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Penelope’s first LA gallery show is open: Muzzlers!

Yes, I’m pretty excited and I hope you’ll be able to see the work while it’s up. And buy a pair.

April 7th-30th, 2017.
La Luz de Jesus Gallery 4633 Hollywood Blvd. Los Angeles, CA.
Opening Reception: Friday, April 7th, 8-11:pm.
Sadly, I can’t make the opening due to an Avengers show the same night, but I will be there for my…
Artist Talk: Friday, April 14, 7-9:pm.

Here’s a little interview I did regarding the show.

The price is $1920 per set.
For purchase info, contact gallery director Matt Kennedy.
By phone: (323)666-7667
By email:

A one-day exhibition of mugshot paintings in Oakland

A one-day exhibition of mugshot paintings which will soon be sent to LA for Penelope’s first professional gallery show. A separate series of prints will be for sale.

March 12th from 1-5:pm at Land and Sea, 5428 San Pablo Ave, Oakland, CA 94608

“Muzzlers” 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 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 I was struck by the difference in expressions in the frontal shots – pleading or defiant – and the more withdrawn introspection in the profile shots.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.”

Mugshot Slideshow

Twenty mugshot paintings are done and I’m starting a new pair today.
Here’s a tiny slide show.


The song is a live acoustic version of “Walnut (Now my heart is a small, black, hard, shriveled, rotten, little…)” from my appropriately titled Loners, Stoners, and Prison Brides album.

The subjects are are Babe Russell, a dancer, 1919; Connie Woods, 23, 1919; Harry Kane, 52, 1921; Della Bohland, actress, 1919; Alfred Jolliffe, 28, 1932; Henry Friedrichs, 55, 1931; Sarah Alexander, 21, 1938; Chris Babeco, 32, 1921; Carolynn Wells, 23, 1938; William Williams, 35, 1919.

I painted these using original photographs that are in mugbooks archived in the San Francisco Public Library’s SF History Center. The women are from a mugbook titled “Prostitution” and the men from one called “Muzzlers” -slang for sex crimes. But, just because a person is arrested does not mean they are guilty. For instance, one was arrested for “Crimes against Nature” which back then meant being homosexual. Thankfully those old laws have died away.

Eventually, I will have an exhibit and the paintings will be for sale. Galleries and collectors please contact me with any inquires.

Muzzlers series 2/3 finished

For the last 5 months I’ve been painting a series of oil portraits of mug shots. The subjects are from mug books found at SF Public Library’s History Center on the 6th floor. The arrestees are “muzzlers” and prostitutes from 1919 and 1932. There are some amazing faces to work with. The photos are black and white so I am creating my own color palette. The hair and eye color, as well as height, weight, age and offense is noted with each photo and supply clues to their true appearance. I’ve spent some time researching each individual (when possible) and found whole, sometimes tragic, life stories. On the wooden edge of each panel are the names, ages and penal code burned in with my handy woodburning kit.

I will try to post some of the stories I’ve unearthed. In the meantime, here’s a link to a timelapse video up on FB:

Watch video


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