Over the past 18 months, Juliana Peloso has painted portraits of more than 70 celebrities, from Dolly Parton and Mr. T to Lady Gaga and Andy Warhol.
“I'm Your Biggest Fan,” the inaugural exhibit at Austin Hill Realty’s new Location Gallery, showcases dozens of Peloso’s small-format portraits, carefully crafted in oil paint.
Best known for intimate narrative works with a dark, gothic edge, Peloso turns her attention to sunnier, more accessible subject matter in her latest exhibit. Favoring ’80s musicians like Boy George, Morrissey, Prince, Michael Jackson and Cindy Lauper, “I’m Your Biggest Fan” offers a quirky, curated gallery of cultural icons.
A portion of the proceeds from the exhibit benefit One Love Animal Rescue, a local nonprofit dedicated to finding homes for abandoned, abused and unwanted pets. Peloso recently shared her fascination with star power and fan culture with the Savannah Morning News.
When and why did you start painting celebrities?
I got into painting birds, other animals and still life objects as a form of doing studies. This then led to my current series of celebrity portraits about a year and a half ago.
It’s a way to explore all types of facial features, hair and skin color without worrying about making a meaningful statement. This process has been a lot of fun, and after about 70 celebrity paintings, I can definitely say I learned quite a bit. Craftsmanship and respect for the medium are very important to me.
My subject matter is constantly evolving. My real passion is for my larger-scale narrative works. Although I may be criticized that I jump around subject-wise, it’s all a long-term learning experience for me to become a better oil painter.
What makes celebrities such an appealing subject for you to paint?
It’s been really great to see people’s reactions and to hear their personal stories about each painting – not to mention, it’s an endless source of subject material. Without the fans, then there is no “celebrity.”
What’s the secret to nailing a portrait?
It all comes down to the subject’s eyes. If you miss the mark on that, it will never look right.
How did you decide which people to paint? Are these your personal favorites or not necessarily?
Naturally, I’ve picked several that appeal to me, but I picked them based on facial features, age and skin tone as a learning process. I'll admit there are a few thrown in for popular demand.
Can you talk about your process for creating these paintings? Were you always working from photographs?
I would love to work from real life, however, it is unlikely that I could get any of these celebrities to sit for me. Therefore, I have to work from a series of photographs. I try not to just go for the Wikipedia image, but find references that maybe have the vibe that they are sitting for me in my studio.
Do you hope your exhibit encourages viewers to reflect upon the nature of celebrity or do you just want them to enjoy seeing portraits of some of their favorite actors, singers and artists?
Basically, I really just want to have fun with the work. Any thought-provoking or meaning behind the paintings comes from the subjects themselves, not from me. I, as the artist, become secondary, in a sense, to the subject.
I would like people to enjoy my process and skill. I think the work is very approachable. By removing the intimidation factor of trying to figure out my “intentions” or meaning in the work, I hope to gain a wider audience.
About the artist:
Juliana Peloso is an award-winning artist who has exhibited her paintings in galleries and museums across the country. She earned a BFA in painting from the Savannah College of Art and Design and lives in Savannah, where she also works as the gallery director at Gallery Espresso.
If You Go
What: “I'm Your Biggest Fan,” celebrity portraits by Juliana Peloso
When: through May 7
Where: Location Gallery at Austin Hill Realty, 417 Whitaker St.
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and by appointment
More information: 912-354-2100 or www.locationgallery.net