Alison Tharp, Hitler in a Dress

I saw Alison the other day in her North Oakland home studio. She showed me a bunch of her wonderfully dark art work.

Obi: Tell me about Hitler in a dress and its connection to the Masks of Shame.
Alison: Hitler always wore a dress but nobody could see it under his other clothes. Most all of us wear the mask of shame under our everyday faces in the waking world. The mask of shame is a collection of past actions from this life and past lives that we are not proud of and don’t want the world to see or know about us. Weather we remember them or not, in dreams or deep in our subconscious minds we walk around wearing the mask until we resolve our inner conflicts. I would tell you more about Hitler in women’s clothing but it would ruin the surprise. I just wrote a novel about it called, “Hello Winner”.

Obi: A lot of your imagery comes from a personal narrative. Do you consider yourself a writer or a painter first? is there a conflict?
Alison: I think I started writing because there was more to paintings that needed explaining. Sometimes I can’t get a story across using just one or the other so use both. I started painting first and the writing came later. I started self-publishing comic style zines that turned into mini graphic novels that turned into longer more complex novels that had very few drawings if any in them. The conflict is in finding time for both because when I’m writing I can’t really paint and when I’m painting the writing doesn’t happen. It’s like they are siblings fighting for my attention and I say, “Wait your turn!” Writing and illustrating books is my favorite thing in the world. I couldn’t do just one and not the other!

above: The Masks of Shame, below: detail.

Obi: When and Why did you start making art?
Alison: I have been making art for as long as I can remember. The first painting I clearly remember doing was a picture of Shaggy from Scooby Doo. I was two or three years old and very in love with him.

Alison will be included in the Show at Sweetart Drawing Gallery entitled “The Bright Darkness” opening September 12th, 2009. 6602 San Pablo Ave, Oakland, CA.

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