ‘80s erotic photography tomes.
Name: Alia Penner
Describe your relationship to books: I love collecting art books, scrapbooks old nudie books and magazines.
You are currently reading: Hollywood Babylon.... again. Never gets old.
Favorite authors: Richard Brautigan & L. Frank Baum
In a bookstore or library, you head straight for: Art books or the Erotic section
If your home were ablaze, which 5 books would you save: A History of The Music-Hall in Paris: Les Folies du Music-Hall by Jacques Damase & probably my scrapbooks & old french magazines.
Your library is organized by: At this point, wherever it fits in the shelf.
Your favorite place to read: On my rainbow rug with my little fluffy kitty Edie.
Last great book you read: GRACE: A Memoir
Last book to make you laugh out loud: Actors Anonymous by James Franco
Books you loved as a child: The Baby Blue Cat Who Said No by Ainslie Pryor
Most beautiful book in your library: A Flight of Butterflies by The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Fictional character you most admire: Ozma of Oz
Guilty pleasure read: Valley of the Dolls
What book would change the world, if everyone were required to read it: Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
Favorite line, passage or poem: A description of Ojo the Unlucky Munchkin’s costume, from The Patchwork Girl of Oz.
Alia reading from The Patchwork Girl of Oz, by L. Frank Baum (1913).