It’s been barely five minutes since I walked into The Pittsburgh Art House, a living space in Highland Park specifically for creatives, and I’ve already been greeted with a warm hug, given a tour of the space, and an invitation upstairs.
Things move quickly around here.
As she sat on her bed, a frightfully intimate setting for an interview, Alisa Jacobson opened up about her struggles, triumphs, and the thing she adores most in this world, art.
“Are you recording me? Because I seem to be cursing a lot,” Jacobson jokingly uttered.
I said, no I’m not, curse away, dear.
Sitting on a chair clearly not meant for a 230-lb. man, I started perusing the walls of Jacobson’s modest bedroom. I began wondering about these pieces …some vivid, some tempered with a foggy sense of rage and darkness.
“I don’t have a process when I start, I can see at least three paintings within the same painting, and it just happens. Although, having a process might help me to be a little more organized, I should work on that.” *giggles*
A painting she brought back while she studied in Prague proudly hangs next to her bed; bright and energetic, mirroring her sense of self.
“I probably did more painting while I was in Europe than any other time in my life. The inspiration was so awesome. It’s why I was there.”
Overall, Jacobson’s upbeat and positive energy translates into a picturesque color palette that entices the senses, and encourages smiles and open interpretation. Her mix of impressionism, surrealism, and abstract styles makes for an interesting and eclectic production process.
“Since I don’t paint with something in mind, there have been so many times where people see something completely different than what I meant it to be.”
Jacobson responded, “It’s a nude woman.”
She laughs and then shows me her initial artistic inspiration, but she’s equally excited about the new discovery of a painting within a painting.
And perhaps a new love for turtles.
Her brimming positivity doesn’t come without struggles. Jacobson suffers from scoliosis, and the surgery that placed two metal rods down the back of her neck, along with a 12-inch scar, leaves her in a constant state of discomfort, but she remains grateful that she can continue doing what she loves.
“The techniques for the surgery are so much better than they were a decade ago, but I could be all…Mehhh, so I’m thankful for being able to stand up straight.”
Jacobson also recently lost her waitressing job, but has done what she can to make ends meet. She continues to paint and market her pieces through social media to attract new customers, and so far, she’s been fortunate.
During my visit, a customer interested in her painting stopped by to purchase it. This was his first piece of art, and he was over-the-moon excited.
“I’m not the typical art person. I don’t have the money these people have, and I don’t know a lot about art, but I know that when I saw this piece, that it made me happy and I had to have it. I’m so excited to share this with my son, and the rest of the family. They will all appreciate this as the years pass by.”
Jacobson threw the gentlemen a big hug, and said, “You’ve made me happy today, I’m so glad you can have this. I have goosebumps.”
I interjected to the man, Art is for everyone, my friend. You’re the type of person art is made for, not a guy in a suit with a large bank account.”
As she gently fiddled with her arm, the two exchanged a few more pleasantries, the gentleman paid, and she wrote a note on the back of the canvas frame. He was visibly nervous and excited, and asked us about having it framed. We gave him a few suggestions, and he went on his way, happier than I’ve ever seen some one walking out of a home with a piece of art.
After he left, I said to Alisa, now you can pay your rent! She raised her hands and smiled.
“Yes!”, she belted out.
And that’s just a day in the life.
Outside of painting, Jacobson plays guitar, and often collaborates with her fellow artsy roommates. “We have these things called productivity parties, when we all get together down stairs and jam. It’s really fun.”
In all, the frailty of the human form is exposed through Alisa Jacobson’s life, but she is a giant in her own right. Living her dream despite the proverbial cards dealt in her direction, and taking steps toward the blue skies that she so eloquently muses within her work.