Factory Works Gallery set to host ‘Jonathan Preston: Why?’ exhibit

Factory Works Gallery at the Pajama Factory invites you to “Jonathan Preston: Why?,” an exhibition of street art-influenced paintings by Bellefonte/State College-based artist Jonathan Preston, Feb. 1-21, with an opening reception from 6 to 9 p.m. February 1, 1307 Park Avenue, Studio 9-210. This is Preston’s first exhibition both at Factory Works Gallery and in William­sport.

An abstract expressionist painter, Preston currently resides in Bellefonte.

Taking an interest in art at a young age, Preston began painting community murals in grade school and drawing was a big hobby of his as well. After high school, he attended Penn State University as an English major.

“I went through school focused on sports and music,” he said. “I was a drummer and ended up touring in punk rock bands. It was then that my love of art and fashion came back.”

After some touring in the band and a year at Penn State, Preston transferred to The Art Institute of Philadelphia to study menswear design.

Preston’s personal work kept growing after he moved to Brooklyn, New York, where he worked in fashion and music but kept a small home studio. After leaving fashion and another stint as a touring musician, he moved back to Central PA and continued working on art as well as street art.

Preston has shown his work at several galleries since moving to State College six years ago.

“In Philly and NYC, I used walls to put up art,” he said. “I was never a gallery person. Even now I prefer to sell privately.”

While usually an abstract oil painter, Preston is also a street or “graffiti” artist. This collection has been done almost entirely with spray paint using hand-made stencils and was inspired by the need to remind people about mental health.

Preston’s paintings in this collection started by doing a piece for the Jana Marie Foundation. He became inspired by their message and started an entire series focused on mental health, mostly with spray paint.

“I called the collection ‘Why’ because I always ask myself ‘why do I feel this way?'” he said. “It’s for those who feel ‘crazy.'”

Preston said he always puts on music and stares at a blank canvas throughout the process of creating his work.

“I can’t paint on the streets anymore, so I put it on canvas,” he said. “I like to just have fun with colors and ideas; then I start cutting stencils and working more towards a vision. I have a signature stencil that I often incorporate. On a given painting, I spend about six hours standing and thinking and two actually painting.”

Preston has struggled with severe anxiety, depression, addiction and suicidal thoughts for many years. All of Preston’s pieces are inspired by his own struggle with mental health, as this work addresses the very topical issues of substance abuse and mental illness through the lens of his personal experiences with them.

“My hope for this collection — especially in this political climate — is to remind people that others are in need of help,” he said. “This collection is to remind people that many others are not fine.”


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