Alia Penner

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Perched like a parrot in the Pasadena Hills house that she barely leaves, barefoot in “Madelaine” and birthday cake dresses, Alia is establishing her vision of turning everything white or beige into technicolor. She cites the little boy in Frank L. Baum’s Wizard of Oz series as inspiration for the way that he lives in the middle of the forest with no one around for miles and still wears a blue velvet suit with silver bell buttons.

When you see Alia’s toes and hands painted in every neon color in the spectrum, it is easy to want to fall into her world and never come out, as if it were a haven from anything bleak. But what makes her so special is that she is a dreamer with the wisdom to know how much dedication and honesty it takes to make your fantasies come to fruition. “I want to paint everything I see in my head, but you can’t paint it until you manifest it.” The realization of Alia’s imagination is everywhere, from her home, which is an infinite art project, a collage of genres, to her colorful “freak dipped” clothes, and especially her paintings of rainbows which are literally meant to be portals into another world and have hung in notable places such as The LA Architecture & Design Museum. Of them, she says, “I feel like you can jump through and go somewhere else.” They are driven by the sensitivity with which she feels everything: “I get sad a lot. I have been crying a lot this month, through making these paintings.”

To be in touch with sadness is the only way to know your joy, which Alia is very familiar with. She grew up in the idyllic and remote enclave of Topanga Canyon, where it’s hard to decipher the real from the surreal, similar to the affect of the 3D cameras for cinematography that her dad invented. Nature is your playground and Neil Young and The Stones were regulars at the local bar. Growing up, Alia walked around unselfconsciously with a pink tulle skirt on her head and tries to hold onto this carefree part of herself as much as possible. With this sense of endless possibility in mind, Alia’s crocheted dress, which we photographed while she was in her outdoor room that is painted like the sky, was inspired by a ’60s bride who was naked and wrapped herself in a tablecloth for the ceremony. Whether sipping tea and talking turquoise with Natalie Gibson, her favorite SLU muse, or doing the artwork for Kenneth Anger’s 2010 film for Missoni, the universe of the immaterial and material collides in a glowing burst of sunshine and talent called Alia.

If you love Alia, you may also like Sorcha O’Raghallaigh, Rochelle Goldberg, James Fils-Aime and Athena Stuebe.

  • Kamila Boufelfel

    i love this! the colors!

  • Madde Bergdottir

    I love all the colours and details both on the clothes and in the apartment.

  • Emma Barkham

    So free and so beautiful. The freak dipped dress is a stunner!

  • Alley O’Shea

    I have been blogging about her art work forever. I love her usage of color. It would be lovely to drink a cup of tea with her and finger paint.

  • Sophie Samul

    “you can’t make it until you manifest it,” what a great quote. in her gorgeous prints and bold colors, to me, alia herself seems to be a manifestation of her vision. love!

  • Samantha Lind

    I’m a big fan of crochet and knit dresses. They remind me of “Lulu” from “To Sir, With Love”. She seems very down to earth and her use of color is eccentric, yet very tasteful.

  • Elinei Herrmann

    Her work and lifestyle are amazing… very inspiring!

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  • Sasha Flynn

    “…You can’t make it till you manifest it” I seriously have to remember this.

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