Penny Steele, Funky Eye Art

“People in Fresno get excited seeing things that are different.  I don’t give a rat’s ass if the trend is to recycle.”

An example of a sculpture Penny Steele creates. Sold to me for $25!

Meet Penny Steele, my lovely mother and owner of an art business called Funky Eye Art.  She is not photographed because she claims she’s in the secret witness protection.  Classic mother.

My mom is the first to admit that she is a hermit and instead likes to surround herself with her assembled sculptures. She calls them “creatures.”

She started creating these creatures a few years ago when my twin brother and I got older and life as a mother became less hectic.  However, she has always been attracted to junk.  “I collected a bunch of junk here and there,” she says, “but it got to the point where it was time I either throw everything away or do something with it.”  She was unwilling to give up her collection and soon decided to assemble her pieces together to create sculptures or what she calls “fun art.”

My mom’s greatest difficulty starting out as an artist was her insecurity.  “I kept asking myself ‘Why am I doing this?’  But I kept doing it because it was so much fun and easy to do.”  After she received feedback from several people and sold a few pieces she gained the self-confidence that she was lacking at first.

What patrons like most about her art, she’s noticed, is figuring out what’s what.  They also enjoy recognizing a knickknack now attached to a creature. “People in Fresno get excited seeing things that are different,” my mom says. “I don’t give a rat’s ass if the trend is to recycle.”



One of the first creatures Penny Steele made displayed in her quirky garden.

My mom’s side of the family has lived in Fresno since the 1930s.  My mom grew up in Fresno, except for when she lived in Oregon as a child for a couple of years.  “After I moved back to Fresno from Oregon,” she says, “I learned to hate Fresno.”  Fresno, for her, is congested with too many subdivisions, unlike the countryside of Oregon.  “You’ve got three colors,” she adds, “tan, beige and boring.”  She wishes that Fresno was more like the Underground Gardens, Old Fig or the countryside of Clovis, where she currently resides.

My mom does think, however, that there is an art culture in Fresno.  “We’re not the backwards, hick town like most people think.  There’s a huge amount of creative people in this city,” says the self-proclaimed hermit. “I just don’t know them!”  But, she says, several artists face a lot of limitations in Fresno.  It is difficult to make money as an artist in Fresno.  Serious artists know that they can sell their art elsewhere for a higher price.

My mom says people don’t take artists seriously in Fresno.  “They ask me ‘When are you going to get a real job?’ or ‘Is this something you do in your spare time?’”



Can you tell what is what?

To improve the art culture in Fresno, my mom thinks the most important thing is for people to get out of River Park, go back to the city’s beautiful roots in downtown and not insist on always expanding the city.

My mom encourages artists of Fresno to keep doing what they truly enjoy.  “If it makes you happy, who gives a rat’s ass what people think.”



Penny Steele, Funky Eye Art (559) 323-6872

Call her to cheer her on or if you’re interested in buying her art.

Look at more photos of my mom’s creatures, as well as her creative garden!

Have a lovely day in Fresno!

Veronica Stumpf

3 Responses to “Penny Steele, Funky Eye Art”
  1. Piper Poole says:

    Want to make a date to see your work :)

  2. L. Steele says:

    Just wondered if your mother, Penny, lived in Hattiesburg, Mississippi when she was a little girl. If she is the one please respond to my email address. Thanks so much

  3. L.Steele says:

    Deaf Veronica,
    I am trying to locate a lady named Penney Louise Steele, whose mother was named Catherine. They were from California and came to Hattiesburg, Ms. for a very short time. If this is your mother or she knows anyone else by this name please email me. Penney is about 57-58 years old. Thank you so much for any help you might give me. I will certainly appreciate a response to my comment. Thanks again, L. Steele

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