Red Chair Gallery Presents Alisa Looney — Metal Sculpture & Enameling

(Sculpture by Alisa Looney)

Nature is a theme that inspires many artists. One who has made a career of creating meaningful images that inspire us to treasure and protect it is Alisa Looney, a metal sculpture and enamel artist. Her work is showcased at Red Chair Gallery in February. “I am trying to tell the story of how to care for the earth and each other,” she says.

Waves of water, clouds and trees are depicted in exquisite colored enamel on her spirit masks while her human figures stretch to touch a bird or just reach the sky. Recently, Looney’s fascination with nature includes looking for answers to climate change and environmental degradation. In her work, she tries to address “what we have done to this beautiful earth and how can we fix it,” she explains.

Growing up on the Spokane River in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Looney was surrounded by the natural world of moving water, wildlife and forests. As a child, she fashioned sculptures of sand or clay on the river bank and began drawing from life. Later, she became a silversmith and received a BFA from Boise State University. A long career as a professional graphic artist funded her art endeavors, including learning welding. She began to make metal sculptures but wanted to augment them with color and narrative. Over three consecutive summers, she studied enameling techniques with BSU Professor Emeritus John Killmaster. Looney then began to combine metal sculpture with enamel work depicting elements of nature.

After 29 years living in Portland, Looney and her husband Wade Womack, also an artist, moved to Central Oregon in 2018 to get away from an urban environment. “I longed to be in the trees and near a river again,” she says. They live far from city life in Three Rivers, south of Sunriver.

The process for creating metal sculpture with enameling is extremely complex. First, Looney begins with a sheet of steel and cuts it, using plasma, laser or flame cutting techniques. Then she sands, hammers and welds it. Finally, she begins the time-consuming enameling procedure: She coats the piece with black ground coat enamel and kiln-fires it, fusing the glass to metal. Then she sprays it with white liquid enamel. After this dries she draws in her designs with a fine-pointed tool and fires it again. Lastly, she applies colors and fires it a third time or more, for a lustrous glass finish.

Other themes that Looney has explored in her work include dance and many of her human figures indeed look like they are dancing. She also creates custom pieces that she calls “memory and gratitude” sculptures. These are often figures with enamel painting showing meaningful events, places or gifts in a person’s life. Looney is also well known for her large public sculptures, which are installed at the Maryhill Museum of Art, Cannon Beach, Oregon, Puyallup, Washington, McCall, Idaho and several other places in the Northwest. Locally, Looney also shows her work at Hood Avenue Art in Sisters.

Looney and her husband own River Art Adventures, where they have offered classes in various art forms at their home studio, but these have been in hiatus since the beginning of the pandemic. Last year, Looney conducted her first online classes in enameling and hopes to do more online classes in the coming months.

Alisa may be contacted at alisa@alooney.com. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram under Alisa Looney.

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