"I'd be satisfied if all people took away from this show was a smile."
That’s local artist Alexandra Hall’s feeling about her solo show opening Friday in Artlink’s Betty Fishman Gallery.
Her colorful work, which often includes animals, is meant to evoke a sense of joy.
"Too often adults forget what it was to have a child's imagination, and we start to only see what our eyes see," Hall says. "I want to remind my audience that it is important to daydream, color outside of the lines, and don't be afraid to let a little whimsy and joy into their world."
We asked Hall to talk more about her show, her recent travels, local arts projects and even how she would fare in a zombie apocalypse. The following conversation, which was conducted by email, has been edited.
Q. Do you have a theme for the show at Artlink?
A. My work is influenced by hundreds of little moments and experiences garnered while interacting with the world around me. I wanted this show to pay homage to our amazing local zoo, which has inspired many of my works.
Q. You recently returned from Paris. I'd imagine there is extra significance for an artist in a trip like that. Can you share a favorite experience?
A. Traveling is one of my biggest inspirations. While the art in Paris was amazing, I find that my favorite experience was observing the people. My most recent works are directly taken from scenes I saw on the streets of Paris. The piece "A Day Out With Grandma & Grandpa" had a culmination of influences. I saw a well-dressed grandfather with his grandson walking the rainy Parisian streets, which made me think of a time when I was with my grandparents, and from that stemmed a painting of a well-dressed giraffe family.
Q. How does being based in the Fort Wayne area influence your work?
A. I have never been interested in re-creating what a camera could capture or painting a scene just as I see it. I have always had a propensity for conjuring up dream worlds, coloring things the "wrong" color, or creating an anthropomorphic scene. If I was in a different city, my works would not be as glaringly different, and I probably wouldn't have become the artist that I am today.
Q. There has been a conversation going on locally about drawing artists to the area and retaining folks that are here. Are there things you would like to see done differently in the area to encourage the arts, and how to do you feel about recent public art projects?
A. I'm encouraged by the fact that local government is aware the impact public art has on retaining talent and drawing in business investment. Fort Wayne is ready for a renaissance, and I am excited to be part of it. Still, before we can get there, we need the community to accept that a mural does not encourage graffiti. We need more affordable spaces downtown for artists to establish their businesses and sell their product. Artists should not be forced to channel Fort Wayne history into every public art installation; The works that we install should represent our future and not only reflect our past. It is important that we recognize that artists are our partners in commerce, and we need to change how we assess the value of an artist's work; the appropriation of funds for compensating an artist for their time and talent should be a major priority of any installation. I am thrilled that we have seen so much forward momentum; the pieces installed by Jerrod Tobias on Broadway and Anthony Boulevard are beautiful. The riverfront bench projects and the bike rack sculptures show some real progress. I am very thankful for this amazing community and I am inspired by what we have already achieved.
Q. And since we're almost at Halloween: If you and your best friend were stuck in your studio space when zombies attacked, what would you grab to defend yourself and would you both make it out alive?
A. Considering the limited weapon options in an art studio, I think I'd have to take a page out of Bill Murray's book. I would probably use my paints to transform my friend and I into zombies. Then we would alter our mannerisms to walk amongst the zombies to a safer location.