Artist Statement

One of the joys of looking at art is when something in the work sparks a fire of recognition just beneath my heart. This flash of personal understanding is powerful. Sometimes it makes me laugh. Other times it makes me cry and always it makes me think. It is usually small and unexpected elements that evoke this reaction—a slight crack patched and re-cracked at the edge of a sculpted wrist, a look of longing in the eyes of someone in a photographed crowd or a color subtly peeking from underneath its complement.

These experiences are intimate and deep. They provide me with abiding goals for my own work. I want to tell stories that exist under the surface—to make the seen, unseen. I want to re-experience the intimacy of shared secrets. I want to parse the truth that exists in the façade.

Within and around these aims is a love affair with old stuff. An object that has been used and infused with meaning by someone else has a beauty and power that is full of significance for me. A gift from the universe such as a perfectly smooth stone or a leaf of exactly the right shape will find its way into harmony with other elements: paint, digital images, fabric, rhinestones, old Polaroids or anything that seems right to my magpie’s eye.

By appearing together, these elements become a narrative of a sort. Similar to the way a choir presents a song, many distinct voices meld into a complex single sound. When the magic works, it leads me (and hopefully the viewer) on an exploration of fleeting dreams and intimate logic that opens a spiritual door or tells a tale about the place where sense and non-sense meet.


1984 MFA University of Wisconsin, Madison
1975 BA Alma College, MI


Penny McElroy is an artist and teacher. After a somewhat eccentric educational and professional background (with degrees in both social work and graphics), she began her teaching career at Bethany College in Lindsborg, KS. Since 1986, she has taught graphic design, printmaking and book arts at the University of Redlands in California.

McElroy’s artwork has been exhibited throughout the United States as well as at galerie sei-un-do in Zurich, Switzerland. Recent shows in Southern California include The Artist’s Gallery, Santa Monica; Brand Library Art Gallery, Glendale; Gallery 825, Los Angeles; Fullerton College Art Gallery; Huntington Beach Art Center; Riverside Art Museum; and Second City Arts Council, Long Beach. Her work has also been on view at the University of Arizona Art Museum in Tucson.

In 2002, McElroy was selected to be the featured artist in the Summer/Fall issue of The Sycamore Review. In addition, she recently created the cover art and designed the Gorsky Press title Guru Cigarettes, by Patricia Geary. She is currently working on the design for Strange Toys, another Gorsky title by Geary.

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