HOUX: Advocate for Change
Alexandra Houx Grounds is a young, NYC-based oil painter who recently had an exhibition, Delusions of the Wild. Her solo exhibition, opened in NYC, which features never-before-seen work that prods the delicate space between what is personal and what is social. That space - a world full of vivid fantasies, intimate reflections, and a love for pop culture - pulses within both her work and her personal story as a young, burgeoning artist.
From her studio space in Brooklyn, she is currently promoting her new fashion line, HOUX, which features her artwork on leather jackets and other goods. Her large scale, hyperrealist work often uses her own friends as subjects and prods this delicate space between what is personal and what is social that she mentions. Alexandra is printing her own paintings onto both the exterior and interiors of leather jackets and soon on wallets and backpacks. She then applies, by hand, her signature and finishing touches like the titles of the paintings.
How would you define this “space between what is personal and what is social”, especially in our modern social media-based culture?
People curate how they want to be perceived on social media. They post their highlight reels, instead of the full range of their lives, in order to appear better than they do in reality. The “space between what is personal and what is social,” as I describe it, is the focus on human beings' raw and real relationships with one another, a relationship that lies outside of the camera lens. The most amazing parts of our lives are the ups and the downs and everything in-between, and by posting just the ‘good stuff’ we end up dehumanizing others and are constantly struggling with ourselves and our self-esteem because everyone else’s lives can seem so much better than our own. The intimacies that happen behind closed doors or when we’re not posing for a camera is the true ‘good stuff,’ and the raw and deep sides of ourselves is what is truly beautiful. My most recent show, Delusions of the Wild, explored this intimacy in depth.
How did your fashion line come to life?
Growing up, I always had an interest in fashion design. I attended Parsons Paris for a summer in high school which was a transformative experience for me. Furthering my fashion education through FIT’s summer programs where I drew haute couture pieces and experimented with different mediums on paper, I matured my fashion interest from a hobby into a potential career path. I used the beauty of both cities, Paris and New York, to inspire my designs and although I decided to take the fine art path, I knew fashion was always something I would return to. My paintings are inspired by people, and through my jacket line, I’m looking to close the gap between art and people’s interaction with it on a day-to-day basis. My fashion line is wearable art, it’s turning a person into a breathing canvas. I want my work to spark conversation, to bond people, but to also give you a sense of self. We construct versions of ourselves every day, especially with the clothes we wear, and I love the idea of my work taking part in that kind of empowerment.
Your work is based on pop culture, can you talk a little bit about your inspiration?
Pop Culture is the overarching umbrella term in which I situate my painting themes. Narrowing the scope, my main focus is on sexuality, specifically women’s sexuality and femininity, a large topic within the pop culture of today and the past. I want to embrace the sides of women that so many people feel ashamed, uncomfortable, or offended by. My portraits portray women, often sexualized, yet sexualized by their own accord. They have the freedom to do what they want, be who they want, and express themselves as they please. These women do not care who views them, for the foyer is beckoned instead of un-welcomed. Instead of diminishing femininity, I am encouraging it. I paint the women in my life who exemplify strength and ferocity, and when I venture away from these women I depict female cultural icons of the past who I looked up to growing up. These women are empowering to me and embrace many of the ideals I paint with. In using these women as painting models, I seek to modernize the ideas that made them icons, to begin with.
What was your process of creation?
In making my jackets, I worked with a leather company in an intricate step-by-step process. Firstly, I focused on the overall structure of the jackets. I chose only high-quality materials to ensure long-lasting wear and canvas that would age gracefully. I worked with this company to perfect each detail right down to zipper placement and pocket size. The paintings were digitally printed on the leather, and the biggest challenge was making sure the colours came out to be as vibrant as the paintings they represent. This process of creation definitely did not happen overnight; there were multiple rounds of sample testing to ensure I was 100% happy with the design. After production, each jacket was hand-numbered and signed individually using long-lasting leather paint. The hand-painted signature ensures authenticity and makes these jackets collectors’ items, just like my physical paintings.
What does it mean to you, to be a “young” female artist in our political and social landscape?
I think that I have a unique voice in our political and social landscape right now because I am so young and so aware of my surroundings. I currently attend Columbia University where I represent a new generation of students who are very tuned into social and political activism. As I said earlier about the theme and message behind my works, the society we are currently living in is hyper-tuned into women’s sexuality and embracing freedom in all aspects of the word. Freedom to choose, freedom to live, freedom to be, and freedom to express. My work is a culmination of these feelings, and it is empowering and invigorating to be tuned into the thoughts and feelings of my fellow peers. Our political landscape is tumultuous, and it is extremely important, now more than ever, to find commonalities with the people around you and celebrate all the differences we possess. We all have the power to express our feelings and project our voices, and painting is the medium I choose where I can inspire others to create open, and necessary, dialogues about who we are and who we want to be in our society today.
Alexandra Houx Grounds has an upcoming exhibition, FOREVER, June 12-23 in Paris, France.
By Alexa Bouhelier-Ruelle
Photos provided by artist