Her art teaches us to see the unusual in the usual
March 17, 2022 / Christina Garcia
Alexis Gallo is a designer and visual artist based in Brooklyn. Characterized by a distinctive lightheartedness, the use of warped shapes and mixed media, her work has been featured on the likes of Sight Unseen, Dodomu Gallery and Nom Studios. I met her in New York while we were both pursuing our degrees in Graphic Design. We became fast mates! I’m inspired by her experimentation with materials and the places her artistic pursuits have taken her—from Fabrica in Treviso, Italy to Google Creative Labs. Now, she is busy immersing herself in more self-initiated art and illustration projects.
Alexis works across a range of mediums, but everything she touches is undeniably hers. She observes ordinary objects and events with a distinct imaginative humor and reinterprets them for us through a lens of distortion, almost like we’re looking at the world in a funhouse mirror. The resulting compositions are joyful, colorful and definitely a little strange.
What’s inspiring you right now?
I recently went to see The Earth Room exhibit in Manhattan. It's an installation of soil that fills a loft space by Walter de Maria. When I walked inside I was struck by the smell of soil, which has been there since 1977 and is watered and raked weekly. I just love the idea of taking something common and putting it in a new context. Lately, I’ve been trying to appreciate the little things in my life and I feel like this installation is a good example of that—focus on one thing and really appreciate it.
How do different types of projects differ from each other in the way they make you feel?
When I make a painting it’s always self-initiated work so it’s a bit more freeing and I’m in a different mindset because it’s more physical work, especially when it’s a larger piece. When I do illustration or design it feels a bit more constrained. Even if it’s self-initiated work I’m usually thinking about the possibility of a client, so it feels a bit more structured in that way. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I’m a fan of setting rules for myself and I think restrictions can fuel creativity.
I love the range of mediums you work in, from the digital compositions to the cut acrylic on wood panels! How do you approach your pieces and decide the best medium to execute them in?
I don’t really have a process for this. Sometimes I’ll try a digital illustration and if it doesn’t feel right I’ll see how it works in a different medium. If I start to feel stuck in one area I like to switch it up, start cutting up paper or make something out of clay. It’s helpful to have a material that can be moved around and distorted to begin with instead of staring at a blank canvas. Sometimes, not very often, I’ll close my eyes and see something and I’m like, “oh I need to go make that as a painting.” It’s like it already exists. But, that usually only happens when I’m really consistently working every day because my brain is already in the zone.
What kind of artwork do you like to surround yourself with, if any?
I mostly have framed prints up at the moment. A few favorites are a vintage 1967 poster for a surrealist group exhibit featuring Rhythmic Figures by Miró, a citrus fruit wrapper from Italy that a friend sent me and a dollar bill embroidered with the word ‘success’. My partner, who’s a writer and musician, is also a big record and book collector so we have a lot of album artwork and old book covers around.
Is there a theme or message that you generally like to explore?
I tend to gravitate toward scenes of common objects and environments. I like to reinterpret the familiar and am interested in the role of routine in everyday life, as well as identity and our relationship to nature.
Can you tell me about any artistic commissions that you’ve most enjoyed and what the process was like collaborating with the client?
Last year I got to make some album artwork for my friends in a band called Leafing. It’s always fun to work with friends and they gave me a lot of creative freedom and flexibility. They kicked off the process by sending me some of my previous artwork that they liked, notes on what the album meant to them as well as the lyrics. From there I created sketches based on their notes and what the album felt like to me. We ended up using some extra artwork to promote a few of their singles too which was really great and they just made t-shirts this year. Their music is so good you should check them out!
How do you want people to experience your artwork?
I don’t really expect a certain reaction to my work, any way someone experiences it is valid! Sometimes I try to subtly add humor in, so I hope that shows and I think some of my stuff has an eeriness to it as well.
You have such a playful approach to color! How do you go about choosing a palette for each composition?
I like to start with a color palette that feels comfortable and then try to add a color that’s a little strange to it. It helps me to create rules for a piece. So if I’m trying to make something work and all the colors feel off I’ll strip it down to two colors and then see if I can slowly add more back in. I often like to use colors from nature, sometimes sourced from things I see on hikes or in the park. Lately I’ve been trying to brighten up my palette overall, maybe in an attempt to fight off my winter blues!
What are you curious about right now?
I’m reading a book called Caps Lock - How capitalism took hold of graphic design and how to escape from it. The book talks about the first coins used as currency and a designer’s role in making them. I’m curious about the lives of objects both historical and sentimental and also how to escape capitalism *runs into the woods*.