Multimedia artist is best known for combining genres
The rules of making art can only be enforced by imagination, a lesson Hendersonville artist Alice Greko learned early on. “I had a wonderful art teacher in grade school and middle school,” Greko recalls. “She encouraged me to do projects that I came up with — and allowed me to substitute those projects for activities I didn’t enjoy doing.
“She made me feel that it was OK to look at life differently.”
For Greko, that different viewpoint takes many forms, from ceramics to acrylics, watercolor, and pastels — all of which she’s explored in her lifelong career. Underlying many of those media is her skill in photography, which provides the seminal images from which much of her other work is derived.
“Something in the scene has moved you,” Greko says of the simple act of taking a photograph. “The photograph, however, also picks up everything else that’s there.” Using software to help “clear away the distractions,” as she puts it, Greko can distill an image to focus on what originally attracted her eye. “I can capture, for myself at least, so many of the things I’m moved by in a photograph. I can’t paint as many artworks as I can take photographs.”
But Greko’s most popular works combine both genres: These are photos that she extends beyond their frames by painting with acrylics. The chamfered frames are handmade by her husband with a perfectly smooth, flat surface for the acrylic embellishment. The technique came to her some years ago, in Florida, where the couple was then living.
“I had a photo of sailboats and I couldn’t find a frame that worked with the image,” she explains. She had always been attracted to the way painters used matting to extend beyond each work’s plane, “so I decided I would try extending the sailboat background onto the [photograph’s] frame to see if that worked. It did.” Matching the painted frame’s colors with those of the photo demands natural light, provided by the skylights that Greko had installed in her studio for the purpose. “When the color match is perfect, it’s hard to tell where the photograph ends and the painting begins,” she points out.
Acrylic is the medium of choice for such pieces because it blends most easily to produce complex shading and modeling. “You can use acrylics like watercolors as long as you do all of it before they dry,” Greko says. “You can blend and layer them to match almost any color. They’re easy to correct and easy to frame.” She has also used acrylics to create smaller works on canvas, from which she produces prints for greeting cards.
Pastels can produce brilliant colors, but “they’re messy and the finished work required extra care,” Greko says. “So my pastels sit on the shelf.” But she still loves the moods that can be evoked with watercolor, along with the ability to add to existing work, and works occasionally in the form, “but they need to be displayed under glass,” she says, “and I am done with transporting glass or plexiglass to art shows.” Colored pencil is another of her adopted mediums, one she values for the subtle effects that can be achieved with pastel-like layering, especially evident in her series of Audubon-inspired drawings of birds.
“But you have to put a lot of effort to get the rich color on the page,” Greko says. “So to do a larger piece, you have to take a lot of time.” She’s never worked in oil, citing a disinclination for the “chemicals, clean up, and drying time,” although two of her favorite artists —Winslow Homer and the late contemporary painter Richard Schmid — worked almost exclusively in oil.
“Homer captured the feeling of a scene and painted where I wanted to be,” she says. “Richard Schmid was a master of edges, and I love the way the whole image focuses the viewer on what he wanted to portray.”
Right now, though, ceramics comes first. Greko makes tiles, bowls, and pots, to which she adds textured painting and glazes. The images — like most of her work — are focused on nature scenes and animal figures.
“I admire what can be done with all these materials, and although I won’t ever abandon anything I like to do already, right now I’m fascinated by ceramics.”
Alice Greko, Hendersonville. Greko’s work is represented by Art Mob Studios & Marketplace (124 4th Ave. East, Hendersonville, 828-693-4545, artmobstudios.com), where she’ll offer demonstrations on Saturday, Oct. 9, and Saturday, Nov. 13, from 11am-4pm. Her work is also carried at Hunters and Gatherers (40 West Main St., Brevard, 828-883-3709).