Surreal Figure Paintings Illuminate Magical Sisterhoods

Observe the mysterious ceremonies and quiet performance of magical sisterhoods in Alison Blickle’s ‘Private Rituals’.
November 1, 2016, 7:00pm
AlisonBlickle, Reunion (2016), 74x96". Images courtesy the artist and Kravets Wehby Gallery

Women, either alone or in small groups, engage in mysterious magic rituals, their bodies paused in beautiful poses and dissolving into patterned textiles and mosaics in the new works of Los Angeles-based painter Alison Blickle. In Private Rituals, “mysterious ceremonies and quiet performances” are celebrated in dreamlike fashion.

As with past work, Blickle’s paintings offer windows into private moments. In Private Rituals, the privacy is not of the individual, though, but of the sisterhood engaged in sacred ceremony and performance, dissolving into like never before into a whole of many patterns. In these works the viewer sees in Blickle some of the greatness of female surrealists like Dorothea Tanning, Leonora Carrington, and Remedios Varo, all of whom infused their paintings with magical elements.

Alison Blickle, Graces (2016), 72x72”

As Blickle tells The Creators Project, she always sees an element of performance in a ritual, even if the ritual is limited to one or two people. When she engages in a ritual, she feels a presence and conscious awareness of what she is doing. Rituals also involve planning ahead of time (choosing words, for example) and then the act of “doing” also evokes performance.

The role of silence or quietude in the paintings of these private rituals is equally as important. Blickle wants the paintings to have a feeling of “slowness” and introspection, as if the women in the scenes are in a “trancelike, moving meditation.” Privacy in these paintings is also paramount.

Private Rituals installation

“I’m thinking about private as something that is not meant to be seen or known about by outsiders—something secret and special,” says Blickle. “I hope these paintings have a bit of a voyeuristic quality, like you’re catching a glimpse of something you shouldn’t be watching.”

Blickle started the body of work that became Private Rituals after she found out she was pregnant. She felt very inspired by the support she was receiving from the women in her life—a midwife, a doula, “other mamas,” and her friends from what she calls a “witchy herbalism school,” to which she belongs.

Alison Blickle, Sisters (2016), 72x72"

“I’ve been fortunate to know many badass women who are so supportive of each other, and who have really showed me a beautiful way of relating to other women,” she explains to The Creators Project. “No competition, just encouragement and compassion. The paintings in this show depict women supporting one another, engaged in nebulous rituals, and tending to cosmic egg type vessels.”

In Sisters, a pomegranate, and dried hibiscus flowers in the vessel on the floor, both represent ancient symbols of fertility and the womb. Blickle says the figures are helping one woman to dress and prepare for something. This grew out of a story told to her by a birth class instructor, who related the myth of Inanna, who descends to the underworld. As in many myths, Inanna comes back stronger and wiser, which Blickle could relate to as a new parent.

Alison Blickle, The Cup That Fills Itself (2016), 81x68”

The title of the painting Three of Vessels refers to the tarot card of the same name, depicting three women supporting each other. In The Cup that Fills Itself—the final painting in the series—the figures are all helping to gather fruit.

“Fruit and fruit trees are full of symbolism relating to fertility, wisdom, and abundance,” Blickle says. “One of the ceramic vessels on the floor contains copal, a resin that is burned like incense for protection, healing, and to prepare a room before someone gives birth.”


Blickle’s painting Graces features ceramics above the painting, which represent the moon’s different phases. And the full moon, of course, is the night where magic is most potent and spells “most alluring,” Blickle says.

Private Rituals installation

“All of the paintings incorporate the harlequin diamond pattern, representing The Fool card from the deck of tarot, who is starting out naïvely on a new journey—something I understand as a new mother,” Blickle says.

“Ritual and ceremony allow us to take a break from ordinary reality, to slow down, and to create a time and space to connect with ourselves, our community, and with nature,” Blickle explains. “In that sacred space, we can put our attention on the things that are most important to us.”

Alison Blickle, Three of Vessels (2016), 65x70"

“I hope when someone leaves my show they feel slowed down and grounded, but also a little bit excited,” she adds. “Like they’ve been reminded that there are people doing some wild stuff out there. Like they wonder if magic might really exist.”

Private Rituals runs until November 12th at Kravets Wehby Gallery in New York City.

Click here to see more work by Alison Blickle.


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