Artist of the Week Alexa Moretti ’24 on Textured Trees 

A year ago, Alexa Moretti ’24 and I were in the same Painting I course. I remember being stunned, strolling into Old Tarble and seeing her insane textured paintings lightly perched on the high walls. Everything she painted seemed so effortless, ambitious, spontaneous, and undeniably creative. So, when we sat down for the interview, I wasn’t too surprised to hear that she’s been painting since childhood.

Cleaning out their home, Alexa reflected on how her mom kept all of her kindergarten paintings. She thought that “it was so sweet that she kept all of my artwork, like ever. They’re interactive and they’re basically scribbles, but she documented them so well. I only took art more formally in high school. That’s when I really started to think more intentionally about it but I feel it’s just kind of an effort.”

What I admire most about Alexa’s works is her attention to movement within her heavily textured spaces. They feel dynamic and inviting in their spontaneity. Additionally, because her works can tend to be a little impressionistic, where she chooses to place the most detail and emphasis becomes a puzzle in and of itself. 

“Oh, and this was probably the 2019-to-2020 New Year so right before COVID. But yeah, so you can see basically yellow scattered throughout because it symbolizes good luck. So everybody was just rushing to get the yellow thing,” as she recalled upon that experience. “I was actually passing by on a bus. I took a super quick photo while I was sitting down and I don’t think I’m a photographer. By any means. But, you know, I base my own work on my own photos.”

Alexa expanded upon her approach to painting, “I’m really obsessed with not just movement, but specifically moving in a space where others are. So I love taking the train – this idea of communal transport. Because it’s one moment where you’re all in the same place but you’re all going to different places. Life isn’t still so I feel like painting my paintings can’t really be entirely still either.”

Despite the overwhelming movement in her works, they never feel frantic. Or rather, the movements seem synchronized. Perhaps this effect is best exemplified by her piece, A La Cocina, which depicts an everyday breakfast at home. 

“That’s my mom. That’s her kitchen. And the kitchen was one of my favorite places in our house, even though it’s a tiny house, tiny kitchen,” Alexa said. “But we have this window in the back and it lets in beautiful light in the mornings in the evenings, but this was a morning. And yeah, I don’t know sometimes I just look at the things happening. And my mom is one of the things happening a lot because I grew up with just as I said, so it’s literally just my mom and me in New York. And I wanted to depict morning in the kitchen.”

I admire Alexa’s ability to depict a scene in its fullest capacity. This is breakfast in the Moretti household – from the scrambled eggs to the carefully washed plates. It seems intimate, distanced, fluid, and yet still. Each smaller panel is like a tiny extra glimpse into her life. But we, as viewers, are only allowed to see these snapshots of the kitchen. Ultimately, it is not our space. It’s hers and her mother’s only, and we’re simply lucky to just observe the scene unraveling. 

Whenever Alexa paints scenes from her life, they contain a voyeuristic quality. We don’t dare to ask for more because we know it’s a privilege to get a sliver. “Something so simple, like washing dishes, or cutting an apple is so intimate and so meaningful and healing and I want my works to feel that intimacy,” she said.

In “Mateo,” she describes a similar experience creating the piece. 

“This was one of my most favorite paintings, that’s me in the middle, my mom, and that’s a little alpaca. My mom is very silly, so I feel like it’s a very good representation of her personality. The alpaca’s very conceited and I wanted to be in this one. I wanted to highlight that I’m very proud of my family. I also wanted to represent the Rainbow Mountains. Although we weren’t there, I wanted to bring in those colors because those are also like very traditional grouping colors. The sky was so blue.”

It’s Alexa’s connection to her subjects that makes her art so visually resonant and appealing. So, you can imagine my surprise when she said she wanted to focus on…tree bark.

“It’s like a visual effect in real life, they’re all just so unreal. But then I know that trees are all just under the ground. They’re just talking to each other. And that’s so beautiful to me. We need them, they give so much to us, and they’re just so beautiful,” she said.

The week after our interview, I strolled into our Painting III course to see a wall filled with handmade ink tree bark drawings. When Alexa had initially explained to me the beauty of tree bark, I was a bit confused. But staring at her wall of kaleidoscopic trees, I realized that there might be something effortlessly personal about her perspective towards nature. Perhaps I’ll never paint tree bark the way Alexa does, but I don’t want to. Her tree bark is beautiful because it has her trademark spontaneity. It is textured, dynamic, and undeniably Alexa.

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