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At 26, Honig is widely perceived to be one of the city's most talented artists. Now she's in a position to help her colleagues. Being in her good graces could lead an artist to exhibitions at the Fahrenheit as well as major gallery contacts and invitations to national shows.
These days, Honig doesn't have much trouble making friends.
Honig has been in Kansas City for nine years, and for much of that time, being the young darling of Kansas City's art community came at a cost.
People who don't know Honig have gossiped about her to her face. She's been interrogated by people demanding to know whether her art springs from an abusive childhood. At the very least, she's been called a relentless self-promoter -- an insult in overly polite Kansas City.
Nonetheless, her work ultimately ended up in the Whitney because Melissa Rountree, curator for Hallmark Cards' fine-art collection, was a fan. In 1998 Rountree introduced Honig to Jack Lemon, the founder of Landfall Press, a publisher of contemporary fine art in Chicago, who later began representing Honig. At the Navy Pier art show in Chicago in 1999, Lemon tells the Pitch, he sought out David Kiehl, a curator for the Whitney.
"I dragged David Kiehl over there and showed him Peregrine's work," Lemon says. "I told him it should be part of his collection. That's my job." Lemon's marketing efforts paid off. The Whitney bought a print of Ovubet, one of 25 sets of hand-painted prints that Landfall Press had published from Honig's original etchings on copper plates.
Yale University Art Gallery and the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., each bought a set of Ovubet, too. Barbara Bloemink, the former director of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, bought one for her private collection.
In the corporate world, Honig's work has been shown at the H&R Block Artspace, Shaw Hofstra & Associates and UMB Bank. But not everyone appreciates drawings of little girls who are beginning to understand their sexuality.
Despite Rountree's appreciation of Honig's work, it doesn't hang alongside that of more than 100 other Kansas City artists in Hallmark's 3,100-piece fine-art collection.
"We don't have much figurative work," Rountree explains. "Peregrine's work is small in size, and it's not always appropriate for a corporate collection."
"Hallmark doesn't buy things with pubic hair or nipples," Honig quips. She says her art is a humorous look at young girls' bumpy transition into womanhood.
Awfulbet consists of 26 line drawings of preteen girls -- most of them clad only in panties -- on brown-paper lunch sacks. Like the Ovubet suite, each drawing corresponds to a letter in the alphabet, with handwritten rhymes scrawled beneath.
"C is for Claire passed out on the floor" -- that's the text beneath a drawing of a blonde with pink nipples and white underwear sprawled on the ground. There's "D is for Dina who wouldn't eat anymore," a panties-wearing girl pushing away her plate. In one drawing, a young girl bends over a toilet: "E is for Emma throwing up dinner." Tears fall down another girl's face: "F is for Faye who prayed to be thinner."
Honig says she's seen women break down and sob over Awfulbet. Then they'll ask her if she has an eating disorder or whether she was sexually abused.
Men, meanwhile, seem to have strong reactions to parts of Ovubet, especially "N is for Nora who liked it on top," a drawing of a nearly naked little girl straddling the pole of a hobbyhorse. Honig says men also squirm at "O is for Olivia who asked him to stop," with a tiny pair of hands drawn in the bottom-right corner.