Alicia Zanoni, “Nice Weather We’re Having”
When I am looking for a way to begin a conversation with someone I don’t know, I may try to open up by chatting about the weather. When Alicia Zanoni is seeking a conversation between herself and the canvas, she arms herself with paints and brushes and does pretty much the same thing: she expresses herself by painting elements of the weather. Painting this way gives the artist a vocabulary and a voice to tap into things she doesn’t have words for. Weather has always been a topic of interest and exploration for this artist, but the collection of paintings on display in the Harrison Gallery this month brings a whole new excitement and intensity to her expression.
Last year at this time, Alicia did a show called “Head in the Clouds” featuring beautiful cloudscapes. In the past, her work could be described as very soft and ethereal, using pastel colors and gentle, tentative brush strokes. I have always felt drawn to her painting because it is so emotionally expressive. Even as I look at a landscape or sky scene, I always feel as if there is something deeper going on beneath the surface. While this still feels true in her new work, the unique color pallet and playful, confident brush work in these pieces reveal so much growth in Alicia’s voice as an artist.
The path to this transformation has not been an easy one. During a particularly difficult time in her life, Alicia took a two month long hiatus from painting. When she returned to the studio, she began working on the pieces for this show at the same time that she was doing a commissioned mural. During the day, she focused on the technical accuracy required of the mural. At night, when she return to the stillness of her studio, she “let it all out”, as she created this series of internal landscapes. Alicia feels that she has become more courageous and confident as a result of having been a full-time painter for the past three years.
One of the most enchanting aspects of this show for me is the fact that a pair of Michael Kors electric green high heels served as a huge inspiration for the work in this collection! Alicia says they lived on a shelf in her studio for weeks and weeks, serving as her guardian angel and muse. As I gaze into the beautiful images that Alicia has created, I see splashes and dabs of that green color juxtaposed against the deep blues and other luscious hues and I am amazed by the impact the combinations have. These landscapes come from the artist’s imagination, and they also feel like they come from other worlds. I don’t know how, but she has given the work a strong surrealist vibe and made them feel as if they were painted by Dutch artists in the seventeenth century at the same time. I love the way Alicia has combined her wonderful imagination, her love of good shoes and her talent for making paints play together so that it feels like her canvases are glowing to create this beautiful show.