The first time I covered Penelope Gazin, I introduced her as an artist. But people who know her would probably describe her as a myriad of things. Someone may call her an entrepreneur for co-founding online shop Witchsy, where she also sells her own products and art. Artist or animator definitely wouldn’t be incorrect, either. She could be labeled a dancer, as a member of the LA Municipal Dance Squad. Maybe you want to call her a musician or a drummer, for being one half of the band Slut Island.
You may even call her a trickster due to the time she and her Witchsy business partner Kate Dwyer made headlines for inventing a fake male co-founder to avoid sexist work emails, and unintentionally revealing gender biases in the workplace. Honestly, I wanted to know how Gazin defines herself, so I just asked her.
When people ask you what you do, what do you say?
Oh boy. This is a question I struggle with. I usually try to keep it simple and mysterious by just saying “animator.” But the other day I told a friend of a friend I was “a famous artist” kind of as a joke to crack myself up, but maybe I will start always introducing myself that way.
Are all of your creative practices intrinsically linked to one another, or do you separate them?
Yes, they are all linked. I feel like I am expressing the same ideas just in different mediums.
If you had to drop everything else and go by only one title, what would you call yourself?
I guess I would call myself a painter. That is my main love.
Real talk—what do you think of Jim Carrey’s paintings?
There have been some pieces that I was like, “Oh okay, that’s not bad!” And others that I thought were super cheesy and awful, like a giant painting of a heart. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it.
Which art forms are calling your name right now? How do you choose how you are going to spend your energy?
In this very moment, I have had the writing bug and am writing a screenplay. Also itching to dabble in some animation stuff as well. I try to bounce around and keep a good balance. I start to itch for a medium if I haven’t used it in a while.
Across all mediums and genres, who are your biggest inspirations?
Daniel Johnston, Chad VanGaalan, and my brother, Nicholas Gazin.
How did you get here? You are co-owner of Witchsy, your art has been featured on Vice, and you’re a dancing queen on Instagram. What were some of the pivotal moments that have brought you to today?
Breakups, rejection, and no expectations.
When you invented fake co-founder “Keith Mann,” did you intend for it to be a social experiment to prove the existence of gender bias, or were you just sick of getting condescending emails in response to your female names?
No, we had no idea anyone would care. I was personally inspired by authors like James Tiptree and JK Rowling, but obviously women have been pulling this ruse and seeing results since the history of time. I kind of thought women just did it all the time and didn’t think it was a big deal. I have often pretended to be a man when dealing with Chinese manufacturers. Many would address me as “sir” anyway, and I would just not correct them, and it helps with avoiding unwanted design advice and excuses.
Where is Keith now?
He’s in Hawaii with his 23-month pregnant wife, giving her a massage.
I have so much music backed up, I just haven’t released any of it. I have a new band called Slut Island (@slutislandband) that has been doing really well, even though we are only 6 months old.
Anything else you’re currently working on?
Well, today I hope I remember to take a shower. That is my main project I am focusing on today.
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