The Many Identities of Artist and Multidisciplinary Designer Alissa Silvers

Arts & Culture

BY ANDREW FABIAN SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY MAR 27, 2020

If the human experience is an unending series of identity mutations, Alissa Silvers has been a prolific shapeshifter. Born in Switzerland, that centrally located European hodgepodge of languages and cultures, she studied fashion design and figure drawing. She parlayed those skills into work as a visual merchandiser, then pivoted to interior design and, after connecting with a creative director, morphed into a graphic designer. And in between it all, she “was always painting a little bit,” she says.

After visiting Florida with a friend, Silvers met her future husband and would eventually relocate to Sarasota. Among the boxes of commonplace objects like clothes and toothbrushes, she also brought with her the trunk of design experience she amassed in Switzerland and set out to begin again the crafting of yet another identity: abstract portrait artist. And with her experience illustrating human figures and dressing them in bespoke clothing, Silvers was uniquely positioned to bring a fresh take to the endeavor. 

Her portrait work can at times seem as though it’s pulled straight from the cover of a fashion magazine, with a bright pallet of well-coordinated colors that perfectly complement the feminine faces, which themselves evoke the rapid sketches of a fashion designer’s conceptual work. The pieces are joyful, accessible and kinetic, while the recurring use of black and white stripes brings a self-assuredness and order to the abstract rendering of her work’s subject. Altogether, Silvers has quickly managed to create a distinct aesthetic out of her grasp of space and color. “I don’t know, I think I’m still looking for my style,” she says, but all humility aside, her work caught the eye of Art Ovation’s curators, where she spent some time as an artist in residence. She also had a larger exhibition planned for the Harmony Gallery at Sarasota Orchestra’s Beatrice Friedman Symphony Center. It was scheduled to run from April 1st through May 22nd. Her momentum was building, her name and art creeping its way into increasingly prestigious spaces, her transformation into a fine artist nearing fruition. 

Until the coronavirus pandemic upended the social, economic and arts landscape for the region. “I wanted 2020 to be a big year for me,” she says. Though she is fortunate enough to have plenty of remote design work from her contacts and contracts back in Switzerland, the imminent cancellation of her exhibition forced her to reevaluate her trajectory and identity once again. The social distancing protocols and the seclusion they promote are a time for her creative mind to make new connections and ponder new possibilities. In her case, a new possibility stared back at her from the female faces on her canvases. 

In her attempts to make a name for herself in the Sarasota arts scene, she inadvertently made a brand with a signature look. So, she got to thinking: what if fine art could be used as a tool for branding in addition to the tried and true digital methods? “I think I proved with my own work what can be done with fine art in branding,” she says, and she hopes to be able to combine the two into an endeavor that blends her skills with a brush and her penchant for branding. “Artists don’t always have the best business sense,” she says, “but my design and merchandising work taught me a lot about that.” Silvers feels that perhaps instead of crafting a new identity for herself she has found a way to stitch together all the cuts of her previous creative experiences into a cohesive, form-fitting suit, one that gives her the ability to flex in and out of mediums. “This coronavirus thing was kind of a wakeup call,” she says, “but I thought, ‘maybe I need to think bigger.’”

Photo by Arianna J Photography.

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