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Made in St. Louis: Nature, struggles enhance 'explosive' artwork

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Alison Bozarth’s art, the creatures and concepts she articulates in swirls of color and precise line, in strong graphics and in playful drawings can only be characterized as predictably unpredictable, an idea she embraces wholeheartedly.

“I find a lot of things really intriguing. I have always loved animals and nature, and my work reflects that, but I jump in everywhere. I’m like freckles. I have freckles. They’re random, and beautiful, large and small, and they can pop up anywhere. That’s why I named my business Freckled Illustrations. When I get intrigued by something, I pursue it,” Bozarth says.

MISL Alison Bozarth for publication July 7, 2022

Artist Alison Bozarth

Bozarth and the baby bat • Stories and beautiful illustrations filled Bozarth’s head when her parents read to her as a child, but one book, one story, resonated with her on many levels.

“The book ‘Stellaluna’ caught my attention. I love the artwork, the baby bat, and the story. She was different, but she learned how to fit in,” Bozarth says.

“Stellaluna” fueled her fascination with the natural world. “I loved the zoo, and from there I went all in with loving animals. While other kids were watching cartoons I was watching Animal Planet where a lion would be ripping apart a zebra,” she says, “and I was OK with that. It’s nature.”

MISL Alison Bozarth for publication July 7, 2022

Bozarth creates illustrations centered on stories or an idea, as in this colorful reminder to get out and vote. Photo by Alison Bozarth

The story of the baby fruit bat who didn’t fit in also touched the young artist. From the time I was very small, I’ve had a learning disability. I have trouble understanding words and written language, which hindered me in classes and created a lot of anxiety,” she says. “I scored on a genius level in emotional understanding in the personality tests in school, but schoolwork was hard for me.”

Like Stellaluna, she found ways to turn her stumbling blocks into strongpoints. “I have visual and emotional understandings of things. It explains why I have this need to express myself visually, and I think it enhances my artwork, too.”

MISL Alison Bozarth for publication August 7, 2022

An exotic small bearded dragon lounges in an abstract swirl of color next to a blooming cactus, a nod to its warm desert home.

The path to life as a working artist • Bozarth had enjoyed painting and drawing from a young age, but she hadn’t considered going to college for art. When Webster University offered her a scholarship in art, she toured the school. “It was small, and local, and my parents loved that I would be in town,” she says. “I was disappointed there was no illustration major at that time, but I was able to put together my own program with three professors and that worked for me.”

To earn her degree, Bozarth worked with professors in painting, sculpture and drawing, skills she uses in her work today. The university brought in illustrators to meet with Bozarth, and facilitated her learning there.

“One of my professors at Webster, Carol Hudson, characterized my demeanor and my artwork as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. She described me as soft-spoken and very quiet, but she said my artwork was explosive, eye-opening and loud. I liked that description. I’d never thought of myself that way, but it fit,” she says.

Into the unknown • Bozarth doesn’t know where her interests and explorations will take her, a phenomenon she describes as “the unknown.” “I’m an illustrator at heart, so I can get behind anything with a concept or story,” Bozarth says.

MISL Alison Bozarth for publication July 7, 2022

From the ‘Time to Talk’ series on mental illnesses, comes Bozarth’s graphic image of bulimia. 

One of Bozarth’s current project, “Time to Talk,” focuses on mental illness. “I wanted to make something that’s invisible visible; to give these illnesses a visual form,” she says. She created strong black and white graphics to do the job, which she has made into a poster called “Time to Talk.” Her experiences with anxiety informed her decision to make these works.

“I’ve only had one show with these pieces, and I don’t know where it will go from here,” she says.

The trip to find out is worth taking for Bozarth. “I have a home studio, so I work pretty much anywhere there’s a flat surface in our home. Sometimes I get tired of my house and just want to go to a quiet place. I’ll take my work to my space in Soulard Art Gallery. Sometimes I’ll work in the morning, then stay for the evening to let people see me, and what I’m working on,” she says.

MISL Alison Bozarth for publication August 7, 2022

Bozarth teases out incredible detail in the fine line work to capture a bee gathering pollen on a blue flower.

Freckled Illustrations

Artist • Alison Bozarth

Age • 29

Family • Alison and her husband, Adam Martz, live with a curious cat named Ares, named after the Greek god of war. She attributes her love of color to her mother, Renau Bozarth. Her father, Vernon Bozarth, shared his love of drawing and cartooning with Alison during her art journey.

Home • Rock Hill

What she makes • In addition to the original paintings, prints, sculptures, stickers and wall décor she makes and sells, Bozarth enjoys telling stories through illustrations.

Where to buy • Bozarth’s work can be purchased at Soulard Art Gallery and at Artisans in the Loop as well as through her website, alisonbozarthart.com. She also sells at art fairs and lists her upcoming shows on Facebook and on Instagram. She will be at the Mosaics Fine Art Festival in St. Charles Sept. 16-18 and at Francis Park in south city for Art in the Park on Sept. 25.

How much • Original paintings range from $150 to $900 are priced according to size. Prints vary from $10 to $125 depending on size and whether or not they are framed.

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