Petecia Le Fawnhawk

We talk with modern surrealist artist Petecia Le Fawnhawk about life, following your intuition, and being a channel for creativity.

Can you tell us a little bit about your past and how you came to be you?

That’s a weighted question! I’ll try to make it short and sweet. I came up from a very modest all-American upbringing. My parents were bikers; we grew up poor. We moved multiple times a year every year until we ended up in Kingman, Arizona, where I went to high school, and that was where I discovered the desert.

I was getting in trouble in that small town and spoke to some great role models that gave me some good advice, and it prompted my getting out of that small town and moving to LA to study fashion design. During that time, I just explored the art of expression.

I didn’t know anybody in LA, and I moved there with $40 and had never been to a city before, so it was really exciting, and it was just the time to throw myself into it and try everything. From packing cigarettes in Compton, to having gallery shows in hair salons, working at Starbucks, working in productions, being an electroclash go-go dancer, being in a band, I just tried anything and everything I could to explore the art of expression and to find my voice, and all the while just trying to survive in LA.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on a fashion collection. Funny enough, I guess I discovered the artist I am today, or the real honing in on my voice and style through Instagram, and it’s been the past five years that I really came into my own. I was sitting here thinking, ‘How do I break out of this 2-dimensional screen world and into the physical world?’ and I started doing that through drawings and sculptures and paintings, trying to express this universe I had created in a more tangible fashion. 

Not having gone to art school, and not really knowing anybody in the contemporary art world, I was called to seek a mentor. And it just so happened I was having lunch with a friend who was talking about this art dealer, who is this legendary guy that’s worked with Andy Warhol and Lichtenstein, held the first exhibit for Issey Miyaki, worked with all the Light and Space Movement people, and owned the ACE gallery.

Anyway, she told me about him, and I thought, ‘Maybe this guy could be my mentor.’ I mentioned that to her, and she said, ‘Funny enough, he doesn’t really like anything, but he is intrigued by your work.’ So we decided to have lunch together, and he reviewed my portfolio and asked me if I thought about doing fashion. I did come out here to study fashion, and I’ve worked in fashion; it’s not like it wasn’t on my radar. I do my costumes for my images, but really I just wanted to do monumental land art and sculpture and installation, and that’s where I was at.

But he told me, ‘If you do fashion, you can do all of that, but I think fashion will be your key into that world.’ and I thought ‘I’m going to follow this rabbit hole.’ I’ve been led by intuition my whole life, but I’ve never been led strategically by someone as informed and experienced as him, so I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to try it’.

Now is when people need art to reconnect with the importance and essence of being alive. It can transport them from the chaos into something that truly matters, to be aware of and to be present with and to connect to.”

That’s excellent advice.

It was nice to hear it from a different perspective because when we’re creating, we don’t see the forest through the trees, and I’ve just been creating and being guided by my intuition, following the goose they say. Now I have this studio that’s an art studio/atelier, and I have an amazing talented tailor working with me, and we’re developing a fashion collection.

I’ll have 18 pieces to exhibit in March. It’s going to be for the launch and re-opening of the ACE gallery, so it’ll be a multi-dimensional exhibit with my fashion pieces, sculpture, and my world adapted into large-scale drawings. It’s going to encompass essentially everything I’ve been doing but much more developed. And now that I’m diving more and more into it, I’m rekindling what I was attracted to in design when I first moved from Kingman, Arizona to Los Angeles; it’s kind of gone full circle. 

I’ve found my path because now I get to do fashion through the avenue of fine art. I get to create one-off pieces; I don’t have to be seasonal. I can just create for creation’s sake, which just fits my personality so much more. It’s culminated into this opportunity to exhibit what I’ve learned and to use that knowledge to express this vision I’ve crafted over all these years.

It’s kind of surreal cause I’m not in it, you know? You can be the backseat guest to your endeavors. It’s like you watch yourself doing all this stuff, and it doesn’t actually feel real until maybe it’s exhibited, and then it’s like ‘Oh wow, I did that.’ I still find when people are congratulating me at exhibits, I think, ‘Yeah, but… it wasn’t me who made it; its something that lives through me.’ But it is me doing it. I’m here. Sitting here in the studio right now, it’s all happening around me; it’s real.

Artists have the duality of being a medium, the way you speak of, and being present. So you channel the energy and reflect your personal interaction with the world, and that’s what people relate to.

Totally. I think that’s my biggest lesson as an artist is getting out of my way so that I can be that pure channel. That’s what I told myself when I was scared about having a baby. What Kahlil Gibran says in The Prophet is that the child is not yours; it’s of you, it lives through you, it’s life longing to know itself in the world, and I thought ‘Oh, that’s creativity.’ I would never stand in the way of a creative idea. Children are creativity manifested. I look at myself as a developing artist in the world the same way I look at myself as I become a mother in the world.

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You and your husband (French painter Mark Maggiori) recently moved from Los Angeles to Taos, New Mexico; how has that impacted your life?

They call Taos the last town of the wild frontier, and what it feels like is that anything is possible. It’s a ripe breeding ground for creativity. I moved around so much that when we bought our property, and I stood on it for the first time, and I felt the earth under my two feet, I felt this rush of creativity move through me. The feeling of ‘Oh my god, I can do anything I want on this land.’ I am a custodian, of course, I must be responsible because I am caring for this land while I’m here, but I can do anything I want. That was the first time I felt creative freedom.

As long as you respect the community and the traditions and the culture here, it’s a very welcoming place for creativity to ripen and happen. We’re very excited. We have lots of ideas, and we’re doing everything for the first time. We are opening a store, Mark is building his own studio, doing creative residencies, and getting involved with the community, and I’m doing this fashion thing. These are all our firsts happening all at once. I have no assurance where it’s going, but it’s super exciting.

Who or what are you most inspired by right now?

Nature- always a big one. I listen to Nils Frahm a lot right now when I’m working. Time with my baby is inspiring; watching a human grow is super inspiring. I’m really inspired by the style of the bohemians of Taos: Millicent Rogers, Georgia O’Keefe, the Taos Society of Artists, Agnes Martin, Larry Bell, Dennis Hopper. Those artists back then had the dopest style.

Artists that I feel inspired my work the most are James Turrell, this female surrealist named Kay Sage, who I love, obviously Georgie O’Keefe for her matched love for the desert and the natural world. She called herself the ‘Nun for Art,’ and I kind of feel the same. And Magritte. I love the desert transcendentalism movement, the surrealism, and modernism, and zen minimalism movements. I feel like I fit somewhere around there.

Many of us are turning to different forms of creativity to process the world. Can you speak to the importance of art and the role of the artist in society?

As an artist, you’re trying to make tangible the intangible. Now more than ever, in times like this of ongoing suffering and turmoil, you realize this is when art is needed most. Now is when people need art to reconnect with the importance and essence of being alive. It can transport them from the chaos into something that truly matters, to be aware of and to be present with and to connect to.

It’s important for the artist to dedicate themselves entirely to being the channel of expressing the intangible to remind people that life is not just the pain and the suffering. It’s actually quite beautiful, and it’s worth going through and persevering through the pain to experience and explore that beauty.

That was really insightful. Thank you so much for talking with us.

Learn more about Petecia and view her art at:  www.LeFawnhawk.com

All images in this article are courtesy of Petecia Le Fawnhawk.

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