Woman in Stripes at the Beach, 2019. Oil, dye, canvas. 67 x 81"
ALEXIS BEUCLER (@liquidlandscape) investigates the landscape-figure relationship in paintings, soft sculpture and printmaking. The humans that populate her colorful, patterned landscapes float on inner tubes, frolic, fuck and lay about, seemingly carefree. But underneath the water, alligators lurk and decapitated heads decay. Alexis earned her BFA in Painting and Printmaking with a Minor in Art History at Florida State University. She has had two solo shows at Gallery E260 at the University of Iowa (Iowa City): Beyond the Mangroves (2019) and Razzle Dazzle Landscapes (2018). In 2019, she is an Artist-in-Residence for public art at the Grant Wood Art Colony in Iowa City. Alexis is currently pursuing her MFA in Painting and Drawing at University of Iowa, expected to graduate in 2020.
OtherPeoplesPixels: You’ve said in your artist statement that you “investigate a landscape-figure relationship.” How does the history of landscape painting inform your work?
Alexis Beucler: I’m drawn to the presence and absence of human figures within the history of landscape paintings. I am enamored by David Hockney’s patterned forests, Edvard Munch’s beaches, John Dilg’s quiet trees, Mark Messermith’s bright, urgent, anxious landscapes. These spaces make me wonder, when can a campfire speak as loudly as a group gathering? When can a mark of paint emphasize collective feelings? How can animals and plants be placeholders for figures?
Swampland Bacchanal, 2018. Oil on canvas
OPP: What other visuals influence your work?
AB: Over the past year I’ve been reflecting on my time in the Floridian landscape—a landscape I’ve taken for granted for the past two decades—the native plants, swamps, waterways, festivals, island gatherings, quiet explorations.
Seeking to expand the lands in my painted world and in search of specificity of a space, I’ve started traveling to landscapes such as the New Mexico with sprinkled green plants dotting the desert land, blooming midwestern prairies, and I’m hoping to travel to Hawaii soon.
Afternoon Swim, 2018. Gouache on Paper. 20" x 28"
OPP: Do you think of the figures in your landscapes as in sync with their environments or oblivious to them?
AB: The landscape and environments subconsciously affect their motivations and actions. Likewise, the landscape absorbs the energy from actions the figures present, so the figure-landscape relationship is more symbiotic than anything.
In nighttime environments, there’s an increasing sense of urgency: people gather around fires, parties go too far. During the day, I think about the aftermath or residue of what occurred in the darkness, and wonder, do the figures exploring the day world know what happened the previous night? Are they floating down the river on an inner tube of bliss? How long have the mysterious heads at the bottom of the swamp been there, and does anyone other than the landscape remember them? As I explore this painted world, questions such as these are my guide.
Submerged Secrets, 2018. Gouache on Paper. 20" x 28"
OPP: Many paintings—Submerged Secrets (2018), Swamplandia: Journey With the Birdman (2018), and Pink Alligator Roaming the Lands (2019), to name a few—reveal what is hidden beneath the surface of the water. Talk about your intent with this recurring compositional strategy.
AB: I’m interested in the above and below, how landscape shifts and becomes more fluid beneath the water’s surface, and how the underwater landscape is relatively untouched.
I grew up in Florida, where I visited the Weeki Wachee underwater theater quite often. We’d watch “mermaids” perform underwater dance routines and dramas. I remember when the water level was low, you could see hints of landscape above the water and the depths of the spring below, separated by the wavy line. I knew the mermaids were figures slipped into costumes, but I let my mind explore the fantastic possibility of seeing them and believing in them. Above the surface they are like me; below, they can be anything! That was my first real taste of magical realism.
Beyond the Mangroves, 2019. Installation view.
OPP: In your most recent exhibition, Beyond the Mangroves, you’ve now introduced references to home decor through the inclusion of a painted “blanket,” stuffed frames and a string of painted pennants. How do these additions change the context of the paintings?
AB: I’m increasingly intrigued by magical realism in fiction. For example, in Murakami’s IQ84, everything is seemingly mundane until a character looks up and realizes two moons occupy the sky. It’s so real, they wonder if the moons have always been there, if others notice them, or if they have transcended into a new space? This moment—one that identifies a subtle shift within our reality—is reflected within the physical objects from Beyond the Mangroves.
The red and white striped blanket and colorful pennants are recurring images within my paintings. Bringing them into the viewer’s physical space takes the viewer one step closer to the painted world. The blanket becomes an area the viewer needs to walk around, see through, and is invited to sit on and gaze at the paintings.
Frames take on soft undulating forms that are repeated within the paintings— they reference fingers, arms, leaves, clouds, bottles. Soft and moldable. Gradients of color. They hug the picture and seep into our space.
Luncheon, 2018. Gouache on Paper. 20" x 28"
OPP: You are halfway through your graduate studies in Painting & Drawing at the University of Iowa. I know grad school is a whirlwind, so I wanted to give you an opportunity to reflect. How’s it going so far? How has your work changed in the first year of pursuing your MFA?
AB: It has been quite the whirlwind. Since I’ve been at UIowa I’ve started focusing more on landscape, patterns, personal mythology and magical realism. There’s an increasing nuance in color play and physical connection between figures and landscape.
Rocky Shore, 2018. Lithography Bleed Print. 15" x 22"
OPP: Before grad school, you made soft sculpture and also worked in printmaking. The lithographs on your website are just as detailed as your paintings, but eschew color in favor of pattern. But it seems that painting is your primary focus. How do you choose which medium to work in on a given day?
AB: With painting, I’m able to delve deep into the world. Figures emerge, I trek into new lands, and through color everything flows together. With lithography, I generally already have an idea of what the image will be and use drawing as a tool to find ways of maximizing space with dense patterns. Recently I’ve been using this process to approach painting with fresh eyes and apply the detailed patterns from my print world into the painted one.
I can’t make soft sculptures until I have a clear grasp on where the paintings are taking me. I’ve spent the past two years reevaluating the landscape and figures through painting and have recently felt like I can once again pull some recurring elements out into our physical space through soft sculpture.
To see more of Alexis' work, please visit alexisbeucler.com.