Cheyenne Pallo, Layers and Layers

Cheyenne Pallo is a treasure. Her exhibition history does not reflect her prolific art making career. Her spacious Oakland studio is testament to years of painting and drawing that seems to be reticent of its own willingness to be lifted into the light, potentially unwilling to be held for would be vultures of public consumption. I am talking about the collection as a single, mysterious whole that comes from a mature and talented voice, one that is now finally ready to be shared with the world. Are we ready for it? Her studio space is not so much arranged but grown organically from the ghosts of eras past and eras to come. When Swee(t)Art, the Drawing Gallery transforms next year into Swee(t)Art, the Installation Space, (a discussion and an announcement for another time) I have invited Cheyenne to bring her collection out into the light and it is our responsibility to not pick at it but to protect it. I asked her a few questions about her process after I visited her studio last month.

photo courtesy of the artist

Obi: To what degree do you identify with the figures you paint? Are they involved in their own little narratives, like characters in a story, or do they exist in a void, like a dance?

Cheyenne: I absolutely identify with the individuals I depict. They’re anchored in me as if we shared heart veins … or belly buttons … or they simply flaked off my skin in the sun. I imagine them all in motion really, caught in a single moment within their own complicated stories. Standing still for this one small glimpse ~ observing or laughing at themselves … & maybe me … & maybe you.

photo courtesy of the artist

Obi: If you only had one mode that you could forever work in from now on, what would it be? Would you continue with your ink or large-scale oils? Or would you just throw yourself of a cliff?

Cheyenne: Ha! Well, I’m going to answer this question knowing that no matter what, I’d most definitely end up cheating! I would probably choose my detailed, large-scale, oil paintings. They have the ability to exercise so much in me. The process is full bellied, ya know, from start to finish. Large brush strokes & tiny concentrated detail ~ its all there. But I’m also god-awful at conducting any part of my life in lock step … so who knows? Stuck on a desert island with oils, paintbrushes, & canvas, I’d probably find a way to turn the sand into clay.

Swee(t)Art photo

Obi: Your work seems nostalgically haunted to me. As if you & I shared a drink in 1920s Berlin. Are you a modernist? Where does the voice come from? Is it calculated or is it some kind of metabolic function?

Cheyenne: I’ve also always been horrible with titles. I’m freckled ~ there’s a title for ya! Ha! I guess this voice is simply layers upon layers of what I’ve found disturbingly beautiful or particularly stunning. I’m an old soul, I know that. I appreciate anything tired or experienced ~ words, pictures, buttons, esthetics. My work does help me digest these memories or histories while, hopefully, reinventing their worth. I’m thankful & my voice is intuitive, if anything. It’s aged well.

please enjoy Cheyenne’s website at

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