Spotlight: Penelope Gazin Interview

Let’s just say the 90’s were a strange time. The 80’s wound down with pleather, hairsprayed splat, and ushered in a new era of kids perhaps rebelling against the yuppy pastels our then-teenage parents left us with.

Grunge, aliens via The X Files (I will discuss this show ’til I die) and the awkward teens a la My So-Called Life would take the stage and inform us that being a big batch of weird was totally a-ok. Now that those times are over (aka our childhood, sob), we often find ourselves ridden with nostalgia; at least this is true with me, everyone I’ve ever met ever and Penelope Gazin, artist and creator of the shop Penelope Meatloaf, where the 90’s rule the land and art is so filled with bizarre entities, Fox Mulder wouldn’t know what to do with himself.

To say that Penelope’s art is weird is an understatement. I hesitated writing that sentence, thinking I might offend someone, but since when is being described as “weird” a bad thing? I’d even go so far as to say in our culture, it’s a compliment.

A badge of honor, if you will, that you’ve freaked everyone out a little (maybe a lot?) and now they’ve got their eye on you to see what bizarre things you’ll do next. Penelope Gazin’s art embodies all of these descriptions, and maybe by wearing some of her quirky pieces, a little of it will rub off on you. We asked the creator of Penelope Meatloaf about her thoughts on aliens, making gifs for Fox TV and 90’s culture.

Flesh Cave

THE LE SIGH: Where did the “Meatloaf” part of Penelope Meatloaf come from?

Penelope Gazin: PenelopeMeatloaf was my first AIM screen name in sixth grade. I’m sure I wanted something like “PenelopeSurferBabe69” but I think I’d tried a bunch of options and this was the only one that wasn’t taken. Then I made it my Ebay username when I started buying vintage clothes for myself. It started becoming a brand when I actually started selling vintage items on Ebay and then I decided to carry it over when I started my Etsy shop. I’d never intended it to become a company name, it just did naturally.

TLS: You do a lot of mash-ups of women, food and aliens (sometimes all at once, sometimes respectively), oftentimes overtly sexualized. What’s the story behind that?

PG: I think I’ve only combined women with food once, and that was for some illustrations I did for Burger Records (best label ever). I just really like boobs and women’s bodies and sex and objectifying them. I like objectifying men too, but I don’t find their bodies as interesting so I almost never draw them. I was born with a dead parasitic twin growing out of the side of my head but it was removed when I was a baby, so I’m really inspired by deformities and draw little Alice (my dead twin’s name) in a lot of my illustrations.

TLS: When looking for clothes to revamp and resell for your shop, what do you look for?

PG: I usually just buy whatever little Alice tells me to buy. She’s got a lot of opinions. She’s a real diva bitch sometimes.

TLS: A lot of clothing in your shop is vintage–is there a specific fashion time period you gravitate toward more than others? What’s your favorite?

PG: My usual style is 40’s mixed with 90’s, but I’ve recently started loving 70’s style and combining that with 90’s elements. I’m also very inspired by 50’s sluts. I wish today’s sluts were more like the 50’s sluts.

TLS: There’s a lot of alien imagery in your accessories and drawings–do you believe in aliens? If you do, there are a lot of discrepancies over what aliens look like; what do you think they look like?

PG: I believe that lifeforms other than us exist in our galaxy, but I think we probably haven’t been visited by those lifeforms. I believe in believing in aliens though, and the folklore that has been created around them. I like drawing aliens because there are no limitations to what I can do to their heavenly bodies.

Penelope Gazin Alien

TLS: How did you get involved in Fox ADHD and how do you balance creating things that work for their site as well as meet your aesthetics and standards as an artist?

PG: I went to school for animation (even though I consider myself more of an illustrator), so I knew a ton of people who worked there already. I make gifs (short little animations) all day that are then put up on the website and even aired on Fox TV on Saturdays. Sometimes I make gifs I love and sometimes I made gifs that are boring. That’s my fault though; I’m still learning how to work within limitations and still make something beautiful. I rely too heavily on making something “weird,” so when I can’t make it weird, I’m left with nothing to offer.

TLS: You run a shop, are involved with zines and even have a band–how do you balance all of your interests? What’s your favorite amongst the things you do?

PG: Running the shop is really fun, but it’s not as fun when you work ten-hour days and also do freelance illustration. I don’t have any time to ferment in my own fears though, so it’s probably a good thing. An active mind is a distracted mind. Oh god, we’re all gonna die!

My band “Sadwich” is my favorite hobby, though–we’re almost done recording our first album! My roommate/bestie Natalie James (who’s also an illustrator/animator) and I do it together, and it’s our first venture into sharing our music publicly, which is exciting. We practice in our garage and just have a lot of fun and write spooky little girl music together. We hope to put out a vinyl sometime this fall. Our wonderful friend Andrew Schubert is recording us in a real recording studio for real musicians.

TLS: What does your wardrobe look like?

PG: I think most current trends (the modern treatment of cut-outs, sheer fabrics and overly complicated designs) are really garish, and if I do wear something that was made now, it can’t be obvious it was made recently or has to be a basic item. I like combining time periods. When creating an outfit, I look for the right balance between classic and grunge.

TLS: What is it about the 90’s that draws you so much toward featuring pieces of 90’s jewelry in your shop?

PG: The 90’s right now are big with people my age because of the nostalgia. I think this happens with every generation. The 90’s just happened to be particularly colorful and delightfully tacky. Hey, remember “shirtkini’s”? I used to tuck my shirt into itself when I would dance to my Britney Spears album and I’m pretty sure most little girls did that too. At the time, the shirtkini embodied sexiness and womanhood. I bet those are gonna come back too.