The Heroine’s Journey of Alyson Souza

What is the best thing that I love about my work? I mix traditional and non-traditional methods, incorporating found objects such as machine parts.  My work is meticulous, carefully constructed, representational oil painting, but I love what happens when the combination of these brings about a serendipitous abstraction. I also really love patterns, those that man has made as a byproduct of some other goal and those found in nature. I like to mix the two, they have a similar beauty.

What is my idea of perfect happiness? I have realized that happiness does not require a specific achievement or event but an adjustment in perception. When I look around me and when I watch the news, I am reminded that I am very fortunate. I know that often, when I am not happy, it is something I need to work on rather then something that is actually wrong. I think that now that I am not waiting for something to make me happy, I am a more appreciative and happier person.

What is my greatest fear? I have a terrible fear of wasting time.

What is the trait that I most deplore in myself? I would like to worry less and live more often in the moment.

Which living persons in my profession do i most admire? Lee Bontecou, Lezley Saar, Laurie Lipton, Swoon, Kerry James Marshall, Gail Potacki.

What is my greatest extravagance? Alone time.  

On what occasion would I lie? I am a horrible and completely unconvincing liar. It gives me terrible stress to lie and is not usually worth it. On rare occasions it does serve a greater good and is sometimes the uncomfortable best choice.

What is the thing that I dislike the most in my work? I wish my work took less time to create. Though I have gotten faster over the years I find that if I cut corners, it shows. One of the things that really excites me about my work are the details. I dont think I could give up my obsessive methods. Maybe its time that needs to slow down.

When and where was I the happiest, in my work? The past six years here in Los Angeles have probably been my best. I finally have a really nice studio and separate wood shop. My work has evolved into something uniquely and comfortably my own. I usually have had a show scheduled to work towards and that is always very helpful to me.  

If I could, what would I change about myself? I would worry less.  

What is my greatest achievement in work? I have two answers here. The first is my last show in the spring because I feel that it was my best work to date. The work seemed to flowfrom me in a way I never experienced, not the actual making of the pieces but the ideas. I think as you get older you become closer to your real self, as you dont let the superfluous get in your way. The second answer is the simple fact that I am still making art. That is an achievement in and of itself.

Where would I most like to live? Living in a big city gives me energy and motivates me. Though I treasure alone time, I like to know that just outside my door there is a plethora of art, music, food and people. I am really inspired by rural places however. The desert air has a strange silence, and simultaneous noise that works on me like a really good drug, churning out ideas and thoughts without any side affects. Ideally, I would like the opportunity to live part of the year in the desert.

What is my most treasured possession? My house. I worked very hard to get it and as it was extremely dilapidated, I worked even harder to fix it. I think you always appreciate the fruits of the hard-won battles most. I appreciate my home everyday.

What is my most marked characteristic? I have a really good work ethic that comes naturally to me and I am most thankful for it. I am also a good problem solver. I design my pieces without thinking about how I will build them. There are often real obstacles to making the design into a stable object. I really enjoy working on this aspect of the process. Because of this, I am often equally proud of the backsides of my pieces.

What is my most inspirational location, in my city? The Velaslavasay Panorama. For about ten years it had an installation called the Effulgence of the North. Sitting in the tiny old, circular loft space watching the light change on the plaster icebergs along with the strange dripping water sounds took me away from everything in my life. A new exhibit is due to open this year and I hope it will be as magical.  

What is my favorite place to eat and drink, in my city? Shin-Sen-Gumi and Marugame Monzo in Little Tokyo. Homemade noodles in Japanese soup is my favorite comfort food. I like The Thirsty Crow in Silverlake for a drink. It is dark and the music is good.

What books influenced my life and how? I read to escape my own thoughts so books have allowed me a necessary reprieve in life. The books that have influenced my art have been art books for the most part. I recently bought book called the Codex Seraphinus; an illustrated encyclopedia written in a cipher alphabet. The illustrations are surreal parodies of things that exist in the real world. This book reminded me not to give much weight to outside opinions, stick to my vision and have faith that no matter how weird, its going to strike a chord with someone.

Who are my favorite writers? I really like Haruki Murakami, Margaret Atwood ( her poems too ), Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Neil GaimanI am a moody reader and my current mood is gothic novels without romance. I recently enjoyed The Thirteenth Taleby Diane Sutterfield. The visuals are very satisfying, lots of mist and feral mansions. I like books that rest at the farthest edge of the possible and maybe dip a tiny toe into the impossible.
You Only Die Once. What music would I listen to on my last day? Cracker, Johnny Hickmans guitar touches my soul and David Lowerys poetic lyrics have accompanied my life for so many years.The Jesus and Mary Chainfor the beautiful dark nostalgia it makes me feel and because it reminds me of my husband. Maybe some Jack White because it makes me happy.
Who is my hero or heroine in fiction? Bernard from Black Books. Bernard has a fantastically horrible attitude and is quite selfish, though not an evil person. I think we all have varying degrees of Bernard inside us. Of course, most of us try to keep that in check. I find it cathartic and very satisfying to watch what happens when someone lets it all out.
Who are my heroes and heroines in real life? Barak and Michelle Obama. Michelles now famous words, When they go low, we go highhave stuck with me since I first heard them. With all the hypocrisy and greed in the world it is hard not to allow rage to devour you. I try to remember this when anger takes over. Always take the high road, you will never regret it. So simple and so true.
Which movie would I recommend to see once in a lifetime? Harold and Maude
What role plays art in my life and work? I do not have a religion. That is not to say I do not believe in things greater then myself or things I cannot see. I do not have children. My work is what gives my life meaning and makes me get up in the morning. It gives me goals and a purpose. When I am particularly productive, I am happy and satisfied and when I am in a creative rut, I am lost.
Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime? My husband Michael, I know I couldn’t do the work I do with out his support. He has been with me for so long he has a real understanding of what I am going for in my work. This, to the extent that he knows when something isn’t working and will point it out, which is very helpful.  He is extremely honest and loyal. He is also my best friend and we have worked on many successful projects together.
With whom would I like to work with in 2018? Much of making art involves a potentially unhealthy solitude. I would like to team up with another artist on a project. I think it might be good to work with parameters I have not created.
Which people in my profession would i love to meet in 2018? I would love to meet Lezley Saar. Her work incorporates everything I think is important in art. There is always a lot of thought and meaning behind the pieces. The work is addictive to look at. I still have a poster from one of her shows up in my studio from 2012. The images stay with you and are beautifully executed. There is also no mistaking her work for anyone else.
What project, in 2018, am I looking forward to work on? I have just finished a large body of work and feel that I have come to the end of a series. This seems to happen to me every 4-8 years. I am beginning new work though the ideas are not yet fully cooked. I sometimes dont know where the work will take me until I am partway through. It is an exciting but always very uncomfortable time.
Where can you see me or my work in 2018? In the spring of 2018 I had a solo show and installation at Coagula Curatorial. Work can be seen at www.paintwood.com and paintwoodsouza on instagram
What do the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me? If something is a passion it is done for the joy and sometimes pain of doing it. If there is a reward or gain from the undertaking that is wonderful but not essential to continue. The reward is in the execution. I do not think I will ever retire from making art. It gives my life meaning and structure and I know I would be a very unhealthy person without it.
Which creative heroines should Peter invite to tell their story? Iris Boncales-Strauss, she is an artist and political and social activist.
How can you contact me?

Email: alyson@paintwood.com

Instagram: paintwoodsouza

I am on Facebook as well. https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100012646188765

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