Among her early achievements as an artist, Alicia Piller won first place in The Beverly Review Christmas Coloring Contest when she was 9.
Today, the graduate of Sutherland Elementary School and Whitney Young High School is an accomplished artist who is showcasing her first solo art exhibition in Los Angeles, Calif.
“Spirit of the Times” will be on display through Dec. 21 at the Lowell Ryan Projects Gallery.
Piller’s compelling exhibit includes 13 pieces ranging from wall and ceiling hangings to large structures. Using suede, vinyl, latex, photographs, newspaper clippings, beads, paint and a variety of other materials, Piller creates art with a unique style of ingenuity.
Born and raised in Beverly, Piller learned the value of hard work at the age of 7 by assisting her mother working as a clown, face-painting, making balloon sculptures and performing magic for seven years.
In entering her community newspaper’s coloring contest between the ages of 9-12, Piller won first place three times, an early indication of her artistic abilities.
During high school, she was involved in Chicago’s Gallery 37, an art apprenticeship program. Her painted furniture and park benches have been presented to the late Maggie Daley, wife of the former mayor Richard Daley. Her work was also presented to a former director of the Chicago Transit Authority and to world-renowned glass sculptor Dale Chihuly.
Piller went on to earn bachelor’s degrees in anthropology and fine arts from Rutgers University.
Piller has studied art in Paris, Scotland, Brazil and Kerala, India.
Raised by her African-American mother and Jewish-American father, she has been exposed to the best of both cultures. Like her parents, she loves to travel and has visited Tanzania, climbing to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro with her father, and she has toured Australia and China.
Piller lived in New York City for nine years, and her first job was working at Macy’s on 34th Street as an assistant in the scenic display department. Shortly thereafter, she became a jewelry designer, selling her creations to Macy’s, Nordstrom and various boutiques. She also painted on canvas and created hand-painted T-shirts.
Throughout her time in New York, her paintings, jewelry and T-shirts were presented and sold at many exhibitions. Piller’s creations have been worn by celebrities such as Phylicia Rashad, Ciara and Jill Scott.
For three years, Piller lived in Santa Fe, N.M., producing artwork and jewelry before deciding to further her career by enrolling at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, Calif. In May, she earned her master’s degree in fine arts from the institute.
Mike Weiss and Virginia Martinsen, owners of Lowell Ryan Projects Gallery, are dedicated to finding new artists to showcase their work. They believe females in the art world are underrepresented. Of the students in the 2019 graduating class of fine arts at the California Institute of the Arts, the gallery owners chose Piller to display her creative talent as a manifestation of their goal.
Piller references her work in a political view and her study of anthropology by the use of newspaper clippings from the past 200 years regarding issues such as gun violence and white supremacy. Her mixed-media piece shows a woman in anguish with the word “Permutations” reminding people of the torments of our society. Piller’s use of sycamore seeds throughout her work symbolizes the separation of immigrants in the United States.
Piller’s use of bright and bold colors in her art displays the transformation from death and destruction to the promise of hope for a better future.
Her work can be seen at aliciapiller.com.