Ben and I spent the weekend in Austin. We wandered about, saw some art and drank cider. It was a lot of driving and walking which is typical of our trips.
After visiting UT’s MFA thesis show the night before, we attempted to take part in Big Medium’s West Austin Studio Tour on Saturday. We were frustratingly unprepared and did not realize that West meant 50% of Austin geographic area rather than 25%. We drove 20 minutes from place to place and wound up visiting only five studios.
Thankfully, one of those studios happened to be Stella Alesi’s. Her studio, Blackbox, is inside an airy 2-story house in south Austin.
In her most recent series Journeying, Alesi uses oil, cold wax and bookbinding tape to create abstract compositions that bring to mind balanced stones, horizons and masses of water.
Each medium, whether its oil, cold wax, tape or paper, offers a rich, unique texture. While I’ve worked with hot wax (encaustic), I have never tried playing with cold wax. The cold wax plays two roles in Alesi’s paintings–aesthetic and protective. As previously mentioned, the wax offers a unique texture that creates a flat sheen. The wax also protects the artwork so that glass is not necessary. In her studio, Alesi explained that she could easily clean off smudges and dirt thanks to the wax.
The tape was an interesting choice as well. Previously, Alesi used regular blue masking tape. Of course, that wasn’t archival, so she began using bookbinding tape. In addition to creating clean edges and a unique texture, the tape suggests adhesion and fixing things together.
I found Alesi’s use of paper to be the biggest surprise and greatest solution. She adhered white oil paper onto panel. By doing so, Alesi got the benefits of working on paper and the durability of stretched canvas.
I love how Alesi speaks about her work. She is both enthusiastic and objective. In her interview with Scott David Gordon on Austin Art Talk, she explains how her work started and the changes it underwent – without any hint of insecurity. I admire that immensely.
Alesi knew that she wanted to be an artist at age 11, and she faithfully became one. She didn’t starve, and she didn’t sell out. She earned a BFA and a MFA without going into debt. Afterwards, she took part time work and did wedding photography until the age of 50 to help finance her art practice and living expenses. She did things so matter of fact that it seems like she had no doubt in her mind. She was focused.
Thank you Austin Art Talk for sharing her work on your podcast and Instagram account! It is thanks to your podcast, that I ended up visiting her studio this past week.
“Art is Not Entrepreneurship”, Rainey Knudson, Glasstire
“Leon and Stella Alesi: Love Conjures All”, Wayne Alan Brenner, The Austin Chronicle
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Episode 58: Stella Alesi - Journeying, Austin Art Talk