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Local Artists Live: Alisa Koch
November 28, 2020; 10:00 AM–10:30 AM CST
This weekend’s Local Artists Live features Alisa Koch, who first moved to Montgomery in the early 1990s to attend Huntingdon College and earn her degree in Fine Arts. Originally from Midland City, Alabama—a small town between Ozark and Dothan, where she was “not exposed to much”—she loved that Montgomery offered a wider range of points of view and relished this variety of perspectives.
Even growing up in small-town Alabama, she came from a “home of mixed cultures” that nurtured creativity. Her mother, originally from Colombia, met and fell in love with Alisa’s father, an Army Captain, while they were both living in Panama; after they married they eventually settled in Alabama. “My mother did not speak English very well, but one way she connected with the women around her was by learning the ways of Southern quilting, knitting, crocheting, baking, and gardening. She was very creative with textiles and fabrics. She also worked in a bakery, making cakes and decorating them with icing.” Alisa easily sees many connections between her own art-making and her mother’s artistry. “It gave me a unique sensibility to color and texture. My work tends to have a mosaic effect, which I think is very similar to patchwork patterns of quilting. The decorative icing of cakes is very similar to the impasto style of my palette knife work. I believe those things had an influence on my inner sense of beauty in the world around me.”
When she was given her first paint set at nine years old, Alisa “just fell in love with the fluidity of paint…The fact that you could replicate something on paper and give it life with color was an incredible thing to me.” She knew early in childhood that she wanted to be an artist, although she did not know what an artist actually did, how they lived or worked. She learned about artists, some while in school but also from her father, who would give her ideas about what an artist might paint or draw. In adulthood, Alisa has certainly figured out just what artists do! She places a high value on learning with and from other artists while staying in touch with her own inner voice. Words held near and dear came from Christopher Groves, her mentor from Charleston, who told her, “Let your marks show, there is beauty in that.”
Tune in to see Alisa make some of those “marks” live from her own studio space when she takes over the MMFA’s Instagram account from 10–10:30 AM on Saturday, November 28!
Above: Alisa Koch, Sand, Sea and Sunshine, oil and cold wax, 40″ x 30″
This program is part of the series:
Meet the Artist
What is your favorite thing about living in the South?
The weather, crickets in the evening, porch talks, Sunday dresses, hide and seek until the fireflies and mosquitoes come out are some of my favorite things about the South. Cow pastures, late afternoon storms, sunburns and freckles, the last light of day, and friends from all walks of life are aspects that appeal to me as well.
What excites you most about the growth of Montgomery’s art scene?
I am very delighted that art is finally taking its place in Montgomery. There is a growing number of diverse artists supporting one another and working to bring awareness to the different types of art forms they are using to express themselves. There is a wonderful support system in place for those seeking ways to share their work. There are multiple avenues for artists to grow their skillsets, their audience, a client base. We were just getting started with our growth before coronavirus.
Who are some artists or works of art in the MMFA’s collection that inspire you?
There are so many works of art that inspire me from the MMFA’s collection. My all-time favorite collection is John Kelly Fitzpatrick. The first time I saw his works I think my heart jumped out of my chest. I couldn’t get enough visual stimulation from those thick impasto brushstrokes. His use of color is unmatched. There is such a nice simplicity to his narratives, yet they have you longing to know more about this place during his time. I see paintings created by him 70 years ago and it is so motivating. His enthusiasm and love of painting his surroundings comes through in his work.
What piece of art that you have created is your favorite, and why?
I believe my favorite painting will always be the one that has just left my easel. Creating a work of art satisfies so many things for me personally, from things like achieving working on a large scale piece, working on a small scale, mastering color, working with a client to see their ideas on canvas, painting in Plein air. You can never get bored with art. I am always happy to see my work leave my studio. It feels like success to me.
Do you have an all-time favorite work of art, and have you seen it in person? If you have, how did you feel in the moment?
I have so many favorites that it’s hard for me to say. I do recall when I was in my mid 20’s I was able to visit The Art Institute of Chicago. It was there, after studying so many artists in college and only being familiar with a photo in a book, that I recall the grandeur of walking into the main entrance with the impressionist paintings hanging on the wall. The grandiosity made me realize how important these works really were. I was not so impressed by the book image, but I do recall the impression that came over me as I stood in awe of the amount of work that went into such pieces. It was then that I understood why they were in books. There is a tangibility that is lost when you cannot experience the art itself. The heart-tugging that you get when you stand before something that brings a raw emotion of the soul and a crinkle to the brow or a thought you had not had before.
Tell us about your most preferred place to be on Earth. What role, if any, has the energy of that place helped shape you as an artist?
My most preferred place to be on earth is in the presence of any vast space. Whether it is the ocean, a mountainside, a canyon, a cave, a large pasture, the presence of something greater than me is the fulfillment I crave that brings me back to the canvas every time. I want to capture that essence. That thing that touches my soul. There is a sense of humility and awe when I am in front of the beauty of this world and our maker. I strive to recreate that emotional response for my viewers. I am trying to strike something in the viewer beyond the layers of paint.
What drives your creativity?
When I see great art that tugs on my heartstrings, it compels me to do the same. I have an innate determination to paint and to paint every day. It is my passion. I want to be successful at expressing myself with paint and canvas. I drive on until I create something I am proud of. There are a lot of failures along the way. But I am determined to be successful. Once I have succeeded and finished a work of art, then I begin a new challenge. Creativity is driven by the work, exploring, and playing with the medium and tools.
What is your preferred medium?
I work mostly with oils and prefer them because of the long drying time. They have a sculptural effect and can be easily corrected at multiple stages of painting. I work with acrylics, watercolors, and encaustics as well. I find they all have their advantages and certain appeal. But my first love has always been oils.
Do you listen to any particular music when you create?
I try not to listen to anything that is distracting. I like to listen to soft piano music like Helen Jane Long or a painter’s podcast. Most of the time I don’t have any music playing at all. In the beginning stages of a painting, a lot of critical thinking and set up is taking place. During longer stages of painting, the time passes so quickly, I sometimes forget to turn on any music.
What advice would you give to beginning artists?
My advice is to find a mentor, lots of them if you can. Learn everything you can from them. Find an artist that will let you paint with them, give you time and have patience with you. There is a deep connection and magic that happens when you absorb what others have learned along the way. It is carried down from generation to generation and that is how great art is formed. A willingness to be open to ideas and techniques is going to get you there faster than you know. Listen to what others are telling you, but make your own decisions about your art. Be open to try new things. Get uncomfortable. It will make you more aware and sensitive. Make time for art and practice every day. It is just as important as exercise or prayers.