You walk into a comedy club, enjoy an evening of hilarity, drinks and light bites, and leave with a large painting that looks like it was made of mosaic tile rather than paint.
Is this a joke? No, this is what’s happening at Lenora Palacios’ studio once a month at Winter Street Studios.
Palacios creates large paintings that are colorful, have an iconic feel and almost all look like they are made of mosaic tile. I always look twice when I see a new painting by Palacios. She’s that good.
Palacios didn’t just decide to host comedy shows in her studio space.
“I know God plainly puts things in my face I can’t ignore,” Palacios said.
The idea for comedy came by way of Chinese food delivery. No, I’m not joking. She struck up a conversation with her delivery man and found out he was a comedian.
“I knew inside I was supposed to connect with this guy and do something,” Palacios said. “So I asked him if he’d perform at my studio and he said, ‘Sure.’ He brought a bunch of comics and, boom, we got a comedy club. I’ve had fun, met people, sold art and it’s been great.”
Let’s backtrack a little. Palacios hails from New Jersey originally. After a rough childhood, followed by an even rockier marriage, Palacios found herself a teen mother married to an unstable soldier in Fort Hood. She reluctantly gave her baby up for adoption and divorced.
She left Texas but later moved back to find her son and let him know he was loved. That first week back she had one date, fell in love, married again and now has four more children.
It was in finding her son that eventually inspired Palacios to paint.
“I found my son in 2011. He had been in Beaumont federal prison for 10 years (and) before that state prison,” Palacios said. “I wrote to him and told him everything and after about six months I went to meet him. My purpose was not to be his mother, just let him know he was wasn’t thrown away. I thought if he were anything like his dad, he would need answers.
“I started visiting him every other Friday for five hours each time and we became very close,” Palacios continued. “The reason the mosaic came about was because of my son. He told me he felt like he was turning to stone in prison, so I painted him like that and all the tick marks and details was just so comfortable, the brokenness of it all was like a soliloquy to a sentimentalist like me. The more I added, the better I liked it, so I developed it and it became my signature style.
“I’ve found also that after meeting Russell, my son, it was like I was a brand-new person. All the pain and darkness from the memories were gone. That’s the reason I started painting my memories. Each one has a story and has served a cleansing purpose. It works for me.”
Over the holidays, Palacios met a half-sister for the first time. Her father had been stationed in Japan and married and had a daughter, but lost contact when reassigned. Her sister never knew she had other family in the United States, but a DNA test through ancetry.com brought them together.
“The crazy thing is she’s been in the U.S. since she was 3 (years old) and went to UCLA. She now resides in Los Angeles,” Palacios said. “I have a place to stay and show art in L.A., which is something I knew I would eventually do.
“She’s exactly like my dad. It was bizarre, and I’m so glad to have a sister that I don’t share decades of bad memories with. It’s wonderful. I look forward to that.
“As luck (or God) would have it, I’ll be in a gallery in Laguna Beach (California) around the first of February. Nothing in my life is by accident.”
Coming up, Palacios has plans to write a book, a sitcom and will be hosting receptions in her space, such as Brilliant Women in Film Day on March 8 as declared by Mayor Sylvester Turner.
Palacios partners with Ku Egenti in organizing the comedy shows. The events are invitation-only. Visit her studio on the second Saturday of each month to get on the list or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to get an invite. An RSVP is required. This Saturday in the studio are comedians Mike Rao, Jeff Joe and Corlis DeLauren.
For more, visit lenorapalacios.com or stop by Winter Street Studios at 2101 Winter St.
Cohen is an artist and founder of First Saturday Arts Market and the Market at Sawyer Yards, find him at ArtValet.com