Artist Profile: Penny MacBeth

Penny MacBeth is a Cornwall-based artist and writer, whose interest in everything from history to feminism lends into her colourful creations. The name may ring a bell from last week – Penny is Lally MacBeth’s mother, and the two have exhibited together in the past at The Glorious Art House.

Since I last wandered around Penny’s exhibit at the Glorious, she’s been busy finishing up her artist in residency post at Gyllyngdune Gardens, along with Lally. The gardens have a fascinating history behind them, and are connected to the, in Penny’s words, “wonderful and eccentric” Horniman family (inventors of the teabag, if you didn’t know!). Turned into a pleasure gardens in the 20th century by Frederick Horniman, Penny drew inspiration from his story, and the artefacts found in the Horniman Collection, resulting in a Mexican Tree of Life Sculpture, and many beautiful paintings.

Penny MacBeth 2

As mentioned, Penny is also a writer, and her time at the gardens inspired several poems, one of which is included below. As mentioned, Penny is also a writer, and her time at the gardens inspired several poems, one of which is included below, about Annie Horniman, the estranged daughter of Frederick and patron of writers such as WB Yeats.

A Guide to the Ephemeral Collections of Frederick J. Horniman


Here in this grotto
At twilight
I offer you
The opalescent shimmer of
So many shells
Caught in candlelight
And I sit quietly
As I have often sat
Like the Buddha
With no particular place to go
Here in this sunken garden
You can glimpse
The the passing flash
Of iridescent turquoise wings
As dragonflies
Tumble down the steep bank
Darting in and back out
Through all these curling fronds
Those that escape
The ether and the specimen tray
Walk with me as I
Used to walk
With the children
At Forest Hill before she left
Eager for life
Caught in the limelight
Annie with her stage struck
Star struck philanthropy
Smoke and mirrors
Glinting in The Land of Heart’s Desire
Reach for the real fortune
Beyond all
That I have stashed
Beyond the curious findings of
A lifetime’s quest
Beyond drama
Beyond the catalogue
Of things in cabinets
Reach for my thoughts
That slip away moment to moment


Penny’s art work is all at once charming with its bright colours, and fascinating in its subjects. Her past exhibits and works have included ‘The Frida Experiment’, ‘Mexican Word Birds’ and ‘Turkish Delights’. “I’ve always been drawn to saturated colour,” Penny explained. “Living through Celtic winters has only exaggerated my need for colour, so I surround myself in a Mediterranean bubble! My mother’s family were Italian – it is where the ‘Ronchetti’ in my daughter Lally’s name comes from – so maybe part of me is trying to get back to Lake Como where we came from originally. Occasionally I have been able to travel to the places that my work seems to echo, but mostly I content myself with artefacts and photos from other, warmer and more brightly-coloured cultures as source material.”

Penny is currently working on an exhibit, inspired by a trip to Budapest where she saw art noveau masks, wonderful embroideries and images of strong women. Penny is passionate about modern feminist issues, global warming, the wrecking of the status quo, all of which will also become evident during the exhibit. As well as this, the exhibit will tip a cap to her medieval interests – it is, after all, being shown this year at The Early Music Festival in Galway.

Penny MacBeth 1

And as if that wasn’t enough talent rolled into one, Penny will be playing a reunion concert with her old music group, Good Ladies of Galway. If you can make it, make it – it promises to be a fantastic time.


Keep up with Penny’s adventures in art here.

Nickie Shobeiry

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