October Featured Artist Alan Starkey

By Bella Erakko

Abstract artists seem to march to a different drummer, but in truth, they are interpreting reality from a different perspective. Alan Starkey, the featured October 13th Second Saturday guest artist at Alliance Art Gallery, starts with nature as his underlying compositional source. This image does not come from a photograph but from his felt experience of those moments. As he explains, “It’s non-objective but still based in nature. If you do not have a structure, you get lost.” Starkey translates that outer world into a vibrant inner landscape. The viewer feels the effect of this structure-in-abstraction. Some element of nature grounds the journey into an inner terrain. It may be a glowing sun, a sense of wild grasses, a hint of forested trees. It allows the viewer to travel to a scene with a sense of inner delight and satisfaction.

“I take what excites me out of nature and work with that,” he explains. In some cases, he uses print making as the medium. “I am literally taking stuff out of nature—leaves and other found objects—laying them on a plate and printing it.” This is a monotype print.

For his paintings, Starkey uses a vibrant complementary color palette. He was influenced by the Fauvist movement (Kandansky) and drawn to Van Gogh’s color-saturated canvases. He acknowledges, “I like the way Van Gogh combines colors,” though right now he’s exploring the challenge of working with a limited color key. Art students sometimes ask, “How do you know when your abstract painting is done?” He answers, “Hans Hoffman, an abstract expressionist, when asked that question stated, ‘When it looks right.’ I find that true for most artists.” In high school, he became known as a portrait artist. For six bucks, he would do a pencil or pen-and-ink portrait of a fellow student. But he felt unchallenged and soon left realism behind. He attended Western, garnering a Bachelor-in-Fine-Arts degree, worked towards a Masters, and taught art for a few years near Chicago. Today, retired, he finds more time for his art. He notes that, “Realism, taken close enough, naturally becomes abstraction. A throw-away object like a cigarette butt, blown to super-size becomes an abstraction; a piece of clothing hung up in a gallery takes on its own personality—it becomes an abstract sculpture.” He points to today’s abstraction-based trends in photography. Some photographs are manipulated to look painted while some canvases convey photographic realism. Over the years, Starkey has created a large body of 2D and 3D work. He admits, “I enjoy creating far more than marketing.” As a result, Alan Starkey offers an extraordinary opportunity for art lovers to discover—and buy—his work at the Alliance Art Gallery this month, many pieces never before seen.

The opening reception will be held on Saturday, October 13 from 5 until 8:00 pm.