Alissa Palmer: Conversation Tracings

By Maggie Kunze

September 29, 2016

  Studio Visit I,  acrylic and charcoal on raw canvas,. 20" x 27.5"

Studio Visit I, acrylic and charcoal on raw canvas,. 20" x 27.5"

On modestly sized cuts of raw, unstretched canvas, Alissa Palmer’s figures take shape through translucent washes of acrylic and loose line gestures. The two kinds of mark-making flirt with one another, but never fully agree to occupy the same form, in the same space. A crude, almost childlike outline of a hand rests on a table, while according to a few thinly applied strokes of color, the same hand rises to meet its mate above the table. This a moment, or rather several moments, drawn from the observation of a banal scene: two figures sitting across from one another, a mug of coffee between them. Another, smaller work depicts a figure standing before what may be a vanity. The space is delineated by only sparse vertical and horizontal blocks of color—black, yellow, and green—that leave much of the canvas uncovered. It is marked more by the creases that span its surface and its frayed edges that curl over the thumbtacks fastening it to the wall.

  She Didn't See Me in the Bathroom Mirror , acrylic and charcoal painted on raw canvas, pasted on stained panel, 16" x 16"

She Didn't See Me in the Bathroom Mirror, acrylic and charcoal painted on raw canvas, pasted on stained panel, 16" x 16"

The presence of the roughly handled material is insistent, more insistent even than the figures that lay over it. The smaller work features the most fully rendered of these, but her back is turned to us, and the mirror in front of her reflects no insight, only darkness. In the larger piece, one figure’s face is cropped by the top edge of the canvas, while the other’s torso is suggested only by an unfilled sketch. A leg situated between them appears at first glance that it could belong to either figure.

  She Looked Past Me, a crylic and charcoal on paper, 10" x 10"

She Looked Past Me, acrylic and charcoal on paper, 10" x 10"

There is space for someone else at the table, but to join the scene seems impossible. The materiality of the work is a constant reminder that what we are seeing is only an impression, one that is certain only of its own unreliability. Just as the canvas is worn with use, so are the ordinary circumstances that Palmer paints. And yet, she seems to say, no matter how many times we converse with our friends over coffee, we come to know them only in a series of moments that are gone before we can recognize them.

Images courtesy of the artist.


Maggie Kunze is a visual artist, poet, and writer, who earned her BFA in Painting from Illinois State University in 2016. Kunze currently lives and works in Normal, IL. Her writings have been published by Sixty Inches From Center and Catfish Creek. You can follow her work at maggiekunze.com.