Women Talk Art: Alyssa Richards

Alyssa Richards is a contemporary artist and UX/UI designer based in San Antonio. Before moving to Texas, she lived and worked in Indianapolis, where she cut her teeth in corporate design. Richards worked on projects ranging from websites to motion graphics to good ol’ fashioned print design. In 2014, she received an award for How’s In-House Design Awards and featured in their magazine. 

Trading cornfields for cacti in 2017, Alyssa moved to San Antonio to continue her career as a UX/UI designer. Outside of the office, Alyssa is a co-director of Clamp Light Studios and Gallery. In her studio practice, she focuses on the intersection between illustration, design, and research. Richards’ most recent body of work uses an analytical method to uncover the flux of how we form our sense of self.  

Alyssa Richards, Living Heirloom: A Note to Flemming, 2019

How do you describe your artistic practice in 10 words?
A scientific method that uncovers the tenderness of our relationships.

What is the best advice you can offer to someone looking for a studio?
Finding a studio in San Antonio was one of the best decisions I made for my practice. What makes my studio work for me boils down to three components: timing, location, and community. 

I tried finding a studio previous to my move to San Antonio, but the timing wasn’t right. While I think being an artist takes discipline, a studio commitment should also fit within the cadence of your life. I’ve found that forcing things didn’t produce my best quality work. Once the timing was right, the location made a huge difference for me. Being excited about walking into my studio brings a lot of momentum to my craft. And last by not least, surrounding myself with fellow artists who inspire me is my most essential studio criteria. (Shout out to Clamp Light Studios and Gallery!) A community of artists is one of the most powerful, yet critical, forces of inspiration.

Alyssa Richards, Probability of Being Sweet, 2019

What is the hardest part of balancing a full-time job and artistic practice?
What a question! My knee-jerk response is short: sleep is the hardest part. In the past few years, this question has been in front of my mind. Truthfully, I’m a personality that likes to take on all. the. things., so balance, at times, feels elusive. While I wish there were more hours in the day, I have found that often my studio practice influences my role as a UI/UX designer and vice versa. Even though it’s hard work, pushing myself to find new ways to problem solve and visually communicate both in the studio and the office has allowed me to develop a stronger voice.

What are some ways you challenge your practice?
Often I choose a subject or topic that I wish I knew more about. Researching, reading scientific journals, and finding answers to my questions is one of my favorite ways to challenge my practice. Typically, my questions center around drawing relationships between the objective and subjective. I find that using a scientific lens to draw connections allows me to work within a system where I test and learn. And then, after a lot of experiments, a body of work starts emerging that feels more empathetic than my original questions.

How do you approach a critic of your work and others?
Receiving criticism has been a really valuable tool for my practice. It allows me to pause and consider another perspective, even if I don’t necessarily agree with it. I’m interested in peoples’ views and how I can find ways to create impact. I think trying to understand each other is one of the most worthwhile things we can do. 

Alyssa Richards, Nothing Sweet Without Some Salt: Unexpected Lessons in Closeness, 2019

If any artist/curator could mentor you, who would it be?
Ray Eames! I don’t think I go a week without referencing her in some conversation. Between her and Charles, they transformed the way we live. Ray originally studied as a painter and often said as a designer, she just traded her palette. Ray took what she learned in painting and applied it to every visual problem she encountered. What makes her so inspiring is that she harnessed the ability to use art and design as an empathetic tool. 

Who is a female artist you look up to, and why?
Louise Bourgeois, she is tough and tender all in one. I’ve always been intrigued by her life and art. The pivotal moment for me was seeing her work at Dia:Beacon in New York. I stumbled into a room dense with her sculpture, drawing, and writing. In that immersive exhibit, Bourgeois taught me if you are specific enough to your own experience, it often becomes universal. Ever since that trip, I’ve been trying to live up to the model of profound honesty her work embodies.

Author: Deliasofia Zacarias

Deliasofia Zacarias is one of the Unfiltered San Antonio co-founders. Double-majored in business and studio art, Zacarias is interested in art politics, food, and a whole lot of Netflix. She is currently LACMA's Emerging Art Professional Fellow in Los Angeles, CA.

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