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 Farmington Hills 2019 Artist in Residence Pamela Alexander poses with her painting of an octopus at the Costick Activities Center art gallery May 21. She said that as a vegan, she always tries to paint animals that are regularly eaten to shed light on them.

Farmington Hills 2019 Artist in Residence Pamela Alexander poses with her painting of an octopus at the Costick Activities Center art gallery May 21. She said that as a vegan, she always tries to paint animals that are regularly eaten to shed light on them.

Photo by Jonathan Shead

Meet Farmington Hills’ 2019 artist in residence

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published June 5, 2019


FARMINGTON HILLS — While many children are taught to color and draw inside the lines from a young age, at age 5, Farmington Hills resident Pamela Alexander was being taught by her father about perspective, color theory, the proportions of the human figure, how to shade and more.

That’s when she first discovered a love for art and a desire to be an artist. She became more inspired after spending countless days with her father in his advertising office, watching the illustrators in the studio do their work, and she began to understand the difference between fine art and commercial art, and which one she preferred.

Her exposure from her parents, high school and college courses — at Oakland Community College, the University of Michigan-Dearborn and Madonna University — mentors, and elsewhere helped mold her into the artist she has become: the artist now formally recognized as the 2019 Farmington Hills artist in residence.

“It’s really exciting. It’s given me opportunities and exposure, so that makes me happy,” Alexander said on receiving the artist in residence award. “It gives me a little bit of validation to call myself a real artist, even though I’ve been an artist my whole life. … I just feel really honored and privileged.”

Alexander has worked in a variety of mediums, including traditional paint and canvas; mixed media art such as illustrations for advertisements, painting jeans for a major department store, and designing men’s ties for Hudson’s; as well as teaching K-9 art. She said her experience with mixed media was “strictly born out of financial need.”

Her passion, she said, is the broad, sweeping brushstrokes that evoke energy, emotion and imagination, rather than tiny, intricate details and ordinary subjects that seem to paint the picture for the viewers on the canvas instead of in their heads — a style of painting known broadly as realism.

“Each artist, I feel, has to go with who they are and what resonates with them,” she said. “And I’ve kind of grown past realism or creating really tiny, tight details.”

Inspired by her trips through nature, her spiritual existence, her work with yoga and meditation, and sometimes the emotions evoked from a certain shape or space, Alexander said she always tries to create paintings that will excite and uplift people.

“I want people to be excited by the color and the movement and the ideas. None of it should be a downer,” she said. “So, hopefully, people feel uplifted a bit, and if they’re creative, that they’re then inspired to go home and do their own thing with paint.”

All of the paintings on display, she explained, are recent; she doesn’t like to showcase older paintings, and she paints enough to always have recent work to showcase. While her paintings may not be connected through a specific subject matter, she said the fact that they’re all recent is one aspect, among others, that they share.

“I feel like the common bond between all my work is the color, because color and the activity of the brushstrokes — the energetic brushstrokes and the texture — really kind of unites it,” she said. “So as far as stylistically, they have some cohesion, but then as far as the subject, there are different inspirations for the different pieces.”

Beyond her creations, Alexander is excited to be recognized as the 2019 artist in residence because it gives her the opportunity to give back to her community and to speak up about the needs of local artists.

“When you received some of that love, you want to give it back,” she said, “And you know it should be something you want others to experience as well.”

Her willingness to give back was also one of the main reasons she was chosen as this year’s recipient. Cindy Carleton, the vice chair for the Farmington Area Arts Commission, said that although Alexander’s work speaks for itself, her advocacy and volunteer work were the cherry on top.

“Even in the short term since she’s been selected, she’s used her network to talk about the community and what’s happening in the arts,” Carleton said. “And I’m sure that’s going to continue, so that was also part of the reason she was selected.”

Alexander will have a piece of artwork displayed at Farmington Hills City Hall through 2020.