In the late 19th century, Southern California attracted misfits, idealists, and entrepreneurs with few ties to anyone or anything. Swamis, spiritualists, and other self-proclaimed religious authorities quickly made their way out West to forge new faiths. Independent book publishers, motivational speakers, and metaphysical-minded artists and writers then became part of the Los Angeles landscape. City of the Seekers examines how creative freedom enables LA-based artists to make spiritual work as part of their practices.
Psychic mediums from the golden age of spiritualism emerge into a quizzical, pixelated future in Alison Blickle's mesmerizing paintings. An aura of mystery and glamor blurs any straightforward narrative, with female subjects theatrically engaging in peculiar magical rituals that challenge perception, disrupt reality, and ultimately work to shift the paradigm from a patriarchal world view towards a post-feminist sisterhood.
Blickle's creative process involves several steps, beginning with small painted studies that set the tone for what will later become full-scale finished artworks. After completing the studies, the artist takes photos of her friends in various poses and uses them to make collages, finally creating the actual paintings using the studies, photographs, and collages as reference. So while Blickle considers herself a painter, she incorporates a range of mediums in her practice, including illustration, photography, textiles, collage, and even handmade ceramics, which she installs with her paintings and admits to accidentally breaking with alarming frequency.
"To me they are like relics or artifacts from what’s happening in the painting," the artist tells The Creators Project. "I want to bring the world in the paintings out into our world, and having the ceramics in the room kind of magnifies the energy of the paintings."
In many ways, Blickle's art is a contemporary examination of opposites, bringing together the ethereal yet precise; the realistic yet romantic; the mundane yet sublime. But navigating the paradoxes isn't something she does consciously: "Creatively, it’s important to me to be vulnerable, tender, and personal in my work," she says. "I follow my intuition when I make art. I don’t over-think things. That’s not to say I don’t refine and edit—I do—but my initial idea and the changes I make are done from a feeling place, not a thinking place."
Originally from San Francisco, Blickle earned a BFA from California College of the Arts and an MFA from Hunter College in New York. She was living in New York with no plans to leave when her husband was accepted into UCLA's MFA screenwriting program. "We moved thinking we would head back to New York as soon as he finished school," she explains. "But we fell in love with LA and decided to stay."
It was LA's energy and contrasts that particularly appealed to Blickle. "We have lots of seekers and people who are open to new ideas and alternative ways of doing things," she says. "There’s an atheist Buddhist meditation center down the street, and a smoothie shop that makes its own sprouted nut milks in the other direction. At the same time, people move here who want to make it in Hollywood, and I feel that energy of longing to be seen and wanting to be loved. It’s such an interesting mix. The desire to find your own spiritual path and the desire to be rich and famous seem like opposites, but they are both present here in strong ways."
For Blickle, spirituality means being connected to nature. She studies herbalism and plant spirit medicine, and says she's found joy and healing from working with plants and with other women. "I pay attention to the cycles of nature, like moon cycles," she says. "They are reminders to spend time considering different aspects of life. For example, what I want to bring into being, what I’m grateful for, what I want to let go of."
Ultimately, Blickle feels that connecting with other people who have a similar sense of spirituality has had an impact on her art. "I have met some badass women in LA who have taught me how we can support one another and leave behind that competitive stuff that doesn’t serve us at all," she says. "This has all made its way into my work."
Visit Alison Blickle’s website here.