Sometimes missing the mark is exactly what you need to succeed. This was the case for Alison Van Pelt.
Van Pelt studied art at UCLA, Art Center, Otis Parsons and the Florence Academy of Art in Italy and was influenced by a range of disparate sources, from Agnes Martin to Paramahansa Yogananda and Hunter S. Thompson, but Van Pelt finally found its distinctive style. trying to copy that of Francis Bacon, 40 years ago.
“I was looking for a path in painting, and I had no direction. I tried everything,” Van Pelt said, adding that when she saw Bacon’s paintings, it was the first time she felt envious of an artist. “I tried to do little portraits that looked like those of Francis Bacon, and it didn’t work. It just had no resemblance. No matter how hard I tried, it ended otherwise. I was upset so I put them aside, but people were saying they looked like holographs.
Eventually she decided to accept her paintings for what they were and see the beauty in them, “and once I did that, I was on such a level, and I knew my way around the world. life, and I’ve been doing it ever since,” she said.
But she still hasn’t reached her ideal, which she says keeps her art fresh.
“The more I master the technique, the more I master the technique, the closer I get to my goal,” she said. “It’s a moving target. It’s like the beginner’s mind. I feel like I’m preparing to master it, so I come into it with great excitement and vitality every time.
This enthusiasm, along with the practical fact that she has to work quickly to “move the paint around until it takes on another life” as Bacon did, keeps her awake for 24 to 48 hours working on a room. It starts in the morning, works all day and all night and continues until the next day.
She’d rather not go through sleep deprivation, but it’s the only way to achieve the blurry effect she creates before the paint dries into a sticky stubbornness.
She begins by sketching a portrait of notable subjects, from animals to boxers, celebrities, spiritual leaders, Native American warriors and heads of state. After drawing and painting a classic portrait, she blurs and reconstructs the image with oil on canvas, adding and disintegrating paint until she achieves the desired effect.
“The point of this process is to connect with its subject and humanize the subject,” said Robert Casterline, co-owner of Casterline | Goodman Gallery in Aspen. “The result is a beautiful mystical evocation deliberately degraded from its subject. His meticulous technique, with its exquisite light and shadow, overlapping layers of paint, ambiguous yet meticulous brushstrokes, combined with his discipline and meditative touch, brings out the best in his subjects.
From a distance, the picture looks blurry, so viewers are “forced to fill in the picture, and everyone is going to fill in the blanks differently, and it makes for an interesting conversation,” Van Pelt said.
When viewers examine the piece more closely, they see a weave of brushstrokes. Van Pelt feels particularly “proud” of the brushstrokes in her later pieces.
“I feel like I’ve reached a new refinement,” she said. “Some of them almost look machine-made because they’re so straight. There’s just a smoothness to them, and there was such an ease. My body is conditioned to those brush strokes, and I just find an ease in the application. It’s almost like the paintings are happening and I’m helping them happen.
Her ultimate goal is to create a style of holographic painting “that looks like it can be achieved,” she said. But whether or not they’re holographic enough for her, the paintings remain captivating.
“Alison’s unique style of original paintings is beautiful,” Casterline said. “The soft style of various subjects makes the paintings fit well in our gallery.”
In fact, the gallery, which recently signed Van Pelt as lead artist, recreated a wall of his studio, down to the number and length of shelves, to display his small paintings.
Van Pelt’s exhibition, titled “The Wild,” also highlights his powerful, large-scale statement pieces, ranging from hummingbirds and trees to horses, spiritual leaders, and the graceful, energetic bodies of women in motion. Each painting reflects a form of wildness, perhaps depicting aspens quivering in a summer breeze, the flow of a wild horse, or the vibration of a hummingbird in flight.
“I use art and beauty to convey my message to the public. I’m mostly driven by emotion,” Van Pelt said. “I can be moved by joy, yearning, longing, longing, awe, admiration, love, sometimes anger, even outrage. … There are so many reasons why I paint, and often I don’t understand the meaning of a painting until years later. But the impulse to choose a subject is visceral. I will feel drawn to an image.
Some pieces also reflect a clear evolution of her original blurry paintings, highlighting the more holographic image she strives for. Yet all of his work is thought-provoking.
“Alison’s paintings are infused with light and shadow inspired by California sunlight, which feels very connected to the natural beauty and radiance that is specific to the mountains of Aspen,” Casterline said. “Her blurry oil paintings on canvas encourage the viewer to think deeply, allowing everyone to find their own interpretation of each artwork. There are many layers to Alison’s paintings, which reflects her impeccable technique, while creating excellent conversation and contemplation for the viewer.