An ARTHAUS:Detroit Interview
with Metro Detroit Painter ALANA CARLSON
INTRO: Most of the time -- let's say a lot of the time -- we'll look at piece of art or a work of art and we'll see something representational, and so we can look at it and take at face value what it is or what it means. Then, there are other times we look at work where we think we understand what it means but we're not sure. Or what it means to us is different than what it means to someone else, because what we bring to the work through our own experiences -- who we are, what we've seen, what we understand, what we've been through, whatever it is that makes us "us" -- basically becomes a filter for how we look at everything else. And so, what I think the work means may be different than what the person next to me perceives. And then again, entirely different than what the artist intended. Let's see what today's artist (from an interview in January of 2021) delivers..
ARTHAUS:Detroit (AD): So, Alana, I am new to your work. I discovered your painting at 333 Midland, at the Plus One Exhibit in October of 2020 (masked and socially distanced). There were so many pieces there that were simply amazing, and I've been to a number of 333 Midland shows before. I think this was one of the best.
Alana Carlson (AC): I would agree.
AD: But of all those amazing pieces, yours was one of the ones that held me the longest, and the strongest, and I would really love to hear you tell us about it. To begin, can you introduce yourself? Tell readers, and potential listeners, about your background.
AC: I was inspired to start drawing at a really young age. I think most artists are inspired to become artists at a really young age. I think, statistically, there's a dropoff around [the age of] 12 or 13, but I kept going, because I just really had an affinity for it, and I always loved to draw, and then, paint animals, as well as people. But I've always -- I think one of the first things that I ever saw that inspired me to try to draw well was some other child at my elementary school had one of those Draw Fifty Horses books. And they had one up and it looked so good, and I was like, "Oh man! A second-grader did that? You know maybe I could do that too. I'm in first grade." You know I got one of those books from the library and I kept trying my best to follow the instructions and work from that, and I had some great art teachers in elementary and in middle school and high school. And then I took some extra-curricular art classes at the Paint Creek Center for the Arts, which is in Rochester, just a little tiny repurposed house. It's a community arts center. Kids can take classes there still, I believe. Maybe not during COVID, unfortunately.
AD: There's a lot we can't do during COVID.
AC: But after I graduated high school, I took some classes at OCC (Oakland Community College), and moved on to Kendall College for Art and Design, which is in Grand Rapids, and learned a lot there with some really great professors and instructors there.
AD: And how do we transition you from that point in time to where you are living and working right now?
AC: So, I graduated in 2003. I'm from this side of the state (of Michigan), so I moved back to be nearer to some friends on this side of the state, and family, and started living in Ferndale and Detroit and wound up working for a little independent family-owned market called Western Markets, in Ferndale, which is where I do some graphic design work, and some marketing stuff. So that's, you know, tangential to art-making. It allows me to make art. And have been continuing to try to pursue an art career, you know, as well as a professional career.
AD: So you're doing work commercially, as well as the fine art circuit.
AD: I'm going to ask you a two-sided question. Where do you see yourself in five years, and where would you like to see yourself in five years ?
AC: That's a good question. And I honestly really don't know. I would like to...ideally...what I would like to see, I would like to be happily working on art, continuing to have my studio either in my home or in another location, if that works better. Maybe a little further success with showing paintings that I create (<https://alanacarlsonart.com/paintings-1>). I do spend a lot of my art time currently on commissions, which is great. And I love those, so maybe continuing with that as well. I do a lot of pet portraits and some people portraits. That's fun. I'm not sure where the actuality will take me, but...
AD: I love how you put that, "where the actuality will take me." I think that's coinable. I heard you say earlier -- and you lit up when you said it -- that you love people, you love painting people, so I'm going to guess that the portraits, the commissions and the pet portraits are the things that give you the most satisfaction.
AC: They do. It's kind of like, there's things to appreciate about making art for oneself and, like, expressing oneself, and then there's things to appreciate about working for a client and making their vision a reality, so to speak. So I like seeing other people's faces light up when I present them with a portrait of their pet or their family member. And it's like, "Okay, I don't have to spend hours and hours thinking about what this means. And layering my own meaning into it. Or parsing out what I would want to say about it, which I also love doing. But there's more of a process in making the work say something.
AD: When work has to say something, there's an evolution that takes place, and sometimes you're not entirely in control of it, but it takes more thought. And maybe it takes more trust? I dunno. It's almost like going on a blind date, sometimes, you know?
AC: Right, yeah.
AD: But that is a good jumping point, because next we need to get the scoop on your piece (pictured above) where, all I can think of when I look at it is meaning.
Alana, let's let readers savor the image you painted (above) and size up how it speaks to them. They can jump to On Meaning where we'll continue this conversation. It'll be fun [for them] to see if their thoughts line up with yours.