We had the good fortune of connecting with Alana Zack and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Alana, what role has risk played in your life or career?
In my bedroom I have a piece by Nathaniel Russell that reads:
[photograph of a hand pointing towards an overgrown field]
You can if you want
Over the last couple years, it’s lived with me in Ohio, Martha’s Vineyard, Brooklyn and California. I try to carry it with me.
Learning to start over and sit with uncertainty is extra relevant for me right now. I find myself in constant transition as a typical twenty-something romantic, confused by too many interests and dreams. I like to joke I’m a fantasy a minute. So naturally, keeping up means taking some chances. For better or for worse, excitement (over information) is what gives me permission and conviction to go for it: new city and community, new palette without blue, new shapes to describe a figure floating, this recent reality where somehow I call myself a painter.
A favorite feeling is knowing but not understanding. In my life and art, I search for that comforting space between familiarity and abstraction. For me that limbo land is liberating. I want my viewers to feel invited without having/needing too much explanation.
As an emerging artist it often feels like my voice disappears into the void. There’s the risk I don’t reach people, the risk the work sucks, the risk I’ll never make a living off it. It sounds a bit too cute, but the realest risk is to let the risks stop me. It’s easy to compare my paintings with work I think is better, by more established artists, and ask myself, “What the hell am I doing?” But when I reframe the question inward, I think that frankly, if I ever get to a place where I say I know what I’m doing, or feel like “I’ve made it,” something’s probably wrong — that place is not me. Questioning my direction helps me stay honest and up to date with myself. I plan to ask “what am I doing” my whole life. But so far, since probably middle school, I cannot imagine doing anything else. Even on my most aggravating studio day, shaking my head at a line going downhill, or staring at paintings I can’t stand, I know it’s where I want to be.
Please tell us more about your art. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
My scenes are pictures of longing and my compositions search for harmony. I am interested in what happens when humans escape from daily demands and distractions, when figures bring greater attention to themselves, others, and their immediate surroundings. The realities I reach for in my work offer a more primal existence, a world pared down to place, gathering, solitude and contemplation. I investigate the contexts where beings feel most alive. How do we group and isolate ourselves? What about the room is different when you’re with someone? What shapes do we take when we find freedom to relax on a rock? What is it to occupy a body?
Currently my work focuses on human bodies, abstract bodies, and bodies of water. Drawing from dreamscapes, memory, and my coastal upbringing, I am exploring what it means to swim, float, and bathe — in water and on land, alone and among others, in this universe and in another. Water takes the body elsewhere. I study the wonders of water, physically and metaphorically: from its buoyancy that lets us lose ourselves and feel weightless, to its magnitude that grounds us and reminds us that we are quite small.
Alright, so let’s jump right in! The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there a person, group, organization, book, etc that you want to dedicate your shoutout to? Who else deserves a little credit and recognition in your story?
Too many humans come to mind: art teachers whose lessons and examples transcended school, artists I find from far away that feel like kin, my remarkably observant grandma who passed down her visual mind and devotion to art, my family and loved ones that believe in me more than I believe in myself. No doubt, I am pursuing the path of an artist in large measure because these people have paved the way.
But place may have the most profound impact on my work and worldview. I must thank the Bay Area and Martha’s Vineyard.