If Alia Penner were President, the first thing she’d do is “paint the White House every color in the world.” She is an artist after all – she paints, draws, collages and designs – and describes her work as “filled with hypnotic color and classic dreaminess”. Lately she’s been painting cubic and circular rainbow-like windows on panels and wood. And she also proved successful at making “wearable art”. Her friend David Mushegain invited her to be part of his photo show at Colette in Paris this summer. “I knew I couldn’t bring all my paintings (to Paris) with me so putting them on something that could fold up into my suitcase was the perfect solution,” she smiles. The dresses she made were long, flowing and transparent with a dreamy, Native-American, galactic print. During New York Fashion week she built the set for Rachel Antonoff‘s show. She painted “a kitchen with an insane collection of knives and a cake taller than the models, a library with an extensive book collection, an upright piano and salon-style paintings, and oh! I also made a pet cemetery – I had a real one growning up – and made some of my old pets tombstones.”
If she had her way, all her clothes “would be dripping with crazy color!”. Not surprisingly, Alia loves prints and patterns. “Since I cut my hair short I’ve found I can’t wear some of my more bohemian treasures. I’m into more of a modern flapper look these days.” With her dark bangs and round cheeks, she reminds me of Zoe Kazan, though she says she’s never heard that before. Her younger sister Lauren lives downstairs and hangs around for moral and technical support. Alia digs through her closet for anything bright and cheerful, which is also her preferred way of shopping. “I love hunting for clothes, books, records, things that have lived a life and have a story to tell,” she muses. “I once bought this necklace at a flea market in Paris. It was a red heart with an arrow going through it that says “I LOVE YOU”. Since I didn’t really know very many people and my french isn’t very good, it was hilarious to walk through the streets having people look at me like I was crazy, laugh or shout “I LOVE YOU too!”” If a necklace is all it takes to bring people closer together, Alia may be one step closer to achieving world domination.
But until she takes her position as Head of State, 26-year old Alia keeps to decorating her own hillside apartment and the odd giant spooky Victorian dollhouse. Her place sits atop Mount Washington in the South-East of Los Angeles. From her balcony she can see “downtown LA, dodger stadium fireworks, a train yard and three freeways… but it’s far enough away to seem like a miniature play set. There is a symphony of church bells, school children playing, mariachi bands, sirens and ice cream trucks. I also have red tail hawks that fly over my house every day.” There is not an inch of the house left untouched by her artful hand. Books and magazines are stacked along the walls, pots of paint and markers are lined up on the floor and desk, and the walls and furniture are an explosion of frames, rhinestones and miniature statues. Everywhere you look there’s something funny staring back at you. And that’s what I like about being here: Alia is positively entertaining. She seems to look at the world through her own painted windows of color.