Alison Tharp, The Adventures of Raindrop

Alison Tharp makes paintings whose imagery inhabits the beautiful, organic riverbeds of the mind. A place where mushrooms joyfully grow amidst the strange songs of fairies who were exiled from hipster societies we can not possibly imagine. The content of the art scratches a thin line between the humorous and the horrorific, the comic and the painterly, the magical and the mundane, the childish and the mature, and a number of other polarities. Her prolific portfolio is made up of seemingly lost and precious imagery. Alison is one of those artists whose imagination is so vast that the worlds she exposes us to are startlingly familiar, complete and resonant. 

Her solo show entitled “A Sideways look at Science” is debuting at Zza’s Wine Bar Gallery, July 17th. 6-9pm. 550 Grand Ave. Oakland, California. 

click on the images to enlarge.

She and her friend Jesse made me a spaghetti dinner at her house in North Oakland a couple of weeks ago. The house, by the way, is the same one her grandmother lived in when she was young. The living room is Alison’s Studio. We talked there for a while about the continuity of the imagery…

Obi: Where does the name of your show, a Sideways Look at Science come from?

Alison: I discovered a wonderful children’s record a while back called, “The Adventures of Raindrop”. It  was created in the late 1950’s to teach kids about science and scripture. All of the characters in the recording are singing about the part they play in making rain happen. It’s very sweet! At the same time this recording was made, early psychedelic drug research was being done and the first large-scale nuclear power plants began operating in the U.S. continued below…

I like this point in history because we had this delightful pop music dancing around the invention of the Hydrogen bomb. A Sideways Look at Science comes from our own denial about the world we were creating and the seeds planted that are now coming to fruition.

Obi: I know there is deep symbolism in your work that almost emerges as stories, or at least implicit narratives. For example, what is going on with the building painting and the guy in the clouds, there is a lot of back story there even though it seems like an unassuming building really?

Alison: That building and that guy do have a story behind them. There was a camera developed in the 1960’s capable of capturing the past and future on film. It’s called the Radionic camera. This painting is called “The Pripyat Hotel” and was intended to be a future shot taken of a hotel in the Ukrainian city of Pripyat before the Chernobyl disaster of 1986. There were 50,000 people living in there. The entire city is now completely abandoned. No one can live there because of the high levels of radiation. 

The picture of this hotel was in an old magazine I found. It was an advertisement depicting some of the activities that could be enjoyed while staying there. In the clouds, there were dream like figures playing golf, swimming and dancing. In my future shot of the hotel, radiation is rising up out of the ground and a guy in a lawn chair is pretty bummed that the whole city is a nuclear wasteland. The empty Hotel is being taken over by trees. (this painting is pictured in the first photo above at left)

Obi: This is actually our second interview. How has your work progressed in the last year since our first one. I see a longer lense, deeper environments and more color. Is this true? Where is this coming from?

Alison: This is true! I’m going through kind of a personal renaissance this year. My work is so much a part of my emotional life. In times of real change and struggle, I feel like my paintings get better. I paint faster and with less judgment. Having to make so many paintings for this show has also forced me to paint more deliberately.

This is Zod. Zod lives with Alison and Jesse. I love Zod. Zod doesn’t stay still for the camera but I still like this picture because he is such a great shape.

for more info on Alison Tharp, visit.

Alison and I have worked together before as alluded to in the interview.  type her name into the search entry in the top right of the page to see multiple entries.

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