From a big family with art in her blood, emerging Chicago paintress Alison Meaney has been making the world a brighter place since she came smiling into it. Alison is a cheerful Irish gal with a heart of gold, a contagious laugh, and the strokes of a super whimsical, dancing paintbrush once used by her grandmother. With no further adieu, I present you with: Alouise.
WHO: Alison Meaney, 27 (Alouise)
Q: Tell me a little about yourself.
A: I was born and raised in Cleveland, but I cherish the years I’ve spent living in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina as well as the last few years here in Chicago. I’m inspired by seeing live music, checking out state parks and sailing in the summer time. I help maintain birdsofafluff.com, a blog my best friend from college and I started on the road trip before we moved to Chicago together...I also run alsWonderland, an Etsy shop where I showcase crafts ranging from intricate peyote stitched bracelets to cheap prints of my paintings. I will also be part of the RAW: Natural Born Artists Pixels showcase at Bottom Lounge this week as well.
Q: That's great you make your art available. Do you do anything else in the world of art we should know about?
Q: Oh, that sounds sweet. What exactly do you do with Colors & Bottles? How does it work?
A: Colors and Bottles’ format features instructors who've created paintings, which they teach to a group in a bar, restaurant, private residence, gallery or anywhere they want, really.
Q: How long have you been there?
A: Just since Christmas... but they make it possible for artists to build careers with their artwork, transcending the stereotype of the "starving artist." These people are really thriving. People (who work at Colors & Bottles) are out there experiencing the world by facilitating creativity. I barely allowed myself to hope for a life like that, and I’m on the threshold, and it’s incredible.
Q: That sounds really fun. Where does the "Bottles" term from Colors & Bottles come into play? Do you drink at the events?
A: Ya, people drink while painting. A lot of these events take place at bars or are organized as bachelorette parties. I mean, I like to drink while I'm painting, so I think it makes perfect sense.
WHAT: CREATIVE OUTPUT // THE ART ITSELF
Q: You mentioned that you are inspired by live music. Isn't that where you derive the images you paint? From shows you've seen?
A: Some of the images I paint are from festivals and concerts because I love how the lights play on the crowd. I'm showing a painting (at the upcoming RAW showcase tomorrow) from an image I snapped in the woods at Summer Camp last year. It was so dry on the last day of the festival that all this dust amplified the sunset through the trees. It felt great. And the painting of Dean Ween on the (right) side of the jukebox is a reproduction of the best concert photo I've ever taken. They (Ween) just pumped the stage full of smoke, throughout pretty much the whole show. You could barely see any of the band at all. They were so outrageous. I miss them.
Q: Do you intentionally snap photos that you know you will paint later?
A: Not exactly. I’ve been so obsessed with photography that obsessively taking pictures is something I’ve learned to control as to not annoy my friends in social situations, as well as to engage myself in a situation instead of just taking pictures of it. I get tunnel vision kind of. I have a super solid collection of photos to work from, some of which I’m displaying in the show.
Q: YES! The show... how did you get involved with RAW: Natural Born Artists?
A: My mom's friend back in Cleveland is involved with the organization. She invited me to participate in this week’s show, called Pixels, and filled me in on a host of information, services and perks they provide for their artists. It was the best thing that had happened for a while, and I still can’t believe it.
Q: So you have enjoyed working with them? It seems like a great group.
A: Anyone who applies themselves creatively in any capacity should look into RAW. They provide resources and encouragement and a square kick in the ass to anyone willing to put in a little bit of legwork. This event on Thursday (tomorrow) is a huge step outside my comfort zone, which is so fun.
WHERE: CHICAGO (RAW SHOWCASE, BOTTOM LOUNGE // GALERIE EQUIPE, AVONDALE)
Q: You've mentioned both the show you'll be a part of Thursday (tomorrow) as well as your studio space, Galerie Equipe. What can you tell us about either? Well, first... what can you tell us about the gallery space?
A: It’s pretty hilarious that "equipe" is French for "team," since I’m pretty much the only one who’s been in here for the last year. But we’re making it happen, and we're expanding. We’ve hosted a few events in the last couple months, and are taking strides to embody Steve’s original intention to pursue collaboration.
Q: Steve Seitz, the owner of the Galerie Equipe, otherwise known as "Captain Steve," to his deckhands and friends?
A: Yes, I sail with him in the summer as well.
Q: Well you are quite the busy lady, Alison. I did get a chance to speak with Steve, and here's what he had to say about the gallery space:
"The gallery was born organically. The old Victors Tavern used to be the center of the old Avondale neighborhood. It had been vacant for years and was scheduled to be demolished. I bought the building and remodeled it into loft-style work place for local artists and friends to create and show off their talents. When Alison took over as curator is when it grew up into a gallery. Our plan is to expand the gallery to include a micro-brewery and live Chicago blues venue. (It's) a perfect spot for special events, and a great place for locals to gather and be creative. Galerie Equipe is the beginning of the new downtown Avondale."
Does that resonate with you, Alison?
A: Yes, we're really excited. Steve has a crew renovating the event space behind the gallery’s storefront, where we’ll host openings, concerts, parties, and classes, in addition to what Steve mentioned. We’ve recently secured instructors for fibers and glowstick yoga classes, and since I just started coordinating events for Colors and Bottles, I’m anxious to have a home-based event space. We’re expecting to be event-ready by the Spring, since Captain Steve’s time is spoken for during sailing season.
Q: Has having the space changed your output as an artist? Or changed what you're able to do?
A: Utilizing a space which forces me to focus has been a giant game-changer. I’ve been treating painting like a job, in the sense that I force myself to go, even when I’m not exactly feeling like it. Setting a goal to dedicate a couple hours a day to working creatively in any capacity has made a world of difference. Suddenly there’s all this momentum, where I never dreamed there could be. Opportunities present themselves when you put yourself out there.
Q: Speaking of that, how about the RAW: Natural Artists Pixels showcase this week (tomorrow 1/30)?
A: It's going to be at Bottom Lounge starting at 7pm. There's over 40 local artists across art, music, fashion, and film. I painted a jukebox repurposed as an interactive photo display, containing actual photos I've used for inspiration to create. I'll have some of my paintings on display, as well as prints for sale.
WHEN: RAW: NATURAL BORN ARTISTS PIXELS SHOWCASE, TOMORROW THURSDAY JANUARY 30th. 7PM AT BOTTOM LOUNGE
Q: And the show is Thursday?
A: Yes Thursday January 30th (tomorrow) at Bottom Lounge (1375 Lake St.) from 7 P.M.- 1 A.M.
WHY: WHY DO THIS?
Q: How did you get started painting?
A: I was really spoiled on creative instruction at an early age. One of my high school teachers in particular was successful at teaching us how to really see light and color beyond just looking at it. He effectively changed the way I perceive the world, so that now whenever I see something really striking, a lot of times I'll stare and pick it apart and wonder how I could make the image successful on a two dimensional plane. He had a profound effect on my consciousness, which is really nuts.
Additionally, my grandmother is an incredibly gifted artist who graduated second in her class from the Cleveland Institute of Art, which is way more prestigious than most people realize. She was incredibly prolific even with a full time job taking care of my grandpa and house full of children, two of whom were handicapped. No one really knows how she did it... how she stayed so dedicated. Her artwork is really celebrated in my family, especially during the holidays when she would make a big deal out of unveiling new portraits. Everyone on my mom’s side has at least one portrait of themselves.
Q: Wow that's really incredible. Would you say you are paying her some homage by living out your life as an artist as well?
A: Yes. Now that she’s so plauged with dimensia, I’m trying to channel her gift and honor her by actually using the oil paints she’s given me throughout the years and the roll of canvass she gave me when she and my grandpa realized they were too old to stretch it anymore. When we cleaned their old family home, I kept her brushes and the box she used for her paints and have been trying to mirror her style, which when I’m honest with myself I know is never really going to happen. The 30 by 40 inch canvas I’m using in the show, I found in their basement, which is probably why it’s the best work I’ve ever done.
Advanced tickets for the RAW: Natural Born Artists Pixels showcase are available for $15 at www.rawartists.org/chicago/pixels, and can be purchased at the door for $20. Doors open at 7:00 pm and the event is 21+. Bottom Lounge is located in the West Loop at 1375 Lake St. Chicago, IL. Email Alison for Colors & Bottles info at email@example.com and follow her on twitter here: @_Alouise_.