Island Arts: Alameda painter Malia Bush
By Michael Singman-Aste
A nighttime ritual when tucking in my girls was to count “one, two, three, glow!” Turning out the light, I would point at the glow-in-the-dark stars on their ceiling, cooing, “Oooh, so bright!” Malia Bush’s paintings are the equivalent for grownups. Adorned with glitter, rhinestones, and glow-in-the-dark paint, they cheer by day and luminesce comfortingly by night.
Bubbling out in a silky froth … Fleeting every second … Shoots and Shines … Sparkle glitter in your eyes, and glow the night away. – Malia Bush
Paintings like “The Baron” with its intricate, colorful swirls show the influence of Gustav Klimt. These swirls are a motif in much of Bush’s work, including a series of seven panels, her glow-in-the-dark “Sensational Swirls.”
“The swirls are actually my favorite. They are very beautiful and can hang in any kind of room. They are supposed to be hypnotic, and just meant to be enjoyed. They’re meant for everybody and anybody,” Bush said. “I want everybody to have them! Kids are afraid of the dark. It’s made so your eyes dance around them. It’s meant to carry emotion through them.”
Bush’s solo show EVANESCENCE is on display at Julie’s Coffee and Tea Garden in her hometown of Alameda through February 28. Except for an appearance on the public access show “This is Genius,” this is the first time she has exhibited her art.
A self-described “fun loving creature with a love of the loud and colorful,” she wore a glow-in-the-dark dress at her Halloween-themed wedding, flanked by pirate bridesmaids and robot groomsmen. At her reception at Julie’s the evening of February 11, she used the same black lights which had illuminated the wedding dress to light her paintings.
What is your background? Did you study art?
I started out as a printmaker, studying art at DVC (Diablo Valley College). A lot of my paintings embody the printmaking element, and I consider myself a printmaker.
Where do you think your love of all things shiny comes from?
Probably my squirrel soul. My animal nature. All humans like shiny things, but I’ve always loved things that are shiny and beautiful.
You wrote, “Steno monsters were inspired by the stenography machine, and the process of being a court reporting student.” Did the machine seem like a monster to you while you were learning to use it?
It has been kind of hard. There’s a lot of tears for everybody. It’s an uphill battle, always pushing yourself further. I get a lot of relaxation from painting. That’s how the steno monsters began: bringing the fun into the stress.
What’s the story behind “Drama Queen?”
I worked on it every day for a year, for six to eight hours at time. It’s from two different photographs. One is my drag queen best friend and the other is a friend from my wedding, Photoshopped together. I thought it would be funny and I was experimenting with swirls. It has more than a thousand rhinestones, Swarovski crystals. It may be the most shiny painting on the planet. It’s all metallic paint and shines constantly. That’s why I named the show “EVANESCENCE” – because it’s always moving. It looks different at 4 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon.
“The Baron” doesn’t look like you, but you go by “Baron von Bluto” on Myspace. Why Baron von Bluto? And is this a self-portrait?
Because I met someone once and his name was Pluto and I thought that was cool and sounded like Bluto. It’s random. Don’t ask. (Laughs.) It is a self-portrait. I modeled for the photo and then worked from the photo. Most of the pieces I do are me.
Do you have any other shows lined up?
I enjoyed the show for sure but, to be perfectly honest, I’m enjoying the downtime after the show. There’s a lot of stuff going on in my life. I am planning an amateur fashion show with all the spiral paintings. I plan to have my girlfriends with nude bodysuits on underneath, wearing the paintings. A mock fashion show.
Julie’s Coffee & Tea Garden is located at 1223 Park Street in Alameda. Their phone number is 865-2385. Hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; and 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.