Artist Alley is a spot where you will find brilliant artists who share the good, the bad and the ugly of their creative journey. Enjoy their artwork and be inspired by their stories.
Jessica Olah is an American artist and illustrator, currently based in Barcelona, Spain. Her work tends to use food, whether in painting, sculpture or performance. In her work, food often serves as a metaphor for relationship, community, or our culture. She received a B.A. in Art Practice from University of California, Berkeley in 2008, and an A.A.S. in Illustration from the Fashion Institute of Technology, in New York City in 2014. Her artwork has been shown or performed in exhibitions in New York, Baltimore, Barcelona, Spain, and Havana, Cuba.
Photo by: Zebadiah Potler
I'm an artist and illustrator, a wife, and new mother. I work as an illustrator for my day job, and I make art in my other time. I like to make my work with paper mache, or real food, and sometimes I make paintings with oil, acrylic, or gouache. I'm most interested in the way we eat, the way food unites or divides us; it serves as a metaphor for relationships, for feelings, emotions, and more.
My favorite piece I have made is my performance of 2,340 Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches, 2016. I made that many PB&J sandwiches as a way to connect with my mother, and her love for me. I grew up with her sending me to school with a bag lunch every single day. It was always peanut butter and jelly (my choice), and as an adult I was processing what it means for a mother to love a child through small, mundane acts that don't get appreciated. It was a 5 day long piece that required a lot of endurance on my part, and I loved it because of the way I was able to connect with so many people through it.
My work is inspired by food and my life. It's so interesting to me to look at food, what we eat, when we eat it, how, why, etc. We need it to live, and yet, especially in America, we are also inundated with more food than we could possibly ever need. It has become a luxury item to some, and a quick path to sickness for others. It is something that brings us together for celebration, and it can also cause division when we choose sides about what is ok to consume or not.
When I started school at FIT for illustration, I was looking for a way to use my drawing skills to earn a living. In art school, I had been more focused on fashion and body image, and thought I would do fashion illustration. It wasn't until I was almost finished with my illustration studies at FIT that I realized, I was making drawings and art as a way to process how I felt in the world. I was in a continuing education illustration class at School of Visual Arts, and it became clear through several assignments there that I was less interested in fashion, and more interested in exploring my own feelings about beauty and body image through what I was creating. After that, I was really motivated to keep making art for my personal and emotional well-being.
“If one of my pieces were to come to life, I think it would be interesting if it was the painting "Not Eating with Myself, Not Myself". It is a painting of 5 distorted versions of myself in front of a table of cakes. I think it would be interesting to meet those distorted versions of me and find out more about them.”
I love not feeling limited by one certain medium with my work. I am endlessly interested in the visual qualities of food, but I don't feel limited to representing it in one way over another, which gives me lots of freedom in what I make. If I'm tired of painting, I can move to a physical object, or installation, and that keeps it interesting to me. I dislike that I'm a slow worker, and I always think I could make more than I actually end up completing.
My dream project.. I don't know right now. I have this idea for a series of paintings based on a 6-week road trip I took around the US in 2017. I took lots of notes and documentation intending to work on those paintings, and then life took some unexpected (great, but time-consuming) turns, so I haven't gotten very far on that project yet. I'm still hoping to work on it in the future.
“I start with a sliver of an idea that seems interesting to me, and as I keep working on it, I usually gain clarity about its meaning, which leads to further refinement of the final artwork.”
It's been a slow process. I still feel like I'm at the very beginning in some ways, trying to balance illustration work, education, and my family. My biggest move forward in my career was moving to NYC in 2011 to pursue illustration. Even though I studied art in college in 2006-08, it wasn't until I was nearly finished with my illustration degree (2014) that I realized how much I needed to make art for my mental well-being. From there, I invested in a studio space in Brooklyn, created art as much as possible around my day job, and eventually started showing work in various group and individual shows. I've had a bit of a slower season since moving to Barcelona while I adjust to being married, and learning a new language and culture. I'm hoping 2020 will be a year of much more creation than 2019.
I really enjoy Claes Oldenburg and his sculptures and installations. "The Store" that he made was particularly interesting to me because of the way he turned everyday objects into art, and also sold them in a non-traditional context. I also really enjoy the portraits of Alice Neel, and I love that she worked without much notoriety until much later in her career.
Shawn Gooden creates mixed media drawings and installations to present personal narratives through the use of texture, contrast, and transformed materials. The work intends to create an intimate dialogue with imagery, making use of nostalgic and timeless sentiment through familiar gestures and forms. Shawn Gooden received her BFA from The School of Visual Arts, NY in 2005, and has exhibited her work though the Cooper Union Summer Program, AC Institute Gallery, among other venues. Gooden has contributed to various projects including Design on A Dime and the Architectural Digest Exhibition and a plethora of commissions.
Born and raised in Queens, New York I am an interdisciplinary artist, creating mixed media drawings and installations in where the materials used switches as often as the visual story being conveyed.
My favorite work is my current series I am working on. The floral and glass pieces derived from a watercolor series I began 5+ years ago. It is a piece that is constantly evolving and becomes more playful in media with each evolution.
"Each piece is triggered by either a piece of literature or position in one of the communities of which I belong."
I need to. It is cathartic for me.
Vulnerable, happy, and solitary.
“The artistic life is not lonely for me. It is collaborative because I am constantly nourished and fueled by conversations and other art mediums. However when I work, it is a very isolated time. I have comedy that I perform.”
I love all the colors and humor I put into my work. I think it gives it a unique voice. I dislike how specific it is sometimes. I struggle with the feeling that my art isn’t relatable to others.
A retrospective or a commissioned public art installation.
I was told my sophomore year that I was an installation artist. Cried all day about it and happily embraced it fully by junior year. I now love the opportunity to create installations with my work and suing the space whenever I can. I can create a small world and play with all of the senses.
Titus Kapher " Behind the myth of benevolence" or Lorna Simpson "unanswerable" or anything by Jules Arthur or anything by Whitfield Lovell. Way too hard to narrow down to one.
Shawn's work has also been showcased in the Newark Museum catalog, as part of the project, gravity[tional], A project curated by Mary Valverde, that considers the word GRAVITY /GRAVITATIONAL in it's meanings and uses.
Originally from Nebraska, Chelsey Hill moved to New York City to pursue a career in musical theater. It was in this electric city where she found her true love, illustrating.
Chelsey's humorous works are people focused. They are often inspired by eccentric and glamorous New Yorkers as well as legendary musicians and performers. Celebrating creatives is a prevalent theme in her illustrations. When Chelsey isn't illustrating, she's growing her shoe collection and drinking fancy coffees. Chelsey is a proud member of the wardrobe union IATSE local 764, and has a blast dressing awesome singers at the Metropolitan Opera.
Selected Clientele: Broadway Roulette, W42ST Magazine, Big-Giant, ByVinnik, Andi Bag, Evolve USA, RRR Creative, Grace in Paris, The Artist Co-op, Tessa Faye Talent, Beeotch-The Series.
I’m a self-proclaimed Coffeehooker (a name I trademarked) who loves all things relating to music, humor, and glamour. I make illustrations that celebrate my favorite performers, that reflect my life experiences, and that play with fashion and humor. I like to say my personal style is a cross between Chanel and a clown. I look like what I draw. My illustrations are a visual extension of myself.
"The pigeon is a favorite for my family and friends back home, which cracks me up!"
I have a few. One is a more recent work I created called The Diva and The Dresser. I drew it after a horrible experience dressing a Russian mezzo. It was my attempt to find humor in a situation where I was treated very poorly. Another favorite work is a series I created a few years back called Bitch Pigeon. It’s a comic about a terrible pigeon who insults its owner…but in a funny way. The style is simple with a splash of selective color. The pigeon was inspired by a very nasty teacher I briefly studied with in the city. It was a way to channel all the anxiety and stress I was left with when that relationship ended. Lastly, any of my portraits of great singers. They are a homage to my first great love (singing), and the artists who inspired me when I was little.
Music, performers, singers, people, fashion, humor, and my life experiences (the good and especially the bad).
Spontaneous spurts of creative energy inspired by music, fashion, humor, and my extreme emotions.
My illustrated alter ego, Coffeehooker (my initials). She has the best clothes and isn’t afraid of anything. I created her to be all the things I wanted to be.
I love all the colors and humor I put into my work. I think it gives it a unique voice. I dislike how specific it is sometimes. I struggle with the feeling that my art isn’t relatable to others.
“I started illustrating to cope with the decline of my voice after I moved to NYC to sing. I needed a creative outlet to put the sadness and stress into. With the death of one art form bloomed another.”
Drawing digitally makes edits so much easier. Also having practically every color available is amazing.
My best work comes when I’m feeling extremes. In my opinion, my funniest illustrations come during my lowest points.
Either in my room or my co-working space, The Artist Co-op. I need to feel like I’m alone with music blasting through headphones. Music puts me in my illustrating zone.
Mario Joyce Belyusar is an African American emerging artist in NYC. His work is intended to create a bridge between our ancestor’s experiences and our familiar contemporary existence. He is specifically interested in the African American experience and social injustice within the Black community. He believes that without an understanding of our past, we have no real grip on the present, so his working process begins with genealogical research.
I am an African American emerging artist living and working in Inwood/Washington Heights, New York City. I am primarily a painter, collagist, and drawer. I ask specific questions I try to answer throughout the creation of a series. Working on a community or a neighborhood where the subjects of the series live is important. After collecting vintage materials from archives and books that support the research, I can piece together a narrative. Typically, the vintage materials I collage to establish the historical roots of the piece. After the collage dries, I am free to paint or draw on the surface. My paintings are in oil, I use various pastels to draw. The act of painting/drawing is a dialogue in itself. I like being very impulsive with the paint and I like using a lot of it so that it comes off the canvas and at the viewer.
My favorite work of art right now is Kerry James Marshall, “Untitled (Club Couple)”. It is an oil painting of a dark-skinned couple seated at a table embracing each other. The couple is enjoying martinis, smiling. widely, loving each other, loving the moment. I love this because Marshall has a wonderful way of depicting Black men and women living very joyful and everyday lives. So much of African American art is sad. That is ok because African American art and history is not fully represented and there is quite a lot of sadness in our community that hasn’t been able to be expressed. But here we have a Black couple just loving with beautiful black skin and cool clothes. It just reminds me of what being Black is all about. When I was a kid, the adults in my family were not sitting on lonely stoops, looking sad, or singing sad spirituals, they were laughing, dancing, loving and being very Human. Marshall’s piece makes me feel real and relevant.
"I rely on vintage images, records and genealogical research to learn about a
community that surrounds a specific story that I want to express creatively."
The stories I choose, I hope, resonate with our contemporary selves. I want us to see ourselves in the story, in a way that it doesn’t feel distant and foreign, but real and relatable. I want to show how easily history repeats itself when we so quickly forget our past. I come from a long line of Black educators, religious leaders, humble farmers. There are also horrors in my blood that still scar my family and I; slavery, segregation, sharecropping, miscegenation, alcoholism, drug abuse, single parent home and teen pregnancies. Everyone has darkness in their heritage. Life is full of balance. The biggest tragedy in this Country is our skill at burying what isn’t socially pleasing. I make art so that we can reexamine our differences and similarities as individuals, in hopes that we can come together more from a place of compassion. Understanding our humanity is the huge step in being better as a species.
"I collage vintage materials as a background for landscapes and figures in
oil paint that create an open dialogue with our Ancestors."
I identify with my piece, “I Swam Across the Atlantic” (2019), right now. I learned to swim within the past few years. I was so afraid of deep water. Not touching the ground, not seeing the bottom, it felt like drifting into the unknown. I mastered floating. And then, this past summer in Croatia, I mastered wading in deep water. It was so incredibly liberating. I felt safer being in control of my body and what I gave it freedom to do so naturally. I painted “I Swam Across the Atlantic” because it represented this moment. But it also represents all those Africans kidnapped and forced across the Atlantic and did not make it, their bodies in graves beneath the waves. And somehow, my Ancestors landed on the opposite shoreline, surviving with so much zeal and courage that I can leisurely float in those very waters today.
One thing I love about my work is its preservation of our past. Both physically and symbolically. The piece itself holds vintage materials that are seen as trash or pointless, now, but held weight at the time they were made. If they were not locked and adhered within the body of the work, where would they be? In a stack somewhere in a dark and cold, forgotten place? If allowed to exist at all. I am proud to breathe life back into an old and dying object. What I dislike about my work is how painful it can be to research the past and how difficult it is for the viewer to view it. History is full of horrors and I think it’s important not to shy away from those moments the most. It is within these stories that we begin to learn who we truly are as a people. But it is not easy to sell work that breaks your heart when you see it or learn its narrative. And it is difficult to see a person’s face fall when they see certain pieces of your work.
My husband, Christopher (who is very much not an artist) literally forced me to try oil paints eight years ago. Before that, I worked almost entirely in acrylic paints. They dried quickly, they could be watered down, thickened up, I was very content. That Christmas, he bought me a student oil paint set and canvas paper. I was grateful, but didn’t touch the kit for a long time. After weeks of pestering me about trying something new, he opened the kit and began to use it himself. He painted a “fruit bowl” in front of me, asking throughout how it looked. Eventually, I couldn’t help myself and grabbed the kit and started painting. I was hooked immediately! Now I cannot imagine using acrylic. I’ve recently tried and felt like I had never painted in my life. My husband may not be an artist, but he always pushes me to explore the realms of my craft.
My process has changed quite a bit over time. I was more of an illustrator or cartoonist as a kid. I would create stories in my mind and illustrate them on copy paper. I was really weird! That evolved into fashion illustration as a young, gay teenager. In High school, I was a part of an advanced art program which changed my entire way of communicating creatively. I turned to self-portraiture and in this I saw myself for the first time. Early work was very focused on drawing 19th and early 20th century pictures from my Great Grandmother’s family history collection. I tried to render them exactly. This practice evolved into collaging actual vintage photos I found at antique shops and painting over them vintage figures; Men from the 1910’s in hats and suspenders, Victorian women with ruffled collars. This was fun, but it didn’t have much depth. I slowly grew into my current artistic practice, just as I have grown Into manhood, with general life experiences. I started painting landscapes that reflected the farm I grew upon. This place was very beautiful, but I experienced awful racism and homophobia every day. As I confronted my childhood, my work shifted towards social issues. I moved to New York, got depressed, painted a lot of bad work and finally figured out a process that feels more natural.
Living in New York City is extremely difficult for creatives. The amount of depression I have experienced here has been challenging and yet, I have grown far more quickly and solidly since my move from Ohio almost seven years ago. For me, it is difficult for many reasons. Coming from a rural Midwestern background, it is easy to feel like I am not enough. The art community in New York is large, competitive and, often times, elitist. All of this is very intimidating. I find myself not feeling talented enough to go to galleries, reach out to other artists or show my work at the cost of possibly being rejected. I know all the things confident people say to make self-conscious people “feel better”. But it is not that simple. I realize for my own mental-health I have to do what makes me feel ok. Which includes making art I am proud of, showing in spaces I feel my work is safe in and socializing with people that inspire me, not because they can give me something I need for my career. However, I do realize some of my depression and self-deprecation is on me. I have come to understand, I am possibly owning my own stagnation. Realizing I need nature to feel alive, I go on hikes outside of the city. I recognize I have been in the studio too long, so I go to Lower East Side and absorb how people navigate the City streets and interact with each other. Awareness and checking in on myself has helped me use this wonderful City to my advantage. To be continuously growing in a space that can be scary is so empowering! And it has helped me make work that is thought provoking and a healthy expression of something that is bigger than myself.
"I Swam Across the Atlantic" was accepted into a group show, "Night & Day"! It is at Local Project Art Space and Departure Gallery during the same time. Opening date FEBRUARY 20th - MARCH14th 6-9pm.
Megan Watters is an artist who works on an array of projects. As a fine artist, her paintings and assemblages focus on environmental justice, feminism, and whatever the hell is on her mind. She also works as a scenic artist on window displays, theatrical sets, fashion shows and more.
I am an artist! I make my own work - usually paintings or collages or assemblages. I also work as a scenic artist, which means I work on sets for film, theatre, TV, theme parks, and more. I do faux finishes, murals, etc.
"I don't think I could not make art.
I always have. It's natural."
Wow. thats an impossible question. But I guess I would say Meow Wolf. It's an amazing installation in Santa Fe. I love it because it's a whole world full of weird cooky scifi stuff. Because I have worked on so many sets, I am a big fan of installations and immersive experiences. It's amazing to fully experience art and discover something different every time and the details are SO rich.
Music, nature, other art. Lately, I have been primarily inspired by climate change and environmental justice.
Learning to let go and stop overthinking it.
Hmmm... I am working on a piece right now, called "Instead of Counting Sheep." In it, these women inflate their skirts with a pump and float away into the sunset. I think I'd like to meet one of them.... or maybe I'd rather BE one of them and float away.
I love that I never know what I am going to make. Making art allows you to express freely without having to articulate or explain. I dislike that I can get overwhelmed. Procrastination is real.
I would make a huge installation. Every room would be a different color or theme or pattern. There would be no rules and the art would surround you.
It can be. Sometimes I feel very in my head. And sometimes I just want to be alone with my thoughts... more so than other people. But, I am lucky to have a great artistic community. I have a lot of fellow artists who are always down to collaborate, critique, and talk shop. I appreciate having people I can turn to.
Also my husband is great and I can always kick it with him when I need to get my mind off things. He's a mellow dude, and he keeps me grounded.
"I love paint. It's my first love for sure.
And I like to work big. The bigger the better."
Thomas Bryant was born in the midst of the chaos of NYC In 1985, but none of this earned him any street cred because he moved to upstate New York several months later. He grew up in a town called High Falls in Upstate New York where he learned he had a gift for art at a young age. He spent most of his years drawing until He was about 20, and then moved down to NYC for art school. He attended The Fashion Institute of Technology for illustration, Graduated with a BFA IN 2009, and had absolutely no clue what he wanted to do in the real world, so he worked in fashion! Thomas has been working in fashion since 2012 and has designed for companies like Threadless, Urban Outfitters, Forever 21, Jonothan Davis, Hot Topic, Spencer’s Gifts, Walmart, Target, Kohl’s, Carter’s, children’s place, etc...
My name is Thomas Bryant, and I am a human that was born and lives in NYC! I am an illustrator by trade that works as a graphic artist for major retailers throughout the United States. I also create art for fun, and am in the process of writing a book that may just become a graphic novel.
"I get an idea and I draw shit! Actually I just think a lot until I have to get an idea on paper, and then I just work it out and discover what the piece will become as I am working."
My favorite work of art is probably a fantasy painting of a character of mine. It’s a character I hold close to my heart because in some ways I relate to him a lot. If I am answering this question wrong then it is a piece by Michael Escher titles “man with Reflecting Sphere”, and it’s my favorite because it had the most impact on me when I was younger. I wanted to be able to render and illustrate like that.
I like that I am always progressing. It takes a lot of work and dedication to progress, but it happens.
What I dislike is all the crying that happens when tying to make progress lol.
My emotional state heavily influences my art. When I’m deep in thought and searching my soul my work gets dark. When I see things in the world that I am frustrated with, I work them out through my art until I feel I have processed everything. My work is incredibly therapeutic, so it’s always emotional on some level.
"I would absolutely love to work on a Pixar film.
I’ve always dreamed of working on films."
Typically, there are two things that inspire my art. One: my personal experience. I have to get what i witness and what I am processing internally out into the world. Two: I get a lot of inspiration from psychology. The more I learn the more I have to create.
I would hope that my man frog would come to life and be my friend. His name is Gideon; and it would be dope to see him sitting on the couch next to me.
It's pretty simple, I get ideas and try to execute them. I tend to choose different styles to work in to challenge myself. But sometimes I challenge myself too much and my work isn’t as consistent aesthetically, but if it was consistent I feel as though I would become incredibly bored.
It’s something I’ve just always done. I have this inner drive to create. If I’m not creating I’m going a little crazy.
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