Alyson Khan

Denver, CO.

I am inspired and influenced by visual opposites: the clean lines of mid-century design and rough tribal objects, Art Deco elements and raw and primitive gestural marks. Also in the mix is an attraction to two-dimensional icons and occult symbols, stained glass windows, rustic chapels, carnivalesque costumes, ceremonial garments, and carefully arranged altars. In process, I am also conducting deep investigations into color, exploring its dynamic tendency to spark abstract narrative driven by emotional response.

"The Odd Prism"

A Q&A with Alyson Khan

Where did you grow up?

I grew up mostly in good ol’ Arvada. Then lived in Boulder and now Denver for the past 23 years.

At what point in your life did you decide to pursue a creative path?

I remember consciously deciding to make things when I was maybe 18 – when I decided I wanted a sewing machine and I started making hats and record bags out of upholstery remnants. I took pattern drafting and sewing classes at Emily Griffith. That decision could mark the moment when I committed to setting aside time to create and prioritizing that thing-making was an important part of my life and schedule.

Do you have a favorite piece you’ve made?

I do have favorite pieces and they are the ones that have the most in them—the most layers, the deepest history, the most mistakes, the most pain and frustration…And they are the pieces that people resonate with the most. Those pieces are precious and important to learn from and then to let go of.

What album/song are you currently listening to?

I like a lot of different music, from Arto Lindsey to Mulatu Astatke, Warpaint to Ryuchi Sakamoto, Massive Attack to Queens of the Stone Age…I usually pick a vibe and ride the Spotify train while I’m working.   

Do you recall the first piece you made?

My first collection of pieces were paintings on thick shards of glass from a shattered pastry case. Watercolor, spray paint, acrylic, paint markers, mis-tints. They were super experimental and raw and free. I exhibited them at the infamous Bump & Grind Café at 17th and Penn where I was working at the time. I ended up selling every single piece. It was such a rush and magical moment to realize that people were feeling what I was making. Before that, I honestly never considered showing my work. I was only making it for myself, it was something that made me happy and focused--which is still the main reason I paint. But experiencing the connection and communication of sharing my work was the extra bonus, full circle, next level gift.

What are three words you would use to best describe your work?

Hardedged yet soft, maximalist, spiritual

It's the weekend. What do you see yourself doing?

Hanging with my kids and husband. Mostly relaxing. Sneaking in and out of the studio if I have time.

Are you self taught?

I am self-taught. Twenty years now I have been painting. I am always learning. I see painting as The Mentor. Inspiration as the seed. Then it’s up to you as the maker to nurture the seed into realization. This takes time—lots of hours in the studio—and along the way you find The Mentor in that sweet spot where you are able to listen and tune in and know what it is you’re supposed to do.

Do you have a favorite coffee/tea spot?

Right now, Pablos on East Colfax and Quincessential. For food, Tables on 23rd and Kearney.

Do you have a favorite place in the mountains you like to visit?

I really love Steamboat Springs in the summer. It’s so lovely and green and Pearl Lake is such an intensely beautiful place.

What do you love most about what you do?

I love that painting is healing, and that it’s a totally engaging continuum with infinite potential that communicates and connects.

What was the last concert/show you attended?

The last show that really lit my mind was an exhibit of a Yoruban Egungun costume at the Brooklyn Museum.