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The wild side
The whimsical imagination of Alexandra Hall
By Jim Mount
Fort Wayne Reader
The painted images are something straight out of Alice In Wonderland.
A cheery frog riding a tricycle; an Ewe and a Ram lounging in an Italian cafe setting; various animals taking in the nightlife or enjoying an afternoon libation. These are some of the subjects of Alexandra Hall’s imagination — animals given human qualities enjoying the simple pleasures of life. But for all the clearly deep talent and work poured into the paintings, they represent an unlikely career path for Hall, 30, the oldest of five in one of the many Halls restaurant families here in Fort Wayne. Her journey to the canvas was an unexpected one,
“Art happened as a hobby,” Hall says. “After college I came back to Fort Wayne for a year before Grad school to just take some time off and regroup. I was painting for fun at the time, this was probably in 2010 when I just started dabbling in painting and I think it was probably about 2012 when I actually started to show people what I was painting. I had my first art show in 2013. The subject matter was all uniform, I was working at the Deck at the time, painting patrons at the Deck in the form of animals, so that's how the ‘drinking bullfrog’ painting happened.”
For all the education that Hall has taken in, art wasn't a subject explored or considered much. With a B.A. in Biology, a B.A. In Political Science and a B.A. in Slavic Languages and Literature — including an ability to speak fluent Russian — Hall’s life trajectory could have taken her anywhere else. But it brought her to her art, which was as much a surprise to her family as it was to her, “I was supposed to be in Med school and I left Med School to do this,” Hall explains with a small smile. “So my parents are...adjusting.”
As it were, a fun little side doodling hobby turned into something much more and would eventually take her down a path of eye popping imagination.
Animals aren't her only subjects. Something as ordinary and mundane as a pair of shoes take on an aura of almost cartoonish realism. for all the ability that goes into the paintings, it's all something that Hall never really took too seriously,
“I never really saw any art that was goofy like mine out there so I didn't really see it as art, definitely as a hobby, definitely as something funny more so for me than for anyone else.” Hall says, “When people started to react to it and wanted to buy it, I was very surprised. I had to adjust to the idea, more so than anyone else that what I was making wasn't just...goofy.” Describing her work as anthropomorphic, Hall gets the inspiration for her paintings from everyday people, working in the overall shape of their features with whatever animal pops to mind, whatever animal is the closest fit,
“A lot of what I do is anthropomorphic, it's about people that I see.” Hall says, “Today for instance,” she continues, “I saw someone that I know I'm going to paint eventually, a little lilly woman in her red pea coat with her red hat and a large cane walking down the street. It's elaborate, she's dressed to the nines and she's just making her way down the street and it just immediately reminded me of a stork, I don't know why. I know eventually it will kind of morph into something and will make it's way onto canvas where it's a character based off a person but definitely an animal character, I like to take away some of the human and make it a little more whimsical.”
With the success of her work, Hall’s art still retains its whimsical goofiness but has also taken Hall down a path in art that she takes very seriously — the promotion and education of art as something vital for any life in culture or society. A member of Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana, a board member of the Education Committee at the Wunderkammer Company as well and working with the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Norheast Indiana chapter, Hall has been working to infuse art as not only a worthwhile career choice but a vital one given her own experiences,
“Art has been good to me, it's been an interesting lifestyle. Art here in Fort Wayne is a different thing.” Hall says, “With the Education Committee at the Wunderkammer Company, we do young adult art classes as well as adult art classes and with Big Brothers/ Big Sisters. I do a 'Wine and Cupcakes' version of an art show without the wine where we do soda and pizza, I have the Bigs and the Littles coming to my class and I'll either teach them something or we'll paint or I'll paint and they can ask me questions while I paint and that usually goes about 2 hours, I try to do these frequently.”
Hall continues: “I also go to local elementary schools and I'll either go to an art class or just a regular classroom and either teach a class or talk about art as a career. With all the art being cut and the funding for schools being cut a lot of kids don't grow up with a concept of an art career being out there but really art is the biggest industry out there with Graphic Design and animation and video. It's a career option and the more that they cut arts from schools the more kids aren't getting exposed to art as an idea so I like to plant a seed.”
The Fort Wayne Free Art Collective is another organization Hall is involved with and they also are responsible for putting several murals throughout Fort Wayne which helps to broaden the artistic outreach, Hall believes in changing negative impressions by having art fill the cityscape. “Working with the DID on some mural walkways will change the way Downtown looks by basically bringing the art gallery outside instead of limiting it indoors,” Hall says.
“It's more like bringing art to kids,” Hall goes on, “to let them know that it's there and changing the impression and maybe the previously biased opinions of what art is in Downtown and just getting public art out there for people to enjoy and to understand that it's a good thing and not a scary or a negative thing to have artwork all over.”
More importantly for Hall however, is infusing art into the lives younger generations, instilling a sense of creativity in young minds, germinating fertile imaginations that pay off for the thriving health of any given culture, the acceptance and proliferation of art,
“It's absolutely important,” Hall says about promoting art as a career choice. “It's maybe one of the biggest misunderstandings, that you wouldn't want creativity in the education system. Every single leap we've made with science, every single leap we've made with math, came about because someone was asked to think more creatively or go outside of the box to solve a problem in a way that isn't the norm. To take away this creativity is to stagnate an entire generation of people. Any big society that has made anything worthwhile, art has been a pretty big part of it. History doesn't lie to you there.”
You can see more of Alexandra Hall by visiting her Facebook page Art by Alexandra Hall, visiting her website at www.alexandrahallart.com