Anita Arliss is known for hyperrealist paintings that often combine external and invented realities through a layering of multiple media, from intimate portraits to fleeting images of spontaneous events.
“I employ my skills in photography, digital manipulation, large-format inkjet print, canvas, oil paint and acrylic,” the artist explained. “Highly saturated colors, broken-up shapes and dispersed light describe confident figures. I don’t work from sketches; my paintings are not planned. My images mix figuration and abstraction.”
Arliss lives in a Virginia Highland bungalow, surrounded by her own work and sentimental pieces she’s collected. She works in a small home studio and a larger West End studio that serves as her daily workspace.
If you’ve been to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport, you’ve likely walked over Arliss’s large glass tile mosaic, which is permanently installed in the floor of Concourse B. Read on to learn about her wide-ranging taste, famous mentors and how she managed to turn the airport into her canvas.
Jaffe: Describe your process.
Arliss: I paint with shape, color and light to create imagery that combines old and new ideas. I explore the multiplicities and notions of “real” in contemporary painting. My recent landscape painting, “Pastoral,” could illustrate a viewer seeing euphoria, deception or both.
Jaffe: How does your New York background influence your work?
Arliss: Diversity is intrinsic to New York, and I interacted with a wide range of different people. I was an artist in Manhattan in the ’70s, when the art scene was exploding. I went to the Art Students League as a child and Music and Art High School. Then I earned my BA and MA in Fine Arts at Manhattan’s Hunter College, and followed up with two years at Studio and Forum of Stage Design in the West Village. Growing up, I spent a great deal of time looking at art museums and galleries in Manhattan. I studied with or worked for many well-known artists (Robert Morris, Balanchine) film directors (Robert Redford) and designers (Bill Groom) in New York. All of this certainly influenced me.
Jaffe: Describe your home.
Arliss: It’s a 1930 Craftsman Bungalow. Art is all around, and I sometimes rotate it. Walls represent years of collecting. Works by Cindy Sherman, Palmer Hayden, Gilbert & George, Mike and Doug Starn, Paris flea market finds, an art deco burl walnut armoire, Currier and Ives, Alberto Casais, Teresa Bramlette Reeves. E.K. Huckaby, Hopi Indian crafts, and folk art fills the gamut. I do like old things. One unique thing we have is a Presidential Proclamation from Bill Clinton, to whom our son wrote to request a national “Children’s Day,” comparable to the traditional Mother’s and Father’s Day holidays. And Clinton complied!
Jaffe: Your airport mosaic is a masterpiece. How did you score that?
Arliss: I was among a long list of artists invited by Fulton County Public Arts Program to submit a proposal for the concourse center point at Hartsfield-Jackson in 2004, and then invited back to submit more drawings and blueprints. After I was shortlisted, I made a site-specific design with materials, colors and images for the 21-ft. mosaic proposal. I was thrilled that it was chosen by the committee. It took more than four years until my design was a reality on Concourse B, because of budget and committee clearance phases. When all was approved, I flew to the mosaic fabricator in Italy and was with the technicians at the airport installation.
Jaffe: Does your art speak to your social statements?
Arliss: Basically, as an artist, I have to engage and say something about the social injustices, ecological concerns and political issues that are dehumanizing, like racism, gun violence, domestic abuse, terrorism, climate change, dictators, genocide and more. Having an artistic sensibility means that I am innately political. I may not be able to change anything, but at least I can make a difference in some way.
Jaffe: Which of your pieces are most dear to you?
Arliss: The portraits are the best category for using all my art knowledge and capability. I also greatly enjoy painting them. My commissioned portrait paintings start at $5,000. They’re the culmination of all of my artistic interests over time.
Jaffe: As a child, were you immersed in art?
Arliss: My father would laugh when remembering me, at age four, with palette, paper and paintbrush in my hand, declaring to him my future was to be an artist. I began private art lessons at the age of 10 and continued to be immersed in art my entire life.
Jaffe: What do you consider to be your intrinsic talent?
Arliss: I can look, see, understand and communicate a possible shared experience; even if it may be idiosyncratic, someone can connect.
Jaffe: How does the Atlanta art community position your work?
Arliss: There’s a lot of opportunity here for artists, and our community is very supportive of one another. I feel my work is highly respected here. I moved here because my husband, author Alan Axelrod, accepted a position at Ted Turner’s publishing company in Atlanta. Our son was just 7 when we moved; and he loved to spend time outdoors and in nature, so it was a good fit. I was ready to move, too, after years of painting full-time as a movie and television scenic artist, and we agreed it would be just great if I could concentrate on my own work. Our pup, Pearly, provides a lot of fun here, too.
Jaffe: If you could wake up and have one piece of art in your home, what would it be?
Arliss: “A Bar at the Folies-Bergère,” by Édouard Manet (1882). Who wouldn’t want that?
- Chai Style
- Marcia Caller Jaffe
- Anita Arliss
- digital manipulation
- large-format inkjet print
- oil paint
- Virginia Highland
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport
- Art Students League
- Music and Art High School
- Hunter College
- Studio and Forum of Stage Design
- Robert Morris
- Robert Redford
- Bill Groom
- Craftsman Bungalow
- Cindy Sherman
- Palmer Hayden
- Gilbert & George
- Mike and Doug Starn
- Currier and Ives
- Alberto Casais
- Teresa Bramlette Reeves. E.K. Huckaby
- Hopi Indian crafts
- Folk Art
- Fulton County Public Arts Program
- Alan Axelrod
- Édouard Manet