We had the good fortune of connecting with Alyson Souza and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Alyson, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I never had any dreams of being anything other then an artist. Upon graduating from art school I really had no plan. I decided to be an artist meant continuously creating art so that is what I did. I also set my mind toward trying to improve with every piece. With output there must be input so it seemed the best thing I could do was to experience as many new people and places as I could on the little money I made. This period of my life influenced my work greatly. I made sure that that most of the jobs I had were largely creative in nature. I worked as a printmaker in New York and printed the etchings of a number of well known artists. As long as I can use my hands and tools, I am generally happy while working. I don’t consider being an artist to be so much of a choice. it’s more of a compulsion.
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.
In a lifetime of making art one’s work changes and evolves. When you are young, you try on many hats. Eventually, a good artist will take what they have learned from those earlier incarnations and create their own “hat”, one that no one has ever seen but that fits the artist perfectly. My work combines the things I love to do most, build and paint. I build my paintings from wood. I then make my oil paintings incorporating old found metal or wood objects that I have built into the wood constructions. I am figurative and paint realistically though with pronounced and very directionally specific impasto and brush strokes. This technique enables me to convey the concept behind the work while still feeling very authentically specific to my ideals. The incorporation of old found objects reflects my interest in history. I like to think of the lives these objects have intersected with before they found me and became art, new objects with old souls. What excites me most in making art is to come up with an idea of an object that has never existed and then to literally make it real. Though I am a meticulous planner there are always surprises when the piece is complete. I can’t say I always enjoy making art. It is often difficult and because I adore patterns it is often somewhat tedious, but the completion is immeasurably satisfying. There is little that is easy about being an artist. I believe most artists suffer from periods of uncertainty and wondering if the sacrifices are worth it. I believe most artists, myself included, make art because the alternative is simply an untenable void.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I always take friends to the Velaslavasay Panorama. It is an exhibition of a three dimensional painting that encircles the spectator. It is accompanied by changing sound and light that give the impression of movement and continuous space. Stepping into that place is like stepping not just back in time but out of time. It is almost meditative. These panoramas are the precursor to motion pictures so it is particularly interesting that one of these rare spaces still exists in Los Angeles. I also take people to the Last Book Store. It is two enormous floors of used and new books, arranged in twisting passageways with hidden nooks and fantastic assemblage art by David Lovejoy. There is even an old bank vault filled with horror novels and a tunnel made of books. The Museum of Jurassic Technology also makes my list. This strange museum has two small but densely packed floors of objects dedicated to the truths to be found in myth and urban legends. The twisting exhibitions are sparsely lit and many are equipped with old fashioned telephone receivers out of which a faint voice gives bits of information regarding the odd objects on view. It is a truly otherworldly place. Finally, visiting the the space shuttle Endeavor is a must. Its hard to wrap one’s head around the fact that it has been to space 25 times! It is truly awe inspiring. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There is no road map to becoming successful as an artist and because of that, there are many times where sacrifice and self doubt come into play. I think that the spouses or partners of all artists play a major role in an artists success. I can definitely appreciate that this role is difficult however, having the strong support of the person who knows you and your work best is invaluable. My husband, Michael Hilf has helped me tremendously over the years. He believes in my work but he is also an excellent critic. If a piece isn’t working, I depend on his fresh gaze to help me spot the issue. We are both makers and problem solvers so I often discuss with him options for constructing things. Being able to talk things out first is incredibly helpful and also kind of fun.