Abigail Penfold is an artist originally from East Aurora who recently returned to the area after living out west.
She received her B.F.A. from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh in 2011 and has painted murals all over the country, including in California, New Mexico, and in Buffalo, and paints in what she describes as a realistic style.
Her mural in the Main Street and Depot Avenue area of Niagara Falls is called “One for the Books.” It showcases the story of Martha, a former enslaved person who was staying at the Cataract House hotel with her husband in 1853 after escaping slavery along the Underground Railroad.
Martha’s former enslaver was offering money to people at the hotel and in the area trying to find her. The waiters at the Cataract House, who were all Black, helped to block the people attempting to capture Martha allowing for Martha and her husband to make a daring escape by climbing the stairs to the bottom of the falls and then rowing across to safety in Canada.
“Martha’s story hasn’t ever really been talked about,” Penfold said. “This is a page that should’ve been in the history books. This mural is bringing a part of history to life.”
Abigail said the themes present in her mural include female empowerment, racism, and the fact that so much of history is never taught in schools or was never recorded in the first place. She hopes to help change that by bringing attention to Martha’s story with her mural.
“Knowledge is power,” she said. “There is all this information we didn’t know that wasn’t recorded because it was seen as unimportant.”
Abigail has had an interest in art since she was a small child and has continued to pursue her passion throughout her life.
In college, Abigail focused on drawing and painting. After undergraduate school, she sought out for adventure and headed west.
She maintained a relationship with art; working at a pottery studio, teaching art to children at a local school, and participating in other art events. Eventually, Abigail found a painting assistantship with a world-renowned Trompe L’oeil artist. She continued to paint, learn and install large-scale realistic murals for a few years before moving on.
Currently, she resides in Buffalo, focusing on her own murals, oil paintings and pyrography.