Open Account: Alicia R Peterson On Fear, Chance, and Giving Voice To Our Stories
July 25th, 2019
In Open Account, ¡Katie B Funk! profiles artists, sharing their financial and creative memories, successes, and challenges.
No edges. No boundaries. Seemingly endless space.
These are the channels of thought from which New York visual artist Alicia R Peterson pulls from in her current work. Bold swirls and splashes of color are met by both the chance and certainty of gravity, while canvas edges void to curves.
“In 2018, I was called to paint exclusively on circles and ovals with convex edges in a visceral moment of searching for continuity, wholeness, hope. I was pulled to this organic form like a force of nature. Convex edges become an integral part of the painting, flowing outward onto the walls in which they hang.”
What first drew you to painting?
“After two decades as a Doctor of Audiology, I was literally called to paint in 1994. I was in the midst of a shadow-filled time. Out of the blue, I began hearing an internal voice – ‘Paint! Paint! Paint!’ My keen analytic brain could not fathom how and why this voice would not silence. Despite all of my efforts to quiet this voice, the command to paint was relentless.”
“Feeling on the brink of crazy, I surrendered. Without any formal training, without knowing how, I painted. What emerged on my canvas was my story. It was not a story I knew. I thought my light had been extinguished. In painting, I saw a glimmer and sparkle of myself. I helped others find their voice as an audiologist; I found my voice painting. As you enter my paintings, I hear your voice. We share our stories.”
What is your first memory of money?
“As a youngster, I received a large birthday check. With $50 in hand, I declared ‘I am rich! I can get anything I want!’ and knew I wanted a Barbe playhouse complete with furniture. I made a list and when everything added up (New York sales tax included!), I could not afford all my heart’s desire. I remember being disappointed and confused – as I was rich, how could this be?”
Then, one day, the playhouse showed up.
“To my surprise, my mother ‘mommy networked’ and found me a used playhouse. I said thank you, but didn’t mean it – I was not happy as I wanted a new playhouse. When I think about this memory today, I am grateful for my mom’s actions to find me what I wanted in a way that fit both our budgets. I try not to judge my younger self, as money is such a confusing concept for children to grasp.”
How do you define the value of your work?
“For too long, I believed worth equaled money. If my art sold for large amounts of money, I was a worthy artist. I struggled through years of price angst; raising and lowering prices while tearing out hair and experiencing full body stress. Ultimately, I realized that as I devalued my art, I was devaluing the power of art to change our lives. If we do not value our worth as individual artists, we lessen what we know to be true. Art has the power to transmute, and this is our gift to the world.”
How do you like to organize your finances?
“I started my business in 2013 after painting in isolation for 20 years. The decision to pursue art professionally was a gut decision, one made amidst the chaos of a divorce after 32 years of marriage. I quit my job as an audiologist and formed “Alicia R Peterson Art”. I self-invested, utilizing my savings for my start-up years.”
“My science brain knew I needed a financial base that would support my non-analytical decisions. Luckily, I already had a strong and trusted team established. I made a short and long term plan with my financial advisor, making very clear what my dollars could and could not do. I consulted with my CPA and set up financial safeguards. I slogged through learning QuickBooks, which meant coming clean to my financial team that as someone with dyslexia and processing difficulties, I had serious arithmetic challenges. Sheepishly, I admitted that my bank accounts were not easy to reconcile, and that there always seemed to be unaccounted sums of money. Small amounts were never a big problem, but I knew as a business woman even the smallest discrepancies could not stand. I had to know the numbers.”
“I am in new territory with pricing my work, as I have begun to integrate my belief and value as an artist into my business. I now perform monthly audits on myself, quarterly meetings with my financial advisor, and have yearly big picture discussions as well. With the team of my CPA, book-keeper, and financial advisor, I feel comforted and bolstered – freeing me to soar.”
Where do you look to when creative block or “Imposter Syndrome” strikes to gain new insight and inspiration?
“After living for 60 years and painting for 25, I finally have an answer – Imposter Syndrome has plagued me as an artist since I first put color on canvas in 1994. To be honest, it has been my companion for as long as I can remember. I always thought my fraud alerts as an abstract artist would end one day, and that the deafening voice of defeat would silence if only…
…I sold enough paintings.
…I had wide scale recognition.
…hordes of folks flocked to my openings.
“I consider Imposter Syndrome one of the many faces of fear, and in the past have spent a lot of energy not listening to it. I am now on a bone-deep journey of excavating my fear and looking it straight in the eye. Once I truly listened to the voice of fear, I discovered that it no longer took over, and that there is actually wisdom in the voice. Often, fear was fleeting if I could stay present. I could hold fear and another emotion at the same time; fearful of launching a painting, but ecstatic to behold its beauty.”
“I have reached an accord with the voices of fraud and fear. I know now that when I hear them, I am on the stormy precipice of risk – ready to jump into the abyss of creation. Risk is a part of our creative force. Risk is what we as artists do every day in the studio.
What is your biggest dream?
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou
“I know with all my heart that the arts have the power to transmute. By dancing with both our Shadow and Light, we become one. When I paint Shadow, I find beauty. I find truth. I am transformed even in my most angsty times. This is the power of telling our stories.”
“What if we all had a way to tell our stories? What if our deepest fear and pain were heard? What if we discovered the sparkles that live inside us and we shared our glimmer with each other? These days, I am often awash in sadness and righteous rage for our world. It is in these times that I find solace in my studio. I know deep in my bones that beauty is alchemy, and that creating or viewing beauty resets our internal compass.”
“I paint as a catalyst of hope. I don’t have a detailed plan…YET. I am not even sure what it will look like. But I know that the power of art can save lives, as it saved mine, I found my voice, found my story, and found my way back to the infinite me. May you find your infinity.”
Visit https://aliciarpeterson.com/, check out @aliciarpetersonart on Instagram, and Facebook “Alicia R Peterson” to learn more about Alicia and her work.