Her Aim is True

Painter Alison Hixon doesn’t really need your hifalutin’ $100 art words

If you drive north on Old Las Vegas Highway, beyond Café Fina and just before the KOA, you’ll find a small two-story house that sort of resembles a log cabin. Inside this house, painter Alison Hixon has transformed the space into a bright and neat live/work studio. Horses graze outside just down the road, and birds sing in the distance. Civilization feels a million miles away.

“Can you believe how I lucked out?” she says in disbelief to have discovered such a sanctuary.

A relative newcomer to New Mexico, Hixon has made some big strides since relocating to Abiquiú from Chicago during the pandemic and then, later, to Santa Fe. With a long-term relationship now behind her and current representation with Canyon Road’s Susan Eddings Perez Gallery, however, things seem to keep clicking into place for the up-and-coming watercolor/gouache purveyor. Hixon’s new exhibit, and the world is mine, punctuates her recent progress, though with a semicolon rather than a period. This is a crossroads.

Truth be told, Hixon’s work still feels fledgling. Her inspirations seem apparent at first blush, but her intent and her methods are more freeform and improvisational than anything. And the artist freely admits she’s still evolving. Budding relationships with artists Barbara Mehlman and Eddings Perez have helped Hixon make inroads into her own psyche, which, in turn, help expand her scope, she says; this means bigger pieces than she has ever before attempted at the forthcoming show, and more of them. It means a closer approximation on canvas of the things she sees so clearly in her head.

Folks might be quick to label Hixon a surrealist, a cubist, an expressionistic experimentalist or even, on some level, a self-portrait artist (there’s an argument that most art is self-portraiture, but that’s a conversation for another day). None of these terms seem to fit quite right when one observes the work going into and the world is mine, though they’re all undoubtedly parts of an equation. Many of Hixon’s works feature figures and faces. Sometimes there are glimpses of plant life or strange animals; sometimes indoor environs; sometimes technology. Regardless of content, the terms and qualifiers don’t ultimately mean much to Hixon, as she lacks any kind of visual arts degree and doesn’t subscribe to genrefied thought processes.

“I just want to grow,” she says repeatedly during our interview. “I just want to do what I want to do, even if I don’t have the words to say exactly what that is.”

That Hixon shows on Canyon Road in the first place feels like kismet. She’d come to New Mexico with romantic notions of painting in the desert—not as an O’Keeffe devotee, mind you, but as someone who at least appreciates that same siren call that lures so many painters and sculptors and musicians and photographers here.

“It’s intimidating here, though, because I want to be technically good even if I don’t have a background in painting” she says. “There are so many brilliant minds and artists in town, how am I supposed to be great?”

Previously, she’d studied acting in Chicago with the iO Theater and, before that, at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri. Hixon hails from Iowa (and still misses the prairies) and came to acting almost as a way of unleashing her vulnerability. In college, however, she found herself painting in her off-hours more and more, and in Chicago, despite landing parts here and there, she’d continue that practice.

“I’d come home and not even take my coat off and just start painting right away,” she tells SFR. “I would draw at night because it felt like I was problem solving my life in some way.”

Smash cut to a 2021 Santa Fe showing at Iconik Coffee Roasters’ original location on Lena Street courtesy of local curator/arts consultant Bobby Beals.

“You know what it comes down to? I think she did something that was very original and something that I hadn’t been seeing in Santa Fe,” Beals tells SFR. “There’s definitely a narrative there, although even her figurative work is abstract. Seeing [the way Hixon paints] her eyeballs looking at something out of the frame…you can kind of make your own narrative with her work, so when Susan Eddings Perez Gallery opened, I recommended her highly.”

In addition to showing Hixon at the gallery, Eddings Perez says she’s glad to have the young artist work a day job for the new-ish space. Hixon didn’t even mention she was a painter when she first started, according to Eddings Perez, and it wasn’t until later that the gallerist saw the goods—Hixon packed works into her trunk and brought them to Canyon Road; Eddings Perez fell in love.

“There are just so many stories in each of Alison’s paintings,” she says. “You could look at one a hundred times and each time pick up something different. She’s an old soul, and her work kind of picks up on the things we all have inside of us. She has a very unique way of interpreting that.”

True enough, according to Hixon. She has a habit of documenting everything, though that could be influenced by social media, she says, along with the mounting pressures artists face in becoming notable. Even still, the happy side effect, she notes, is a conscious attempt to stay rooted in the moment until later, when the act of painting comes into play. At the core of the work lies a feedback loop of feelings and vulnerability through which Hixon explores her own relationships with isolation, or the semi-scuzzy cringe that accompanies self-promotion. To peel back the layers of those emotions, Hixon says, she’s expanded her media beyond paint to include cut-up coffee packaging and sewing techniques, even stained glass. Some pieces have textures that jump off the canvas; some are monotone and awash in a colorless swirl of city-meets-nature imagery. Others burst with colors and off-kilter figurative elements. Each suggests metamorphosis.

“Acting school made me look at other people’s stories and taught me how to deal with different emotions, how to carry myself,” Hixon says. “You’d get notes can’t crumble after every note. Building confidence is something I’m still working on, but I’m letting go. Why can’t I go bigger and sew weird shit? I just want to grow. And this Yeah. This is me.”

Alison Hixon: and the world is mine Opening: 5-7 pm Friday, Oct. 13. Free. Susan Eddings Perez Gallery, 717 Canyon Road, (505) 477-4278

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