Pumpernickel Palace - Artful Animal

I don’t remember exactly who introduced us but I first met artist Frankie Martin in the early aughts. We had mutual friends and quickly got to working together. At the time I was the buyer for a store in Tokyo and Frankie made colorful, happy, and humor-filled one-of-a-kind wearables for me to ship over. I also had an apartment gallery in NYC called Little Cakes. Frankie had a show there called Airbrains in 2004. I was recently trying to describe that show to someone and what came out of my mouth was something like, “Yeah, there were helium balloon people that sang dance songs with their records up on the walls. Don’t you remember?”

Frankie now lives in San Diego and with her family. I had seen some of what she was up to, creating things under the name Pumpernickel Palace – for children and with her own child, Forest. I spoke with her to learn more!



Q : What is Pumpernickel Palace?

A : Pumpernickel Palace is a collective of family and friends who are excited to make family-friendly art that is beautiful, entertaining, and informative. We strive to make work that is gender-neutral and inclusive, always rated EE (for Everybody to Enjoy)!  You can check out our videos on our YouTube channel, or at pumpernickelpalace.com, which is also a great  place to stay up to date on all things Pumpernickel Palace; including special content for members, fun printables, and other art products made by Frankie.



Q : Where did the name Pumpernickel Palace come from?

A : Pumpernickel Palace first started as Pumpernickel Pond when we lived on the East Coast. I chose the name because I enjoy alliteration, hiking in the woods and thought it sounded like a magical place for discovery. The project transformed into a family collaboration when we relocated to dry Southern California, so we decided to update the name. For us, a Palace is a fancy and magical place with endless rooms for discovery. And of course, I wanted to keep Pumpernickel for continuity.




Q : How do you see Pumpernickel Palace as being an extension of your "solo art career”?

A : Previously, I made video art and painting to be exhibited in the context of the art world. A lot of it was playful and colorful, and had more serious or adult topics mixed in, which weren’t always appropriate or relatable for kids. Pumpernickel Palace bears a lot of similarity to my previous work in that it is often simultaneously entertaining and serious, but with the addition of a child collaborator and a shift in the intended audience. The topics we explore now include jokes, puppets, travel, music, making healthy choices and more.



Q : Has motherhood changed your relationship to the process of making "art"?

A : It definitely has in some ways. I have always enjoyed collaboration, and I have always tried to make things that radiate positivity, even if it takes the form of a cultural critique. One big change is that I have a little less time to devote to art making now. When Forest was a baby, I took a break from video making and started dreaming up what would become Pumpernickel Palace. At first, I mostly made watercolor paintings for friends and family who were expecting babies. I made these paintings for their children before they were born, with the idea that they could start their art collection in infancy. I want to invite people to begin appreciating art at a very young age. It’s never too early for them to start developing their aesthetics and visual thinking strategies. I found research which shows that art appreciation can help with social and emotional growth and empathy.



Once Forest was able to get excited about video art making, I began inviting him into collaboration and since then, Pumpernickel Palace has since really flourished into what it is today. Eric, my partner, does a lot of the sound design for Pumpernickel Palace. I still make watercolor paintings unrelated to the Palace work, and I’m writing a children’s book too. All of my video-making energy is invested in the Pumpernickel Palace collaboration.



Q : Does Forest see himself as an artist?

A : “Yes, I do see myself as an artist. I help make Pumpernickel Palace videos. I also dance, make music, DJ, draw and paint. I am five years old.”

Q : Does Forest have an art collection and if yes, what is their favorite piece and why?

A : Forest does have a collection! “My favorite art in my collection is the forest painting that my Mom made for me because it has a forest which is my name.”



Q : I just downloaded a few of the Zoom backgrounds from your We Zoom Your Room event at OCMA. Fun! Can you tell me a little bit about how you and Forest decided on that idea and how your event went?

I’m SO excited that you downloaded those Zoom backgrounds! It went ultra-great! The Orange County Museum of Art did a great job of facilitating this virtual event. We felt inspired to make couture virtual backgrounds as an art service for people who suddenly found themselves in a large number of Zoom meetings after the pandemic hit. We also liked the idea of being able to make personal connections during this time when so many things are remote or virtual, and a lot of people are dealing with greater social isolation.  During the We Zoom Your Room event, we were able to have joyous, one-on-one interactions with a bunch of people of all ages, while we custom-made them backgrounds.  We collaged with an array of materials like glitter glue, seashells, sticks, pompoms, and leaves. 



Q : Do you guys have anything new coming up or up your sleeves?

A : The We Zoom Your Room event was so fun, that we are expanding our zoom practice to also include a more performative service called Zoom Crashers! which is similar to a singing telegram but for Zoom. When hired, Zoom Crashers! will join and playfully disrupt an otherwise dull Zoom meeting with a party anthem or other entertaining performative element.


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