We had the good fortune of connecting with Alison Van Pelt and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Alison, what are you inspired by?
So many things inspire me to paint. I will make a painting just because I’m curious to see what will happen when I blur it. I may want to duplicate the way a light hits and casts a strong shadow. It can be the paint itself; I might jump out of bed to work just thinking about colors blending or the buttery texture of the paint. I may paint some thing because I think it’s important, but more often it’s not an intellectual exercise for me. I’m more motivated by the way something makes me feel. I might be compelled by a striking image, or a place, an object, an animal or a person. When I love or admire someone, painting their portrait can feel like an intimate connection. I love to create something where .previously there was nothing. When it feels like you’ve created a space inside the canvas, the illusion of an atmosphere, or a fleeting moment, the feeling is addictive. It’s satisfying to watch creamy paint mixing together and changing. The desire to make paint look like a photograph moves me. I like paintings that look like photographs and photos that look like paintings. I pay close attention to all the things that excite and motivate me to paint.
Knowing how to activate those feelings and manipulate myself is indispensable. It’s a big part of my job. I can’t just wait for inspiration to hit me. If you’re tired or frustrated you might have to trick yourself and trigger those feelings. That’s why I have walls covered with images that I love. Sometimes that’s all I need to get me going.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’ve always had a vision of what I was going to do. But people can’t see that, understand it or take it seriously until you’ve already done it. I finally feel like people can see me because a lot of what’s been in my mind has materialized. There’s so much more that I’m going to do. I can’t wait to get what’s in my mind onto the canvas. The more I do that, the more I feel like myself. I’ve spent years trying to make a painting that looks like a hologram.
My early blurry paintings were disappointing because they didn’t look like I intended them to. But once I let go of my original expectation, I was able to see what people were telling me: that they kind of looked holographic. That’s when it got exciting! I’ve been trying to paint a hologram ever since. I get glimpses of it and the successes are increasing. I’m excited now more than ever about painting. I have to push myself and try things that don’t always work, and I make some really ugly paintings, but the more I paint , the higher the odds are for success. So I paint all the time.
When you treat painting like an experiment it makes space for the happy accident.
Over time I’ve observed that
I tend to work with Beginner’s Mind, Shoshin in Zen Buddhism. I consistently feel like I’m just starting; that up until now I’ve been learning, and now I begin.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
We have to start with a cappuccino at Caffe Luxxe. Then our childhood standards are still the best: LACMA, Huntington Library and Gardens, SRF, the beach, and hiking in the SM mountains. Then there’s The Broad, The Hammer, MOCA, The Getty and some of my favorite galleries: Blum and Poe, Honor Fraser, Regen Projects, Gagosian, Hauser, Wirth and Schimmel, Kohn, LA Louver. Always great are lunch at The Ivy or the Polo lounge at The Beverly Hills Hotel, brunch at Chateau Marmont, and dinner at Laconda Portofino.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My mother always told me I was a great artist. She also said I could do anything I put my mind to. This belief in my abilities was programmed early in my life. I took this as fact and never doubted it. My mother was an artist. Her mother was was a painter too. They did beautiful work and the paintings I have are treasures. But they both kept their paintings hidden and I even saw them destroy some of their work. I always thought that was so sad. Despite that, or maybe because of it, they instilled such a fierce confidence in me. I paint because I love it and it’s what I want to do, but I do want to honor them and I dedicate my work to them. I thank them for imbuing me with such conviction, ensuring that no matter how difficult things have ever become, not once have I entertained the thought of quitting. I attribute my tenacity and perseverance to the gift of self-reliance that they gave to me.