“Above all I am inspired by the under appreciated strength of women and expressions of femininity in all its forms; I like to combine that power with botanical illustration to bring us back to the earth.” – Alexandra Kilburn
Alex Kilburn is a painter, muralist, illustrator and designer living and working in the French Quarter of New Orleans. When she isn’t spicing up a wall with her colorful murals or celebrating style expression through her vintage clothing business Luna Raae, she’s in the studio. Her current series ignite artistry of the mind through imaginary landscapes exploring liminal spaces, and fanciful deities inspired by the spirituality and colorful nature of the Crescent City. Get to know Alex in the Q&A below and be sure to visit her Artist Profile for more of her vibrant collection!
Describe your art in three words.
Oil Series: Layered, pensive, atmospheric Acrylic Series: Playful, colorful, detailed.
Describe yourself in one word.
What do you love the most about creating art in New Orleans? What particular part of your immediate environment, in your neighborhood specifically influences your work?
New Orleans is overflowing with visual inspiration. I am constantly awestruck by the unique sky, because it always feels so close; the colors and clouds are shifting and spectacular. I am also influenced by the power of water, which New Orleans obviously has a significant history with. The water here represents both a support of life and a source of destruction, a yin and yang that is a frequent theme in my paintings. Mostly I am inspired by the incomparably supportive community of truly unique people; citizens of New Orleans manage to be both so tough and so genuinely warm. I feel utterly blessed to be here, absorbing the rampant creative spirit of this wild and colorful city.
Describe your creative process. Are there any rituals or rites of passage you exercise before you begin a new piece?
I like to have a clean, dedicated space, and I love opening the windows to let all that New Orleans air into my studio. For oil paintings my ritual is in the layering, as I apply the layers in a similar way on each piece. I paint very intuitively, so I don’t plan specifically what will happen, but I generally have an idea for color fields or draw from photographs or dreams I’ve documented. For acrylic and illustrative work, I typically begin with a primed shape and fill in the personality by building with color and pattern. For murals, I lay out my paint by color theme and work slowly, background to foreground.
Where do you draw inspiration?
For my oil paintings especially (but also in general), I am inspired by ideas of mortality and transience. I think about the visual qualities of shifting light, the ebb and flow and utter power of water, the layers and fascinating mysteries of the earth. The delicacy of our existence is made bearable by the strength of human connections, the wonder of what comes after life balanced with a relishing appreciation for the present. I am fascinated by the power and fragility of the human body, including our memory with its inevitable gaps and inventions. I am rooted in awe of the incomprehensible vastness of the universe, and our human depth and complication despite being so comparatively small. I am always wondering about how much we have learned but how little we really know or appreciate about the space we inhabit. Above all I am inspired by the under appreciated *strength* of women and expressions of femininity in all its forms; I like to combine that power with botanical illustration to bring us back to the earth.
Who are your artistic influences or gurus?
Too many for a short list…For the WhereScapes I consistently go back to Turner, Turrell, Monet and a contemporary painter named Claire Sherman. The drawings and acrylic pieces are really inspired by growing up on Howard Finster and Mose T as well as a myriad of contemporary street artists; I love the playfulness, aesthetics and impactful social commentary that is possible through street art. Some of my favorites are Swoon, Faith47, Blu, Aryz, Os Gemeos, Jaz, Herakut, JR, Banksy and bmike…but there are so many more. Henri Rousseau is hugely influential for botanical mural work, and since I’ve started with that style I’ve come across the work of Pastel and Ouizi – love their colors and composition.
In New Orleans, art and music go hand in hand. What type of music, band or song lyric best describes your work?
Emmylou Harris’ Wrecking Ball album was a childhood favorite and still strikes a specific emotional chord with me, always making me think about the subtleties of memory. It has beautiful layers of sound. In general I love most music but tend to gravitate towards lush, dreamy R&B. I also listen to a lot of podcasts when I’m working.
Where can we find you when you are not creating art?
You can find me popping up with my vintage and styling business, Luna Raae, or wandering with my Catahoula mutt Luna in the sunshine – enjoying this pace of life with the people I love.
What is your favorite time of day/day of the week/month of the year?
Magic hour is my favorite time of day, when the sun softens and warms but twilight hasn’t quite hit yet. Everything has a radiant quality and it’s just so beautiful. Sundays are my favorite days because they are so leisurely and celebratory, most especially in New Orleans. I honestly love all the seasons here because I don’t mind the heat, and luckily we don’t stay cold for long.
What is something people don’t know about you? A fun fact.
I have moved 11 times over the course of my life to different cities and countries, but New Orleans holds my heart in a way I know is permanent. I love to travel but the feeling of finding a real home base is truly special. I smile uncontrollably whenever I land at Louis Armstrong Airport.
Where Y’Art is the proud partner of Nola Media Group, the producers of Nola.com / The Times-Picayune for its 300 for 300 project, marking the tricentennial of New Orleans, running through 2018 and highlighting 300 people who have made New Orleans, New Orleans.