Love Letter to Alexa Grambush

An amorphous cloud of color and movement made up of various brushstrokes, including dabbed lines of purposeful drops of paint and more subtle, curved lines that weave and meander around, over, and with each other. The piece is sparse, the color choices bold and earthy.
Alexa Grambush, Revive, Arise!, 2018. Watercolor and Pencil (140lb. cold pressed watercolor paper). 18 x 24 inches. Courtesy of Alexa Grambush.

Standing before one of Alexa Grambush’s paintings, I feel the piece long before I find time to think about it. There is no motioning toward higher meaning, no abstraction of the obvious, not even hints. There is only movement, color, texture, feeling. 

Any impulse toward understanding dissolves, and I am left only with the freedom and privilege of feeling alongside her. Her self bleeds through her art, in the same moment that she purposefully recedes from it, leaving behind only impressions of her presence. In this recession, she strips her art of arbitrary forms and instead wraps her brush around the poetic.

The 29-year-old Michigan native, now based in Southern California, described most audiences as seeming to search for a “familiarity of something mortal.” She insists that this lust for meaning misses the point. In her work, Grambush tries “to approach the absolutely corporeal and binding experience of being alive and the deeply mysterious nature of being so,” not by capturing or representing what it means to be alive, but by merely creating something that is itself living.

At once, her subjects expand, contract, inhale, exhale. Every brushstroke has a personality; but their vitality begins with their collaboration. She captures all the mythos and mystery of feeling, without strangling it, mummifying it. Her art arrests understanding, just as it releases it. And I couldn’t possibly begin to understand how. 

Author: Justin Duyao

Justin Duyao (he/him) is a writer, editor, and student with a BA in English Literature from Harding University. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and is pursing an MA in Critical Studies from the Pacific Northwest College of Art. His interests include studies of consciousness, sociolinguistics, and gender. He is Variable West's Editorial Apprentice.