By Chris Ammon
Ashland Daily Tidings, August 13 – August 20, 1999
Arriving in the United States from Poland when she was 16, Alicia Mannix has spent much of her adult life studying art. But aside from a natural inclination to draw as a child, she has spent little time creating it.
After obtaining an M.A. in art history from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., Mannix moved onto a 20-year career in marketing, which she only recently ended. Now, this single mother of three pursues her true passion: painting.
Looking at her prolific collection of paintings (now on display at Bloomsbury Cafe upstairs in Bloomsbury Books, 290 E. Main), it is hard to believe that Mannix suffered from what she calls a "creative block" for 25 years.
Most of the paintings, which range from still-lifes to abstracts, were created in the last eight months. Mannix attributes some of her 25-year block to her European background.
"In Europe, there is a lot of judgment. You must strive to be great," she said. "There is a lot of pressure for success. You are either Picasso or nobody. That in itself blocked me."
So, instead of engaging in the creation side of art, Mannix settled for studying it from an academic perspective.
"I was afraid to do art," she explained. "So, I spent lots of time talking about art and writing critiques. When you study and critique art, it is helpful, but it's important to maintain your own sense of what you feel is good, important, and expressive. What harms people the most is judgment."
The judgment that Mannix refers to is not just judgment from other people but from herself, as well. She says, "Amazing things happen when one lets go of the need to be 'perfect' or adhere to any particular standard of style and technique."
In order to paint without being self‑critical, Alicia said she had to "completely redefine the process. I pick up the paintbrush, and I don't care. I'm going for it. Then, I've conquered the initial fear."
Not only does she begin her artwork without fear but also without any idea of what she is about to paint. Alicia calls this approach "spontaneous expressionism."
"I'm usually not that pleased with preconceived images," she said. "I just start sketching things. I take paint and pastels, and forms come out of it. My process for the last year is to have no concern for outcome."
Among the forms that emerge from her paintings is a small collection of nativity-like scenes of a mother and child. One, which is entitled "Mother and Child," is particularly striking; in bright swaths of color, Mannix depicts a loving, maternal scene.
Mannix says this piece is one of her favorites, and relates a small anecdote about a poem her daughter, Aletta, wrote before ever seeing the painting. Selected lines of the poem read, "I saw a picture of us/ today./ A mother in thick robes/ over her head/ cradling a suckling child./ I saw a faded and mushy/ browns and yellows and blues."
Looking at the painting after reading the poem, it's hard not to be struck by an uncanny resonance.
"This is a cosmic coincidence," Mannix says. "It blew my mind."
Mannix could not have created works like "Mother and Child" if she hadn't first unblocked her creativity. She credits this "unblocking" to the writing she has done in the last two years.
"Writing releases a lot of negative energy," she explains. "Once you can just pour it out everyday, you are free to do other things. The bottom line is not to be afraid. You must trust your inner guidance."
Trust your inner guidance. At her opening reception at the Bloomsbury Cafe, it was clear that Alicia Mannix has done exactly that.
While paging through her art-filled portfolio, she commented on how it previously served as her advertising portfolio. That very day, she had cleared out the posters and writings -- old vestiges of her marketing career -- and filled it up with her art to complement the show.
"This is a big day," she smiled.
Mannix's artwork will be on display through the month of August  at Bloomsbury Cafe