Houston’s Emerging Artists Share 5 Things They Love

Over the past century, women have made revolutionary advances in the visual arts. Although history has used their gender to devalue their creative work, artists like Niki de Saint Phalle, Faith Ringgold, Judy Chicago, and Emma Amos have worked to destabilize patriarchal hierarchies in the field. Whether through traditional mediums such as painting and drawing, or even conceptual art, Houston has a number of talented female artists working in the feminist tradition. Whether they aim to shake up social expectations, unearth stories or escape into their imagination, these artists have a unique approach.

In honor of Women’s History Month, we asked three up-and-coming Houston artists — Rabéa Ballin, Lovie Olivia, and Alexis Pye — to share five things they love and why they’re inspired to create.

Lovie Olivia

As a multidisciplinary artist, Lovie Olivia explores body, beauty and identity through a black and queer perspective. Working primarily in painting, Olivia aims to challenge the historical canon of predominantly white European male art by reinventing fresco painting – an age-old plaster-based mural technique. The majority of his work originates from the literary ideas of writers Audre Lorde, Pat Park and Bell Hooks. She is a proud graduate of Kinder High School of the Performing and Visual Arts, where she laid the foundation for her artistic success and her self-taught approach to creating art. Her most recent solo presentation at the Bill Arning Exhibitions in 2021 featured a series of multi-textured paintings and sculptures on queer desire.

Five things Lovie Olivia loves:

  1. Uses of the erotic by Audre Lorde: “This book is a must-have for me, especially lately, as I introduce more language around kink and the power of pleasure and aesthetics. This book is central to that conversation.

  2. Meshell Ndegeocello: “She has been a constant for me and my work. Its sound varies; she refuses to fit into a box.

  3. Zola (2020): “I am a cinephile; I watch movies all the time. This film was a new experience. It was uncharted territory. Five minutes later, I was amazed. I also love that it’s a movie that celebrates sex work.

  4. Sonya Clark: “In terms of roundness and the wide range of topics she is able to address with one or two materials, Sonya Clark is a big influence on my practice.”

  5. Two dams and a knife: “I am a novice cook. Food is the other medium I use to express myself and peel through layers of culture, people and diasporas. It is a medium that is not laden with any preconceived ideas. I can just jump in and reach people in a different way than I can with visual arts.

Rabea Ballin

Through drawing, engraving and photographic processes, Rabéa Ballin reveals hidden and little-known stories. Born in Germany and raised in South Louisiana, she trained in graphic design and art history before beginning her journey as an artist. Raised in her mother’s hair salon and inspired by the work of Nigerian photographer JD Okhai Ojeikere (1930-2014), Ballin creates orbits around hair politics, multiculturalism and identity. She is part of a women’s printmaking collective called ROUX, along with Houston-based Lovie Olivia, Ann Johnson and Delita Martin. In addition to creating art, Ballin is an educator and directs the fine arts program at Lone Star College-North Harris.

five things Rabéa Ballin likes:

  1. MasterClass.com: “One of the things I believe in is learning things I know nothing about. I get lost in MasterClass.

  2. fraser: I am a fraser expert; it’s my favorite show. I watched it at bedtime before moving to Houston. It’s witty, light-hearted and well-written.

  3. My girlfriend: “They are amazing and have such a big influence on my work.”

  4. Sancerre: “I’ve watched shows on Acorn, and there’s a show where the characters drank this white wine. I found it at Whole Foods and it’s my new favorite.

  5. Pollen on Spotify: “Music is a big part of my job; many of my titles are based on song lyrics. I also listen to Pollen, a Spotify playlist recommended by my goddaughter.

Alexis Pie

With escapism as a starting point, Alexis Pye uses painting to unite elements of the real world with the fantastic. She explores intimacy and black identity. Her paintings are what she considers “odes to people”, based on stories, characteristics and metaphors drawn from her upbringing in East Detroit and her imagination. Often posed in a lush garden setting, Pye’s subjects are depicted with neutral colors and soft brushstrokes. Although she is not originally from the South, Houston and her vast landscape have played a crucial role in her practice, providing support and inspiration.

Five Things Alexis Pye Love :

  1. Evasion: “I live in my head a lot and daydreaming can be extremely helpful when creating work. I often think about the stories I hear and how they can be confused with real life and reality. J have visions of scenes that I love to see play out through painting and drawing.

  2. Detroit: “I spent my formative years there; my family is from there. I like the people, the current music that comes out of them. The Detroit Institute of the Arts is one of my favorite places. You can get a great corned beef sandwich at Lou’s, Better Made chips or Vernors pop (ginger ale).”

  3. Cakes with chocolate chips: “Preferably homemade by my little sister Amanda, or by Mrs. Fields. But store bought is fine too.

  4. My favorite things – John Coltrane: “It’s a must-have studio album; the title track is one of my favorite covers in music.

  5. Sappy romantic coms from the 90s/early 2000s: “I love how they convey a mood and storytelling that you don’t see these days. The use of light and color is how I achieve palettes for painting. My favorites are Under the Tuscan sun, Amélie, as good as it gets and My Fat Greek Wedding.”

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