From behind the bar of downtown Raleigh music venue, Kings, Alexis Price has served many a drink over the past five years as she’s watched revelers young and old mingle with friends, dance to favorite bands and enjoy their libations. From behind the canvas when she paints, Price creates her own versions of people — with a drink in their hand, dressed up for a night on the town or eating the flesh of a fresh kill. You see, Price’s subjects are not exactly people. At least not the ones you’d see ambling down Martin Street. Rather, they are hybrid beings, odd composites of humans and animals that are at once unsettling and beautiful.
“I think of the creatures I paint as human,” Price says. “The animal element has become a way to express the mood and emotion for each creature. They represent different sides of a personality, different attitudes.”
Most of Price’s paintings depict a delicate female form, petite like Price herself, but with animal heads or appendages. Her subject could be at a party, about to open a bottle of bubbly, head thrown back in laughter. Except the girl’s head is that of a wild dog with flecks of blood dotting the wall near her. Her works feature an array of animals. Lions, bears, foxes, crows, owls and others, merge with human figures in a manner that is unsettling primarily because the creatures morph so naturally into one another that they almost seem familiar.
“I find myself using animals in my work because they are incredibly expressive,” she says.
Price has toyed with this concept for years, going back to her youth. As a child Price wanted to be a veterinarian. “I wore a plastic bunny nose for four or five years straight,” she says. “I just didn’t take it off. Go figure.”
In her art, Price says, “every animal I use is for a reason. I am fascinated with the idea of predator versus prey. Strong versus weak. My paintings have a bit of this intention — the struggle of allowing yourself to be a victim or embracing your own power.”
Indeed, there is an element of dominance in her imagery. One may not feel threatened by a dainty woman clad in only her bra and underwear; in fact, one might even see her as vulnerable. But that perspective is altered when she is viewed as a hunter, covered in blood and feasting on her quarry. Price uses the animals “to question the idea of what beauty is and to see it somewhere other than where you expect it.”
Although Price always wanted to be an artist, she took a circuitous path to get there. She studied and taught dance for many years, in addition to bartending. “Dance was something I enjoyed, but it took me a while to realize that I wasn’t passionate about it enough.” Price drew constantly in her younger years. “Whether it was comic book characters or puppies, I was sketching it.” Of her decision to major in dance in college, she says “it was a default choice after being freaked out by the idea of art school. Life decisions are tricky at any age, let alone making them as a teenager.”
She does not regret her path because it allowed her to figure out her artistic style on her own. “I like being a self-taught artist,” Price says. While she admits art school may have saved her some time from having to “clumsily figure it out on my own over the past decade,” Price also feels “it’s a constant learning process and the satisfaction of discovering a new technique is incredibly gratifying.”
Those interested in checking out Price’s work can find it currently on display at Garland. She will be showing her art at Morning Times in October, at Reanimator in Winston-Salem in November, and with Peregrine Projects in December. Her paintings are available for purchase at www.alexisprice.com.