Watercolor, Ink, Acrylic, Oil
Winter Street Studios
Erika Alonso (b. 1987) is a Cuban-American painter, working and living in Houston, Texas. Her childhood was spent in Southern California, a place she often “escapes” to while painting. Alonso is a self-taught artist and an unabashedly painterly painter. Her current makings involve experimenting in abstract expressionism through a series of whimsical, abstract-figurative-landscape paintings that are meant to capture a moment in all its fleetingness—the movement and rush and whirl of it.
The artist describes her work as an escape from reality: “My paintings are just places I’d like to be, places where I’d like to spend my time. Places that are stimulating, enchanting, complex, and consistently inconsistent.”
And in a way, they are where the artist spends most of her time, painting in her studio at Winter Street. Alonso likens her painting process to daydreaming, and the painting picture to a vessel through which the viewer can travel. Her faith in the process comes across in her use of color with abandon, which the artist attributes to her confidence in the act of painting as one of repetition and physical and mental calibration: “You can’t control what you are doing, and you don’t know where you are going, but you just do it again and again until the knowledge is in the muscles and the bones, not the brain. The brain has better things to do; no time for instruction—only vision!”
Alonso’s main influences can be seen plainly in her work: Willem DeKooning’s use of charcoal and blending of unconventional materials and the idea of a “slipping glimpser”, and the fractured brushstrokes, heavily influenced by Cecily Brown. Other influences include painters Joan Mitchell and Larry Poons; illustrator Ralph Steadman; and musicians as well, such as Beck and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
Despite her proclivity for art at a young age, Alonso had relatively few interactions with art in her childhood and adolescence as her parents were not interested in art and favored more practical professional pursuits. Her first experience with art was with a painting in the garage of her childhood home—one that was left behind by the previous owner. That picture, remembered as a pen and wash style landscape, was the only painting she lived with as a child, and it still fascinates her to this day.
Alonso’s series of whimsical and intimate watercolor paintings from 2019 were at the outset an experiment in efforts to “find” that very painting as a visual memory to be replicated. While not successful, Alonso found along the way her distinct mark-making style and her preference for mediating the materials and process, as opposed to controlling or directing it. In late 2019, the artist created a series of “tiny ink drawings” which highlights her unique marks. The series was created over the course of a few months and includes over one hundred 7.5” x 5.5” drawings.
Currently, Alonso is working on large-scale acrylic paintings on canvas and handmade cradled wood panels. This series is where she is exploring color and further defining her own visual language: a watchful eye in the sky, windows as escape hatches, reflection pools, cascading flowers (that are also people), and birds, snakes, and animals of all kinds.
Alonso’s paintings can be found in numerous private collections in the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany, as well as in the not-so-private and world-renowned Lester Marks Art Collection in Houston, Texas.
My recent paintings, made with acrylic and charcoal, mix perspective and pure chance. I begin a painting with no intended outcome, fully embracing the materials and their interactions with each other. While my method is not restrictive, it often begins with gestural mark-making in charcoal. From there, I unmask figures (or non-figures) through a series of additional layers. The unmasking itself is a practice of presence and structured wonder. Influenced by my immediate surroundings, what results finds comfort at the interstices between abstraction and figuration. This ambiguity is at the center of my creative process.