November 9, 2016

Concepts and Challenges: AAC Resident Artist Alice Whealin’s Third Patterns

Installation view of Alice's work in Complex Transformations at Howard County Arts Council in 2013
Alice’s work in Complex Transformations at HoCo Arts, 2013

As a part of our ongoing Concepts and Challenges series we like to highlight solo exhibitions by current resident artists. Alice Whealin has been with us since 2011, and this is a special post in this series, because this is her final exhibition at Arlington Arts Center.

In order to serve as many artists as possible, our studio residencies have a max time limit of six years. 

So, before Alice moves to her new studio home at Columbia Pike Artists Studios, she was kind enough to give us some insight into the concepts and challenges of her exhibition, Third Patterns, currently on view in the Wyatt Resident Artists Gallery until December 10.

The exhibition is comprised of thirteen works: five feature ink on transparencies and eight works were made with ink on wood panels.

Alice has been producing works using ink on paper and acetate for more than eight years, and wanted to continue to explore drawing and constructing imagery through that process. Having worked with ink on wood in the past she decided to also incorporate this method for the current exhibition.

But what exactly does Third Patterns mean? Alice says “what happens when any two patterns are combined a third pattern is created.”

“For me the grain in each wood panel is one of the patterns. Each new day of work on a panel would become a new second pattern, and the work evolves into a new ‘Third Pattern.’”

What is the concept of your exhibition?

I became aware of how overwhelmed I am in my day to day life by the technical aspects of information overload. And as a response to its conscious and unconscious influence on me, I wanted my works to acknowledge and express the many things that compete for our attention on a daily basis. The works can suggest things in the natural world, human form and scale but can also be submerged in an abstract linear composition. The works can be seen as abstract fields and networks of lines and colors. Micro and macro scales are also suggested within each work.

What are some of the challenges you faced in mounting a solo exhibition and how did you overcome them?

Alice Whealin, Third Patterns, Royal Heart
Alice Whealin, Royal Heart

Working with acrylic ink on unprimed wood panels has been a challenge. I chose to do it because I find it such an amazing process to explore.

I am taking chances of a technical nature by working directly on wood. Each surface is different and nonuniform, partly due to uneven sanding. I was often uncertain of the surface density of the panels, which made each unique.

To make sure I could apply the ink in a controlled way I learned that I had to evenly sand each panel. Sanding evenly helps reduce porosity, which I learned, helps keep the ink from “bleeding.”


I had to consider what these works individually express in order to make the best presentation.  I wanted the individual expression to be equally felt, present and balanced in the gallery space.


Alice Whealin, Untitled, ink on wood. 18x24 in. 2016
Alice Whealin, Untitled

A fine dropper is used to apply the ink to the wood surface. I pour the ink a specific way to achieve certain surface effects. The exciting part is as the ink dries the colors tend to change, which is always a surprise.

As my first time using diptych, working out my plans presented an interesting but exciting set of challenges. My first decision was to make it a vertical work.  

I then needed to decide which of four different ways would be best to use the wood grain when I combined the two panels before I even began to paint.

Alice Whealin, Heart of the People
Alice Whealin, Heart of the People

I took photos of the panels before I began painting them and did drawings in pencil of the wood grain. Then I did some initial studies of the form I was planning to paint on the drawn wood grain study. 

Working in my current studio, I would look at the works on one wall together. When the works moved out of the studio and into the gallery, the color and form appeared quite different because they were to be divided among three walls in the gallery.

Having other resident artists, along with Karyn Miller, AAC’s Director of Exhibitions, suggest possible arrangements of the works and how they could be arranged was extremely helpful.

It really helped me consider new ways to use the works in the installation. I had to consider what these works individually express in order to make the best presentation.  I wanted the individual expression to be equally felt, present and balanced in the gallery space.

About the Artist

Alice Whealin, photo by Dawn Whitmore
photo by Dawn Whitmore

As a lover of nature, hiking, and the outdoors, Alice’s work focuses on natural, figurative, and organic imagery. Her work incorporates mixed media, painting and drawing.

Alice attended the graduate program at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University. Her BA is in art from Rowan University. She also holds a Certificate in Structures from Johnson Atelier Technical Institute of Sculpture.

Her work appears in journals in Washington DC, Philadelphia, and New York, and has been exhibited internationally in the Museo Della Carta in Italy.

Third Patterns is now on view until December 18, 2016. You can also catch her at the Columbia Pike Artist Studios exhibition November 12 and 13, 2016.

Alice will be leaving AAC’s residency program at the end of the year to be a full-time resident at Columbia Pike Artists Studios. We’ll miss you Alice!


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