Alea Hurst, a local artist, works to produce two-dimensional pieces, particularly drawings and paintings, which range from traditional to experimental and mixed media approaches. She is currently completing her masters in painting as the Savannah College of Art and Design.
When asked how she first got into painting and drawing Alea responded, “For as long I can remember, I have been drawing and doodling on anything I could get my hands on. Around middle-school age, I began to take drawing a little more seriously, but had the idea I wanted to be a fashion designer. That was what ultimately set me on the path to becoming a visual artist. My freshman year of high school I took my first serious art class. I was lucky to have an amazing teacher who taught me a lot and showed me I had talent. I remember a lot of the students in my class had the same dream of being fashion designers and were a lot more talented at it than me. It was intimidating. I also have always tried to stand out from the crowd and walk my own path. I really wanted to do something different from everyone else and had no idea so many people wanted to be designers at the time. That is when I started thinking of being a visual artist instead. I really loved creating art and did not think of it as a career option until that point. From then on, my goal changed and being an artist has been my focus. I have not regretted that choice either. If anything, my need to create has only gotten stronger over the years. I am naturally a very quiet person and do not say very much, but with art you can communicate to the world without words or boundaries.”
Most of Alea’s current works consist of a strategically handpicked patterned fabric that she uses for the background. She then preps and primes her “canvas” for oil paint. She enjoys experimenting with these mediums, creating illusions to what is actually painted versus what was already printed on the fabric. When asked why she specifically uses oil paint and fabric and if she feels that she is able to best express herself through these methods, Alea responded, “When I first started this body of work, I was in an aqueous media class with a lot of experimentation. One project was about non-traditional materials and although I didn’t pursue it for that project, it got me thinking about using fabric in my work somehow. At the same time, I was originally painting a mask series somewhat related to what I’m currently working on but was using theater masks instead. You know, those plain white masks with exaggerated expressions. I personally was not happy with them and the feedback I was getting from my peers was not very positive either. I needed a new direction all the way around. I became more interested in the decoration of cultural and tribal masks and also let my interest in fashion reemerge in my portraits. That is when I decided to incorporate fabric instead of canvas. I always use oil because of the slow drying time and the ability to blend, which I could do for hours on end. The fabric is important to me for several reasons. It relates to the fashion figures in the work. But it also draws upon my past when I wanted to be a fashion designer. I have been sewing since I was about 8 years old so I have always had a lot of fabric around. I think the most important part of incorporating fabric into my painting is the thrill of the hunt. In my paintings where I paint the background designs, I can easily come up with any design and color scheme, but with fabric you have to search for that perfect match and to me that is the fun part. I love collecting different fabrics to use for future work. I think the use of fabric really relates well to my use of designer fashion in the work. The clothes depicted are made of fabric and my paintings depicting these clothes are ultimately made of fabric.”
The pieces Alea has for sale at the artist market are part of her mask painting series. When finding inspiration, she mentioned she goes with what calls out to her. Three main components go into choosing the subject for her work: the mask, the figure, and the fabric. Alea reveals that it is quite time consuming doing research in order to find the perfect mask. Most recently she has been drawn to East Asian masks, specifically Balinese, for their intricate detail and vivid colors. As far as the figure, she acquires inspiration from fashion advertisements and runway fashion. “I have a large stack of Vogue issues that I flip through for a starting point.” And when it comes to picking fabric she simply chooses what jumps out at her. She is always buying unique fabrics even if she doesn’t have a painting for it yet. “I have a large tub full of fabric for future paintings, but I could still spend hours at the fabric store just browsing.”
You can see Alea’s work at Ponce City Market’s the Shed on Sundays from 12:00 PM to 3:00 PM at the WonderRoot Artist Market. Applications for the August Market can be found here.