By LEIGH HOPPER
The Brazosport Facts
Also published in the Dallas Morning News
WILD PEACH – Barking dogs, military helicopters, mouths open in anguish: Visions of destruction. An intricately-drawn face among blurred, grasping hands, a shadowy human form fleeing a dark tornado: Images of despair. The paintings are, in a word, angst. But the artist is the picture of contentment, with her 2 ½ month-old son Jacob dozing beside her, roosters crowing behind the house. Twenty-nine- year-old Kelly Alison of Wild Peach always has been a happy person; she doesn’t know where this stuff comes from.
Alison, who works in oils and pastels, is a bright new face in the art world. Her name pops up in magazines such as Ultra and Texas Monthly.
Although she’s enjoyed the respect of her peers for a number of years, the turning point in her career came last year with an exhibit titled “Fresh Paint: The Houston School,” put together by New York scholar-critic Barbara Rose and Houston critic Susie Kalil. Alison was the youngest artist included in the show. The well-received exhibit led to a couple of exhibits in New York and landed her a spot in Houston’s Graham Gallery where she recently held a one woman show.
Success is nothing new to her. “I knew from a long time ago that I probably would succeed,” she says with a West Texas drawl.
Alison, born in Plainview, began painting when she was 5 years old.’ Her mother taught he about color and composition and took her to “little old lady” classes where they painted windmills and fields of bluebonnets. Her parents were so proud and loved her realistic portraits and landscapes. . Then she made the switch. She was surprised at how easy it was to let go of the old rules and prejudices in her work. But other people thought she’d lost her marbles.
“Since I’d grown up in a pretty small West Texas town, abstract art was something really weird people did,” she says.
In her studio, a converted chicken barn behind the house, Alison wipes dust off an oil painting with her hand. She picks at a spot with her finger nail, with the meticulous, possessive care she’d use brushing a crumb from her baby’s cheek. One nice thing about oil paintings is they’re tough. Just wipe with a damp cloth. If the canvaswarps, spray the back with water. Scraping the bottom of a large painting with her foot, she says,
Alison values her background in realistic painting and drawing. Occasionally, she paints a tree or one of her cats just because it’s a neat feeling to look at something and reproduce it on canvas or paper. But she’s not sure that sort of background is important. “One side of me says yes because I want everyone to have to do it,” she says. “I think the necessary thing to be an artist is to just want to do it.”
At a show, you’ll always hear somebody mutter, ‘I can do that,’ she says. “But the thing is, they DIDN’T do that.”
Alison admits she’s sometimes jealous of other people’s recognition. And criticism still stings one critic called her a “half-baked cake.” But the artistic climate in Texas is nothing like it is in New York where artists fight among themselves in ferocious competition to get in the best gallery, get the best reviews.
“The artists in Texas generally just sort of find ’em a hole and paint and hope someone will recognize them sooner or later,” she says. “And I think better art comes out of that.”