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."

AuthorAlicia Mannix

Alicia Mannix teaches the technique at Ashland's Nuwandart gallery.

Mail Tribune, April 21, 2002 

Josh Hogeland eyes his abstract painting critically, decides it is good.

"You  get to make up your own design," says the 11-year-old, "and just go crazy."

And that's precisely the point, Alicia Mannix says. An artist who says she struggled with her own fear of the blank canvas for 25 years, Mannix now teaches a technique she calls Doodlism. She says it stands in the same relation to theory-based art that jazz improvisation has to a classical music performance.

"You put yourself in the space of being 5 years old," Mannix says.

Maybe that's the reason it seems almost easier for the 11 kids ages 3 to 12 in Mannix's art class Saturday at Nuwandart, an Ashland gallery, than for some adult art students.

 "Training can, be restrictive Mannix says. "It Can make people think there's a limited number of ways of doing things."

The Doodlist painting/collage works created by Walker School fourth-graders lining a wall here testify. to the method's vitality. Each brought in a baby picture and a current picture of himself, and created a painting/collage/self-portrait, Doodlism students start by putting paint on Canvas with any instinctive gesture, anything at all. It's OK to drip paint throw paint smear it around with brushes, sticks, whatever.

Javier Banda, 6, had no trouble creating a colorful design he says started out to be a flag and took on a life of its own.

 "I'm going to do another one, too," he says.

I Noah Kileen, 9, says the best part is that "you get to smear all the colors around."

Other kids drizzle and drip paint Jackson Pollock‑style, onto canvases, paper, the floor, their shoes and in many cages themselves.

Underneath the mayhem, there's message, Mannix says. There are situations we can control, and things beyond our master.

"You create this chaos," she says. "And then you may notice an emerging shape. You introduce some order, make some aesthetic decisions."

She compares the process to the Big Bang with which physicists think the universe began.

She also compares it to giving birth ‑a moment in which the artist is not a ‑conscious doer but almost a kind of channel for something ultimately mysterious.

"It's a combination Of chaos and order," she says. "Which is pretty much what life is."

There's only one drawback, Josh Hogeland says, eyeing his painty shoes: "This is gonna stick to my skateboard."

AuthorAlicia Mannix

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 [1999] at Bloomsbury Cafe

AuthorAlicia Mannix

by Chris Ammon
Ashland Daily Tidings, May 19 - May 26, 2000
Herald and News, Klamath Falls, Oregon - May 16, 2000


ASHLAND --Painting has helped Alicia Mannix learn to appreciate accidents. Not the sort of "oops"-inducing mishaps that have come with raising three children -- tipped-over milk glasses, scraped-up knees and food stained shirts, but an "oops" of a different order -- the inspired accidents of artistic creation.

Working freely with different media, Mannix's approach to painting is based largely on the happenstance meetings of canvas, cloth, brooms, brushes, sponges and other materials she uses in her artistic process.

"When you are using these objects you have much less control," she explains. "So, you are inducing accidents." This playful sort of approach defines the technique that Alicia, who lived in Klamath Falls for several years, calls Spontaneous Expressionism.

"I am usually not pleased with preconceived images," she explains. "I just start sketching things. I take paint and pastels and forms come out of it. My process is to have no concern for outcome."

Sitting in her studio, she holds up a framed example. Although the texture and color of the piece suggests the surface of a pink desert rock, when she removes the glass frame it is clearly cardboard. She rubbed glue onto the cardboard to create texture and then painted over the top.

The piece is only typical of Mannix's insofar as its creation was based on a whim. In general, forms that emerge from her paintings vary wildly and unpredictably. From one painting to the next, the viewer is run through a gamut of impressions: Domestic and maternal themes dominate a nativity series while exotic gestures toward the far-away are hinted at in others.

The pieces crowd together in her Ashland home -- less a suggestion of a small house than of a profuse collection. Viewing them all at once can be a dizzying experience; one is not sure where to look with eye-catching hues and images beckoning from all directions.

When asked if the images, despite their semi-haphazard creation, depict her personal life in some way, Mannix is quick to respond, "Totally. In fact when I really want to find out what is going on in my life, I just start painting and the image tells me where I am and if I'm going somewhere. Things just come up through colors or images."

To illustrate the concept, Alicia pulls out a piece she calls "House Arrest." In the painting, a woman stands in her house and gazes at the world that lay outside the window. "When I was depressed and feeling trapped as a single mom, this painting came up. It was just exactly what I was feeling at the time."

If Mannix finds emotional orientation in the images that precipitate from her approach, she also finds therapeutic value in the artistic process itself -- especially when it comes to making last minute changes on a piece.

Mannix explains that, at times, the changes she feels compelled to make seem like mistakes. She states mournfully, "The way it was will never come up again so you have to transform it and grieve what is lost." And this is where the life metaphor comes in.

"It's been incredible for me to experience the losses and the gains, of ruining things and then -- most often than not -- something I think I have ruined turns into something magnificent. Isn't that a statement about life?

Mannix dwells, then, in a place where the accidental event reigns supreme. Chance meetings, unexpected turns, and "bad" brush strokes form the staple of her art.

Sitting on her couch, surrounded by her "accidents," Mannix reflects on how she only started painting a couple of years ago. Her life has changed since. She is now able to view upsetting life experiences more artistically or, as she puts it, as "invitations to something more incredible."

As she speaks, her Dalmatian sits next to her seeming humorously appropriate with the random smattering of brown spots covering his body like flung paint. She smiles and pets him. "Two years ago," confesses Alicia, "I didn't perceive this process."

AuthorAlicia Mannix