In the paintings of Penelope Bisiaux’s exhibition Amass Ardor, hands crush fruit. Fingers clutch at orange peels. A fist squeezes the juice from a grapefruit. Blood red liquid flows and drips from a crushed tomato. The fruit is presented in stark, centered compositions that evoke the long tradition of still life paintings, but the aggressive actions of the hands evoke a sense of violence and hunger.
“Amass means to collect [for] oneself,” says Bisiaux. “Ardor means intense and extreme strength and power. So I chose that because this is collecting one’s thoughts, emotions and growing, unlocking energy and the power within. And yes, it’s a little bit violent. … It’s this nice balance of that anger we have and the serenity that we can create.”
They’re mixed media paintings. She uses a mix of watercolor, acrylic and oil paints. She’ll often use watercolors or acrylics to create backgrounds and then the oil paints to render the details of the highlighted objects in the foreground. The different materials create a contrast that heightens the sense of energy and action in the paintings.
“I really wanted a separation of space and importance,” she says of her decision to use different materials.
She was born and raised in the Nevada mining town Battle Mountain. She moved to Reno to attend the University of Nevada, Reno, where she graduated in 2006. As an artist, she likes to challenge herself. This exhibition arose partly from her desire to challenge herself to paint hands, traditionally one of the more difficult body parts to paint convincingly.
Amass Ardor is the first exhibition in the Holland Project’s new Micro Gallery. It’s in Bibo Coffee Co. on Record Street, formerly the location of the Bibo 3 Gallery. Artist Jen Graham, who had been running that gallery, wanted to step down, and the Holland Project was looking to add a second gallery location. The coffee business and the youth-oriented arts had partnered before, so it seemed a natural fit.
The gallery will focus on emerging and local artists and will be run by a Holland Project student intern.
“The other gap that we saw in the Reno community was that there’s not an opportunity for high school level or college level students to actively run a gallery essentially on their own—a very active internship where they’re learning the ins and outs by trial and error,” says Holland’s gallery director, Sarah Lillegard. “The Micro Gallery is something off-site that’s like a learning gallery, though we still hold it to the same caliber that we hold the Holland Project gallery, so there’s the same level of professionalism and promotion.”
Lillegard says she’s excited about the continuing partnership with Bibo, and to take over a gallery that already has a following.
“People actually come to that space to look at the art,” she says. “It’s not just a decoration. It’s viewed kind of as a gallery. It’s awesome to take what she’s already built a strong foundation for and be able to build on that.”
The Holland Project’s current gallery associate intern is Aidan Barker-Hill, 19, who curated Amass Ardor.
“It’s been a great experience for me,” he says. “I was looking for some way to get involved in the Reno art community.”
He says he chose Bisiaux’s work for the exhibition because it was well-rendered representational work that also has thematic continuity.
“Penelope’s work jumped out at me because it’s representational, but there’s also a really strong, coherent message,” he says. “There’s a coherent concept to it that I thought was pretty interesting. … It strikes a nice balance between representational and conceptual.”