Californian painter Alec Huxley uses cityscapes and wild animals as integral elements within his surreal art works. Huxley brings a taste of the African Safari to Suburban Jungles with cinematic views in his recent series.
What happens when you find a Soviet space helmet on eBay? For California-based painter Alec Huxley, it turned into a serious source of inspiration. He paints male and female characters wearing the helmet in haunting cityscapes amongst a variety of wild animals. With a focus on the West Coast California, he creates cinematic surreal narratives with a dark-ish representational escapism. A self-taught painter, Alec has an exceptional eye for photo realistic painting, though he’s more concerned with the essence of the subject than realism. His signature style of iconic, suit clad figures which seem to be suspended between dimensions, speak to one's consciousness allowing the viewer to slip from reality into a lucid dream. Part of Alec's signature style was born when he first looked through the lens of that old space helmet. We had a chance to talk with Alec and get in his head about his process.
//HOW OLD ARE YOU?
//Where were you born?
//Where were you raised? Did it have an impact on your art?
Between ages five and eighteen my family moved every few years so I wasn't raised in one spot. That in combination with being an only child meant I had to create my own entertainment. Most of that revolved around making things. When I finally had the opportunity to set up a permanent residence, I chose the Seattle area. I consider Seattle to be the place of my artistic birth. It's a wonderfully creative place and just where I needed to be at that point in my life.
//What is your inspiration for using an old space helmet? Some of your paintings even include a character walking exotic animals. How did you come up with this concept?
Space travel has always been a fascination of mine. I bought a Soviet space helmet on ebay right after moving to San Francisco. I started painting a male and female characters wearing the helmet, dressed in a black suit and cocktail dress respectively. I envisioned my characters wandering the empty nighttime streets of my neighborhood. The concept was about the fantasy of exploring the city while everyone else was gone or asleep. I imagined the helmet lending some power of levitation or flight to the characters. It was the next step in my painting progression since I'd been painting monochromatic cityscapes for a few years, just without any figures.
Interacting with exotic animals was the next step in my fantasy. I was really into a show at the time called "Fatal Attractions." It was about real people that have tried to domesticate exotic animals. Of course the animals always turn on the "owners" eventually. Knowing that the reality of domesticating wild animals can and probably should end with their fangs sunk into your throat, I decided to use them as inspiration for my art. So these are just paintings - my fantasy is fulfilled and I’m still alive.
//When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
It wasn't so much that I wanted to be an artist as much as it was realizing that I had always enjoyed creating. If I was going to have a fulfilling career then I needed to figure out a way to integrate my creativity. I found my creative expression in my last year of college. It took years of experimenting after that until I was able to build my skills and develop my style. Its a constant evolution as I try out new things and learn new techniques. It will probably never end.
//Being a self taught painter, what were you biggest challenges?
Getting over the idea that I was working with some sort of deficit by not having attended art school.
//What style would you consider your painting? Photorealism?
I don’t intend for my work to be photo realistic. The concept or the narrative behind an image is much more important to me than having objects look like a photo. There are many other artists who create stunningly hyper-realistic paintings, I have a lot of respect for that and it's something I personally don't have the patience or motivation for.
//Lots of your works are acrylic on canvas. What other mediums do you use?
I love photography and film and I do some sculpting occasionally. Lately I’ve enjoyed working on panels as opposed to canvas. Something that I should use more often is charcoal — I really liked using it in the past and it definitely mirrors the way I paint.
//What has been the most inspiring moment of your artistic career?
I'm still taken aback when people write me out of the blue to tell me what my work means to them. I've received the most emails about a painting that was used for the album cover of 'Made Up Mind' by the Tedeschi Trucks Band. It was pretty cool to see it used as the backdrop for their live shows and on the vinyl. One of their fans who is a professional cake artist turned the image into a three dimensional cake that they brought to the concert. It was pretty epic.
//What other artist inspire you?
David Lynch, Eric White, Eric Fischl, Kim Cogan, Gottfried Helnwein, Trent Reznor, Van Arno, Jeremy Fish. There’s too many.
//How would you describe your work in 3 words?
Dark-ish Representational Escapism
//Do you think art and creativity are important aspects to the human experience?
I think they’re extremely important. It’s pretty clear humans have been compelled to create since the early days of our evolution. We made tools to survive, decorate our dwellings, produce clothing, because it's in our DNA. Clearly that compulsion is just as crucial today for catharsis, communication, revolution, exploring new ideas or just exploring ourselves.
//Are you currently working on anything new? Any big shows planned?
I'm getting back to working on larger paintings which is always satisfying. My last major show at 111 Minna Gallery exhibited a lot of my recent film photography. I'll have some more photos on display in Cambodia this summer when they open their new outpost 111 Minna East in Siem Reap.
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