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Success had gone to Honig's head, he says. "She was a real pain in the ass."
Honig remembers one night at Dave's Stagecoach Inn in Westport, when a tipsy art student sidled up to her. He gestured toward a poster she'd drawn that was tacked to a wall. "Everybody buys into her shit," he sneered.
"I thought it was real funny," Honig says. "He thought he could start up a conversation by talking shit about me, and it was me."
"Peregrine was raised to believe that an artist is a special person, and she's always conducted herself as a special person," says David Ford, an artist and a 2001 Charlotte Street Fund winner. Ford owns Y.J.'s Snack Bar in the Crossroads District, a hangout popular among artists, writers and musicians. When Honig's career took off, Ford says, Honig sometimes snapped her fingers for faster service.
"When you're 23 years old and you just got bought by the Whitney, your head's got to go there," Ford says.
Honig didn't have time to worry about whether everybody liked her. She spent her days drawing constantly, occasionally selling some commercial artwork to make ends meet. Some weeks, she had plenty of money, and other times didn't know where she would get her next $20.
But Honig has been good at getting noticed at art openings and parties, at pressing the flesh, at hugging instead of shaking hands, Ford says.
She exudes sexuality while seeming as childlike and playful as the young girls in her drawings, and both men and women gravitate toward her.
"Sex sells, and Peregrine plays that card very knowingly, both in her professional presence and her art," Ford says. "At a party, they're probably going to talk to Peregrine more than they are me. She uses her breasts to get to the door. Her art has a very titillating quality. It springs directly from her, and that makes it authentic."
Such networking doesn't come easily for some artists, Ford says. A few envy the ease with which Honig can do it. He admires her work but thinks she needs to branch out.
"There are times when I've questioned whether she's exploiting preadolescent nudity," Ford says. "It's a big genre, and it's a very taboo genre. She's [raising] provocative and interesting questions, so those are the questions she's doing over and over."
Honig's artistic questions have paid off. Today, prices for her work at Cohen's gallery range from $700 for a 14-inch-by-13-inch watercolor on paper to $2,500 each for the 60-inch-by-48-inch oil paintings in her series of pinup girls. Honig still has lean times, but she's able to support herself by making art.
She doesn't deny that she may have kicked a few people in the head along the way.
"I'm pretty aggressive. I try not to be, but I like to get things done. If people think I'm temperamental, which I probably am, that's fine. If people think I'm a total goofball, that's fine."
Honig doesn't have to pursue the galleries much anymore. They often call her with invitations to be in their shows. Now that she isn't broke and hungry all the time, Honig says, she is able to help other local artists get their work noticed.
It's a Tuesday afternoon, and Honig is standing in a cloud of dust at the Fahrenheit Gallery. She's wearing paint-splattered pants and multiple sweaters, and she's strapped a white surgical mask across her face. A man teeters atop a ladder, ripping down 14-foot wooden beams from the rickety ceiling.