An Interview With Painter Alicia Gibson

by Irena Jurek on June 2, 2017 Interview

Installation view

Installation view

Alicia Gibson’s paintings are messy in the best sense of the word. Aesthetically, their sloppy paint, muddy colors and worked over surfaces look as if Gibson deposited all her thoughts on a given subject one canvas. Emotionally, they pack the same unvarnished punch. Her paintings overflow with acerbic humor, saccharine sweetness, and an aggressive punk rock ethos that’s impossible to forget.

Now, as the inaugural show at Real Estate Gallery, a new gallery in Greenpoint, started by Lisa Cooley, Jeremy Willis, and Kenan Gunduz, this work is on view.

I sat down with Gibson and discussed her involvement in the feminist girl gang “Ladies in Heels”, the necessity for faux history in her art, and why “Jeff Koons Sucks”.

Irena Jurek: Can you talk about the relationship you have to feminism in your work?

Alicia Gibson: I would like to bridge the gap between the sexes in my work and not necessarily push men away. Instead, I’d rather bring men in on the joke, and show them what women really think about and talk about. Some of the titles of my paintings include “Pull Out  pull out?!!” or “I Want You Inside Me.” Humor has the power to bring people together.

I agree, people aren’t as threatened by ideas when they are communicated through humor.

Exactly, feminism to me is about unifying people of different genders and sexes.

You were also once involved in a feminist girl gang in your early twenties.

The name of the gang was “Ladies in Heels”.  It was taken from the one time I tried to wear heels. When I was 21, I was at a bar and wearing these two-inch heels, which I don’t even think is that high. Anyway, I kept stumbling around in them, and I eventually got kicked out of the bar because people thought I was totally wasted. I just couldn’t walk in them. This goes back to the stereotypical male expectation of what women should wear in order to be sexy.

You also did some tagging while you were in this girl gang?

Yes, there were only three or four of us. I wrote “Diet Coke” a lot and “Jeff Koons Sucks.” We were going against the idea of  art as a commodity.

There is definitely a relationship to graffiti and urban life within your work: the grittiness, the dirt, the noise, the floating trash, as well as the constant sense of movement and commotion.

I still occasionally use spray paint. There is this faux history in my work, because I can’t make twenty years of a street appear on my canvas in three weeks. It’s definitely very self-aware and self-reflexive.


Alicia Gibson

Would you say your content is usually taken from your own experiences?

My work is usually directly taken from my own life and experiences, but not always. “I Want You Inside Me,” is taken from a tag I saw on a lamppost. I like playing with double entendre or even triple entendre, where things can take on a lot of different meanings. It could be a drunk woman who really wants to get laid or a gay man who wants to have sex, or it can even be about wanting food; like wanting a hamburger inside you. You don’t have to be drunk to want to have sex, but I think the tagger was, because the tag was pretty sloppy!

There are a lot of puns in your work.

For sure. It’s includes my ruminations, and things that bounce around in my head. If I write down an idea, it feels like it loses its power or meaning to me.  But I might not recommend this method for one’s sanity, even though it can be a great way to process a grave situation.

Your work has an obsessive quality that mirrors the obsessive thoughts that we often have but don’t necessarily verbalize. One painting that I kept thinking about in your show is a small text painting with the word “TACT” written urgently on it. It seems so personal, like a “note to self- be more tactful.” It also carries a sense of shame that is comical, painful, and relatable.


There’s a vulnerability that comes from the diaristic quality in your work. It reminds me of the confessional poets like Anne Sexton and Robert Lowell whose work was grounded in their own experiences.

Absolutely. Working in this way feels more honest, and I think that being confessional can also be scary as hell, but I think that people can relate to it more.

It’s refreshing, because people are usually more guarded.

Of course, that’s their problem. I tend to say anything and everything that’s on my mind; the good, the ugly, and the whatever.  Sometimes my work makes people really uneasy.

I would imagine it’s that diaristic quality in your work that makes people uncomfortable. It makes them feel like they’re going through your underwear drawer or something!

Totally! They probably feel overexposed. I think that’s great, and when people walk away from my work, I hope that they will digest it, and gain a new perspective into their own life.

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