Please explain what just happened.

I just read a bunch of these other interviews and realized I wasn’t going to be half as funny as Anthony Camera. So instead I have to try the honesty route and hope it works out.

What is your earliest memory?

I have this memory of a room where every wall is a different pastel color. Outside a window there is a pigeon cooing. I recently asked my mom what house this was and she kind of freaked out because we moved out of that house when I was only 6 months old.

If you weren’t an artist, what other profession would you choose?

Well it wouldn’t be healthy for me, but I’d probably drift back into advertising. If you’ve done it once, you know how hard it is to break free of the Golden Handcuffs. You get to be creative, but at someone else’s behest. And none of your ideas actually belongs to you. And even your best stuff is quickly obsolete. But at the end of the week there’s a big fat paycheck that makes the compromises seem rather trivial. Like everything, there are trade-offs.

Please describe the current contents of your refrigerator.

Cold, dead, and yet surprisingly tasty.

Is there a time you wish you’d lied?

No, but there are plenty of times I wish I hadn’t.

What would you say to yourself if you could go back in time and have a conversation with yourself at age thirteen?

That girl isn’t going to notice you no matter how many times you ride your bike real slow past her house.

If you could have only one album to get you through a breakup, what would it be?

I love this question because it’s so demographically potent. The silly thing is I’ll bet no one ever got over a breakup with an album. But since we’re pretending, I’d have to say E.B.T.G.’s Walking Wounded. That and a bottle of Valium.

What are three websites—other than your email—that you check on a daily basis?

This could be one of those times I wished I’d lied, but I have three Facebook pages. One for my art stuff, one for a band I’m in, and one for my actual friends, which I check about every ten minutes.

From what or whom do you derive your greatest inspiration?

Several mornings a week I take my dogs on a three mile hike along a river near where I live. They run off leash and chase rabbits and ducks. I never fail to have my best ideas on those walks.

Other than that, inspiration is not something I can count on finding when I want it. It has no fixed address, and almost always takes me by ambush.

Name a book that changed your life.

I wish I could say the Bible, but since I literally grew up with it, I’d say it informed my life rather than transformed it. Lots of books have buzzed in my head for days after reading them, but I wouldn’t say they changed my life. Tweaked it a little around the edges perhaps.  The earliest and most memorable was Lord of the Flies. It was assigned reading in my eighth grade English class. It was the first truthful thing I had ever read about childhood. I was astounded by it.

Nowadays I never pick up a book with the expectation that it will change my life. To me that’s a self-absorbed point of view and you’ll miss a lot of good stuff if that’s the lens you look through. Now I read more out of curiosity, or because the author does innovative things with structure and language, or because my wife, who’s a writer, tells me to read something.

If you could relive one moment over and over again, what would it be?

This question is tricky, because I think if an experience is THAT great, you don’t need to relive it. You absorb it. It becomes part of you, so it’s kind of always present. 

And besides, there’s no way I’m talking about that thing in the closet with that girl when I was 14 at the church youth group’s Halloween party.

How are you six degrees from Kevin Bacon?

This is incredibly obscure, but here goes. I was a model for a photo shoot my friend Greg Schreck did where he dressed all these people in business suits, put bags over their heads and then posed them in really unlikely outdoor settings, like in a field at the edge of a suburb, or knee-deep in surf. Then Greg put some images up on the internet, where Peter Gabriel saw them. In addition to being a musician/composer, Gabriel collects fine art, especially the kind with psychologically loaded imagery. He purchased one of Greg’s images for the cover of an album called Burn You Up, Burn You Down. Also, like a lot of pop musicians, Gabriel found his way into a few bit parts in Hollywood movies. One was in Woody Allen’s New York Stories, where he acted with Paul Herman, who was in Sleepers with Kevin Bacon. This makes my “Bacon Number” a 4.

What makes you feel most guilty?

Anytime I catch myself acting falsely: namedropping, hyping myself to try to impress someone. Any of those little compromises you make while competing for attention or trying to fit in.

What would you most like to have invented?


What is the worst piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

The Zune is just as cool as the iPod, only half the price.

What is the best advice you’ve ever given to someone else?

Do NOT move in with that person you have some peripheral doubts about, even if neither one of you can afford your own apartment.

What do you consider the harshest kind of betrayal?

If it’s betrayal, then it’s going to be harsh no matter what. But if we’re talking scale, I’d say any betrayal involving the exchange of bodily fluids is pretty harsh. Also, the kind where all your friends pretend they don’t know you and you end up crucified, literally. Since you asked.

Of all the game shows that have graced our TV screens throughout history, which one would you want to be a contestant on and why?

I don’t even know the name of this one, because I was a little kid and I wasn’t allowed to watch it. There were lots of girls jumping around in Bikinis and they were in Hawaii or something. The set was like a mini-golf course all surrounded by water. Little bridges connected little islands that you would move around depending on whatever the rules of the game were. It was tawdry and magical.

What do you want to know?

Will any of these questions be on the real test?

What would you like your last words to be?

Wait for it…

Please explain what will happen.

I’m sorry to report this, but the earth will be destroyed by meteors before Denver gets an Ikea.

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When asked where he grew up, artist MARK PENNER-HOWELL answers “Upstate New York, Kentucky, Michigan and Illinois.” Being the son of a preacher-man, his mother would give him paper to draw on during church service to keep him quiet. His mother sent him to a private art tutor, realizing that her young son had a talent. He remembers these lessons vividly.  “Eventually I went on to study art in college, but after graduation I had no solid plan, so my art-making attempts were infrequent and unfocused,” says Penner-Howell.

  As an adult he moved to Chicago where, like many people with a fine art degree, he found his way into a career in advertising, which he did for almost two decades. “I hardly painted at all back then, but eventually I found a creative outlet in the performance art and experimental music scene in Chicago. During this time I played drums and electronics in two Chicago “Art” bands.” 

Simultaneously working in advertising and being embedded in fringe culture caused him at least as much dissonance as being the son of a minister. And, after being promoted to Creative Director and a Vice President of the ad agency, Penner-Howell found himself less and less interested in the challenges of that career.

  “Around this time my wife and I hatched a plan to quit our jobs and move out of the city. We bought a Bed and Breakfast in North Carolina, thinking (mistakenly) we'd have more time for creative pursuits. I wanted to get back to painting, and thought this might be the way. We ran the B&B successfully for a year before we came to our senses and put the business up for sale. A job offer for my wife brought us to Denver in 2005. At this time I decided to turn my attention once and for all to the business of making art. So in my mid-forties I threw myself into art-making full time, and never looked back.”

  Penner-Howell's work has been exhibited widely throughout the Denver area. His vibrant and captivating work is often described as darkly humorous Post-Pop Art. Penner-Howell draws artistic inspiration from sources as varied as Rauschenberg, Rosenquist, Koons, and Bosch, as well as graphic design and “street” art.

 In 2010 he won Westword’s People’s Choice Award for Best Denver Artist and joined Walker Fine Art in 2011.

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