Meet: Alissa Renzetti
How do you explain your work to someone who has never seen it?
I paint abstract surrealism, and make interesting sculpted dolls that are also surreal.
What is a theme you try to portray in each piece?
I don’t follow the traditional process of creating themes. True creativity stems from originality. I believe the best way to practice originality is to paint and create what I want, when I want. I consistently daydream. I find it to be very restrictive to the creative process to limit myself to one theme/subject matter. I like every piece to tell a story whether it be a painting or a doll. Every work has lived a life and represents a segment of my imagination, and my interpretations, and my feelings of course. I am not much of a conversationalist, I can’t stand to talk on the phone, I often forget I have one. I can express myself through art which is very gratifying. I can express what words cannot. Often I am fulfilling a role of perception of expectations to everyone around me. Art lets my inner dwellings be heard. I can paint or make something really scary and know that this is how I feel, and what I’m working through, so I have made this. My work is extremely versatile because so is the human condition. I truly create what I feel, it is my outlet. Sometimes people will look at my work and every now and then someone will say, “I know this. I’ve felt that before.” And it makes me feel a little better inside. Or sometimes people will laugh or smile at a silly doll I have made with a cake, or a squid for a head and tell me how much they enjoy it, and it warms my heart a little. So if my work does have a theme, my theme is my mood.
Which outlet gives you the most fulfillment as an artist?
Painting and doll making are both gratifying in their own way. Due to the different techniques I am able to satisfy my love for sculpting, painting, and sewing.
My paintings represent this mental anguish that I am working to resolve. I also have a strange sense of humor, so I will paint these comical images, only sometimes what I find hilarious others do not. I truly use painting as a form of therapy which is why my work will most likely not match your living room decor, or why I no longer paint commissioned images or portraits. Which brings me to dolls.
Dolls are replicas of human life so I find my dolls are easier for people to relate to than my crazy feelings that I’ve splattered on a canvas. My art dolls are less expensive, bizarre enough to love, extremely unique, and quite collectable. I get to construct adorable dolls, and make a profit. The dolls are a different sort of therapy. Some dolls I finish make me squeal with delight because I love cute things.
What kinds of challenges have you encountered when promoting your work, and how did you overcome those challenges?
Because each painting is idiomatic and can even vary stylistically it can be difficult to establish my own style. This in itself is unique to the art world and can be challenging to be taken seriously since it can be viewed as artistically immature. Many “How To” books on being a successful artist will instruct that you must stick to promoting a series which involves just one subject matter. I stand by what I do regardless if it is outside of the usual structure of artist professionalism. After all, it would be ironic to stress originality while following the norm.
I like to think I have thick skin. Art is much like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder, so it is pointless to dispute opinion. Honestly though, there have been times when I’ve been hurt. I was in my booth at a festival and a couple walked in and looked at my paintings. As they were walking out the woman whispered, “This is disturbing.” It was not so much that she called it disturbing, but it was how she said it. It was as though if I heard her say it, I might jump over the table and strangle her since she viewed me as disturbed. Sometimes people forget that art is not always created just to “look nice” and fit a space on the wall. I could really care less what is popular in living rooms, and how the majority are decorating their homes. I am a selfish artist. I paint for me, about me, and my interpretations. I have learned to accept myself for who I am.
What has been the biggest success for your artwork?
Every time I sell a painting or a doll I consider it a success. Every time I win an award I consider it a success. I think what I consider my biggest success is when I won People’s Choice For Best Art Work in Newark. The reason for this is because this was back in 2004, the very first time I displayed my paintings in a festival style booth, and the first time I had ever been to Newark. The beginning of the day as people walked in and out of my booth I received a TON of negative comments. People were disgusted with my work and I could see and hear their repulsion. The other artists’ work was vastly different and consisted of landscapes and other art that was made in a more decorative fashion. I was discouraged and ready to pack up and leave. As the day went on more people came into my booth gave me looks of disdain, and then one young girl stopped in. She loved my work, and stared at it for a very long time. She then left my booth and I thought, “There goes my only fan for the day.” She came back a little later with a few of her friends’ to show them my work. In turn those friends’ went and found other friends and brought them. Eventually my booth became a very busy spot crowded with people who showered me with compliments. The festival had a secret competition that the artists did not know about in which the people voted on their favorite artist. At the end of the day they presented me with that award. I could not believe that after all the horrible comments I received so early in the day, that I was able to evolve to winning the award because of one girl’s admiration. It is a huge success when faced with adversity you stand by what you do and come out winning an award.
See an exhibit of Alissa’s work at Shadowbox Live until mid-June.