In classical music circles, they call to a kid with promise a prodigy. In rock ‘n’ roll, the buzz is about the best unsigned bands. Out in Hollywood, they like to refer to an emerging young actress as an ingénue.
I don’t know if anybody ever coined a term for an up-and-coming painter with great potential. But if they did, that’s what they’d be calling Alison Kruse, New Jersey’s best kept secret. Until now.
Born and raised in Princeton, NJ, Alison comes from a long line of Canadian artists. She ventured north of the border to get her BFA from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.
Her haunting paintings strike this critic as heavily influenced by such masters as Edward Hopper, Andrew Wyeth and Edvard Munch. But she certainly has developed a unique style of her own, reflecting a combination wisdom and talent carefully cultivated over many years.
Here, the unassuming, undiscovered artist talks about her life’s calling.
Hi Alison, thanks for the interview.
Thank you for having me, Kam.
What is your earliest childhood memory?
I remember going on car trips and being in the back seat with my sister and being snuggled into ten different blankets. I don’t know how old I was, I just remember taking note how cozy I was.
How old were you when you started painting?
I can’t tell you when I started painting. Maybe four? I was more into drawing when I was young. I started drawing before I could talk. I was super into drawing sleeping people. And I learned how to oil paint when I was 11.
Was there a particular moment in your formative years that inspired you to become an artist?
I’ve been extremely lucky to have multiple moments. My mom started taking me to Philadelphia’s, Princeton University’s and other museums when I was a toddler. She loves art and is an artist herself. My grandmother was also an artist and encouraged me, too. So, at an early age, I was able to identify different painters and movements: Classical Realism, Impressionism, Cubism, Abstract, Art Deco, etcetera.
I started taking classes with Heather Barros, a Princeton artist, very early on, and she gave me a lot of confidence and introduced me to oil paint. And in my senior year of high school, studied with John Kavalos, who shared his boundless insights into the art world and inspired me to work hard at my craft and to and take art seriously.
When I look at your paintings, I see the shadows of Edward Hopper and the angst of Edvard Munch — and I also see something new. How would you describe your work?
Wow! Thanks, Kam. I would describe my work as emotional. It’s very expressive and, although I’m experimenting with different styles, the undertone is always filled with some type of intense emotion.
Who is your favorite artist?
Currently, Cecily Brown and Lou Ros.
What inspires you besides art?
Film and entertainment. A good film inspires me because storytelling triggers my imagination. When I watch a movie, I’m especially noticing the color palate and tone. If I weren’t a painter, I would want to be working in the film industry because I’m so fascinated by moving pictures. With my art, I want to transport you to a different place or make you feel an emotion, which is the same as what a great film does.
What will you be doing in France?
I’m going to a creative residency. I’ll have two weeks of uninterrupted time where I can focus on my art and cultivating new ideas. I’ve devoted this year to traveling and this one will be my third residency.
What was the last book you read?
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.
When do you feel the most content?
At my easel.
When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
Reversing climate change.
Is there any question no one has ever asked you, that you wish someone would?
Will you marry me? Just kidding!
What was the last song you listened to?
“Lemon Glow” by Beach House.
If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?
Finally, as Samuel L. Jackson asks: What’s in your wallet?
An ID, a library card, credit, debit card, a Small World punch card, and my health insurance card.
Thanks again for the time, Alison, and have fun in France.