09 Dec Artist Interview-Alex Graham
I SAW YOU POST ABOUT IT
January 3-February 2nd | 2020
Interview conducted by Katherine Whitlock
Alex Graham is a painter and cartoonist. Her brightly colored and loudly patterned compositions combined with semi-human subjects derive from her childhood subconscious and are warped by the pains of becoming an adult. She experiments with color, posture, and facial expression in a way that allows a silent narrative to develop into the universal psyche. Alex took some time out of her busy painting schedule to answer a few of my questions which left me feeling like I should ALWAYS trust my intuition.
Katherine Whitlock- When did you know you wanted to share your combined story-telling and art-making with the world?
Alex Graham- I’ve always done it, since I was in grade school. I always had a journal where I would compulsively write about my life and draw pictures of things that happened to me. As I got older I realized I could do the same thing with my paintings and with the art form of comic books. My pastoral style is how I bring the sensibility of art comics into my paintings. These painted narratives, as opposed to my comic narratives, are more abstract. Even as the artist, I’m not totally sure what the narratives mean – but I can look at them like a tarot reading and see a message from my subconscious. In this way I allow the process of painting to tell the story rather than a literal story planned out beforehand, like comic books.
KW– Your imagery is very colorful and often humorous. There is a dark quality, however, about the work. I’m wondering if you have a means of elaborating that feeling- if it comes first and then the need to paint arises, or if you start painting and then it reveals itself?
AG– The dark themes in my art can definitely be traced back to my childhood. My dad was a horror artist and he created artwork and advertisements for haunted houses–that was his job. Our house was full of horror props and he started taking my brother and I to adults-only haunted houses when we were as young as 8 and 10 years old. So things that I create even without the intention of darkness or creepiness still seeps through.
KW– I saw your 2017 post about your neighbor’s murder while you were painting snakes. Do feel as though this was your first time that you tapped into the universal psychic realm?
AG– Not the first time, but the most pronounced time this has happened. Of course there are examples that probably every artist has of depicting a situation and having it come true, or dreaming of someone you haven’t seen in years and seeing them the next day. But the murder was definitely the greatest example.
KW– in your story, you talked about how you wanted to paint clowns, but then you ended up painting snakes. In your 2018 archive you ended up painting clowns. Was this a form of closure from your traumatic experience of the snake/murder incident?
AG– I’ve been painting clowns for years but I do feel like the idea was planted by that situation. After I moved to Seattle, I suffered a big identity crisis that somehow led to me painting a bunch of clowns as a way to see something cheerful or to mask a sinister and dark reality.
KW- Did you ever make a bloody toe painting? I literally felt my toe pulsate when I read your descriptive text!
AG– I did not! But I’ve had many instances of accidental bleeds right as I begin working on projects that are more occult-leaning or themed. It feels like a blood oath.
KW- So other than murders, from where or who do you find your inspiration?
AG- Well, I wanted to become an artist when I was young because I liked the idea of being an artist. As I got older and developed my own style, I found that I need this outlet for all of the intense, overwhelming feelings I live with on a daily basis. I am an extremely sensitive person. Without my artwork, I would probably be locked away somewhere going crazy. Basically my inspiration is a purging of my brain, a need to share and express these thoughts in order to seek relief.
KW- What three artist books or non-artist books can you not live without?
AG- Grandma Moses, David Hockney Paints the Stage, and Les Ballets Suedois. These three art books inform my style and inspire narratives. They are essentially narratives in the same vein as comic books, but are still purely fine art and folk art unencumbered by written language.
KW- Lastly, what’s your most recent craziest dream?
AG- I dreamed that two poodles jumped into the ocean and I began draining the water to save them!
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