Penelope Houston and Miso / Karen Hsiao

April 7 – 30, 2017

Opening Reception: Friday, April 7th, 8-11 PM
Artist Talk with Penelope Houston : Friday, April 14th, 7-9PM

La Luz De Jesus Gallery proudly presents the first Los Angeles exhibition of paintings by  Avengers frontwoman, Penelope Houston with a full room of diptych paintings culled from the muzzlers she found in the mugbooks at the S.F. Public Library. April also brings a full room of new work from the creative mind of Karen Hsiao, working under her namesake to produce hand-altered fetish photographs as well as her Miso creations.


PENELOPE HOUSTON – Muzzlers (“The Accused”)

“The Accused” is a series of oil portraits Houston undertook last year, based on original black and white photographs from police records archived at the San Francisco Public Library, where the artist has long held a day job. She discovered the images in mug books titled “Prostitution” and “Muzzlers” – slang for sex crimes. Each portrait is a diptych – front and side views – with the accused’s name and alleged violation burned into the side panels. Although the series harks to a time when sex workers were “low women” and gay men could be charged with “crimes against nature,” Houston’s light and sensuous impasto treatment performs a kind of literary time travel, drawing these individuals forward to a contemporary sensitivity, revealing and in a sense returning to them what the original arrest documentation took away – their essential humanness. Mixing subtle shadings of emotion ­– melancholy, remorse, shame, even defiance – with direct looks almost painful to meet, Houston creates a kind of reckoning between subject and viewer: who’s judging whom?


“One hundred years before the selfie,” says Houston, “photography was an elaborate proposition and the demeanor of the suspects at that significant but unwelcome moment of the policeman’s shutter click is uniquely unmasking. I was struck by the difference in expressions in the frontal shots – pleading or defiant – and the more withdrawn introspection in the profile shots. I took pleasure in painting them, and in the process of discovering and getting to know these individuals. But more than that, I felt a sense of obligation.”

In the late 70s, Penelope Houston moved from her home in the Pacific Northwest to attend the San Francisco Art Institute. Within six months her visual arts education was sidetracked by the formation of her critically acclaimed proto-punk band the Avengers. With such incisive political anthems as “The American in Me” and “We Are the One,” the band achieved international renown, opening for the Sex Pistols in the punk icons’ final show at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom in 1978. Since then, Houston has performed more than a thousand shows with the Avengers and her solo bands throughout the USA and Europe, at venues ranging from CBGB’s, the Whisky a Go Go and Winterland to LA’s MOCA, SFMoMA and the De Young Museum. She has released thirteen albums with independent and major labels in a career documented in publications ranging from Slash to Newsweek. Throughout this time, visual art remained essential and in recent years she returned to painting, receiving a BA in studio art from San Francisco State University.


KAREN HSIAO – Vow of Silence (In Convents)



Karen Hsiao is a self taught Fine Art photographer who uses intense subject matters in an unconventional way. Miso is her professional painting identity, developed at Art Center College of Design where she graduated with a BFA in Illustration.

A figurative painter in her early years, Karen Hsiao has since explored the figure and its space through various mediums, creating pieces that are both tactile and intuitive. Photography was a natural extension of that process which Hsiao has sought to perfect. Her work has captured the attention of many primarily because of her unique approach to subject, sometimes with a team of ingenious makeup artists, hairstylists, and couture fashion designers to help materialize Hsiao’s concept. Hsiao has been featured in published works and shown in galleries both nationwide and abroad.

Karen Hsiao : Rubber Duck is the artist’s first published volume–a pictorial representation of the conscious and unconscious mind. The rubber duck in her book is a primordial symbol shaped by our developmental and psychological patterns in life. The book starts off with childhood, continues into adolescence, and ends with death. All together neatly tucked into a colorful yet strangely induced image driven book. Published by Baby Tattoo Books. Hardcover. 128 pages. 8×10″ $35.00 Click here to buy now.

Black Cherries is her sophomore collection, focused around minimalism in design by using simple blacks and reds to express the subtle hints of lust and rebellion within bondage. The series debuted at Vanilla Gallery, Japan in 2010, and was realized in print in Nov. 2013. Softcover. 96 pages. 8.5×8″ $30.00
Click here to buy now.

Miso – La Fleur


Karen Hsiao’s painting alter-ego, Miso, has been exhibiting since 2007.
Prior shows at La Luz de Jesus and Corey Helford Gallery have completely sold out, and she has developed a following in Germany, Japan, Australia, and Taiwan in addition to her American fanbase in Los Angeles.



Contact Gallery Director Matthew Gardocki for purchase info:  (323)666-7667