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Island Arts: Artist Aliea Wallace

Submitted by on 1, April 18, 2011 – 11:35 amNo Comment
Aliea Wallace with her “Off the Map,” winner of the Alameda on Camera Historic Alameda Award.

Aliea Wallace thought she had taken photos that were sure to win a spot in Frank Bette Center for the Arts’ annual “Alameda on Camera” show: reflections of store-window ships that looked like they were sailing down the road. Then she discovered she had wandered a half block outside her designated piece of the Alameda map.

Perhaps the location of those photos was a blessing in disguise: The home pictures Wallace later took earned her a place in the show, as the winner of the Historic Alameda Award.

At first glance, Wallace’s winning photo collage, “Off the Map,” looks like a trio of typical East End homes. But a look inside those homes reveals clouds, palm trees, and Escher-esque windows that go on forever.

“I was thinking about the human psyche when I did this, for sure,” said Wallace. Her original goal was to offer the home as metaphor for the human personality; the piece also captures Alameda’s “American spirit,” she said.

The piece was created with only the aid of some glue and Wallace’s trusty Xacto knife, with which she cut and pasted together different pieces of the homes she photographed.

“Nothing’s done on the computer,” Wallace said. It’s all hand done.”

Aliea Wallace, “Ghost Ship” (2011).

Wallace said she learned a lot about herself by doing the piece, and getting it all put together was a journey. She had originally planned to create a piece featuring a single, dark house, but scrapped that idea. She also considered making an interactive piece that would allow patrons to make something of their own, but was concerned the message of the piece could be misunderstood.

“I didn’t glue anything down until the last minute,” said Wallace, who said she spent “way too much time on the piece.”

A native of Massachusetts, Wallace trained as a painter, and her early work consisted largely of realistic portraiture, landscapes and still life. She also created a series of paintings of cells, to help her process her mother’s ultimately fatal bout with cancer.

Wallace also has a series of photo etchings, which she creates by scraping away the layers of emulsion – color – from developed photographs, in some cases painting on top of the pictures.

“I used to work at a 60-minute photo place. I’ve got thousands and thousands of photographs,” she said.

Wallace moved to the Bay Area from New York City six years ago and started teaching, first at Monart, and now – after logging time teaching in people’s living rooms and kitchens – at Rhythmix Cultural Works, where she offers drawing and painting classes for children ages 4 and older and adults.

Some found art from those classes will be included in Wallace’s upcoming solo show, “Playhouse,” at Rhythmix: scribbled and doodled-on mats that sit under the art kid make in the classes.

“I think kids’ art is sometimes more interesting than the stuff you see in museums. Because it’s so raw,” Wallace said.

The exhibit will also include some of Wallace’s latest creations – sculptures made of old toys and other objects she’s found at antique fairs and flea markets that she called “kind of childhood memory stuff I’m playing with.”

It may also include videos of sky scenes she shot out her car window.

“It’s almost like laying on top of the car,” Wallace said.

“Alameda on Camera” is up through May 28. Frank Bette Center for the Arts is at 1601 Paru Street, and gallery hours are from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

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