by Bill Varble
The Mail Tribune, May 23, 2000
Alicia Mannix's art lives in a place where accidents rule. Chance strokes and happenstance meetings of sponges and other unlikely objects are the stuff of her collage, paintings and mixed media.
"I use pretty much everything but brushes," Mannix. says.
"I'm covered in paint when I paint. I dig my hands in and smear it around."
Using, say, a squeegee and a cleaning brush, maybe some old drop cloths, she creates paintings that resemble the gestural expressionism of a Willem de Kooning or a Jackson Pollock.
An exhibit of recent artworks by Mannix opened Friday at the Conversations With God Center at 400 Williamson St., just off Hersey Street in Ashland. The show remains up for a month.
Mannix says she felt artistically blocked for along time. She credits her new burst of creativity (three solo exhibits in less than one year) to pouring out her feelings in writing.
Mannix, 47, came to the United States from her native Poland more than 30 years ago. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in art and art history from the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University and spent years critiquing painting.
"It's very snobbish and theory‑ oriented," she says. "None of (the critics) ever painted."
Mannix has lived in Southern Oregon 10 years, the last four in Ashland. She's the mother of an 8‑year‑old boy and two adult children.
Her son Thomas, chafing at Mannix's art stuff spread about, recently said, "Mom, I'm tired of it. This is not an art gallery."
Mannix calls her style of painting Spontaneous Expressionism. Pieces run from still I life to abstract.
She says the key for her is to skip entirely any preconceived image and just start sketching. Sometimes surprising things emerge. What looks like a framed desert rock is actually cardboard with glue rubbed over the top and paint on top of that. Another painting that came pouring out is a mother cradling a baby done in bold swaths of yellow, brown, blue and red. She describes the piece and its Madonna theme as almost an accident. It started when she was playing with making circles in a new‑to‑her medium called gouache, a very thick water color. "I didn't have much time to work on it," she says. "My daughter came home from college and saw it and started freaking out. She ran to her backpack and took out a poem and started reading." The poem reads in part:
I saw a picture of us
A mother in thick robes
over her head
cradling a suckling child.
I saw a faded and mushy
browns and yellows and blues....
Many of Mannix's artworks crowd into her home, turning it into what could pass for an impromptu gallery.
"Viewing them all at once can be a dizzying experience," her friend Chris Ammon says.
Mannix says she focuses not on. product but process.
"The result is a combination of expressionism and my aesthetic sensibility and training."