Honesty is central to Alexa Simpson's art.
With her paintings, Simpson realizes that life is not pretty. But for her, this ugliness and discomfort isn't something to be avoided. Instead, she embraces it as a source of inspiration. Whether her art is referencing Scream, The Shining, Ero guro nansensu — Japanese erotic horror art — or even the awkwardness of daily life, there's nothing she will tip-toe around.
An element of tongue-in-cheek shows through in Simpson's art. There's something absurd about what we fear. She captures this perfectly — her subjects' expressions are usually a mix between aghast horror, surprise, and a maniacal laugh. She almost implies, 'What are we so scared of?' Scrolling through Simpson's Instagram — almost entirely snapshots of her sketchbook — there is an element of dark comedy, brutal honesty and, most importantly, openness. She's open about what makes us scared, what we would rather not talk about, and the aspects of life we definitely don't share with the rest of the world. Simpson hopes to connect with others through this.
"I’m hoping that people can relate to it and find comfort to it," Simpson says. "That’s something that I'm attracted to — when I’m comforted by a film or an art. People being honest about their vulnerabilities."
Horror often zooms in on vulnerability, and offers a source of inspiration for Simpson. Her paintings often reflect scenes from movies, whether it is a depiction of Drew Barrymore, blond bob and all, answering the phone in the movie Scream, or Sadako Yamamura emerging out of the cursed videotape in The Ring. If it isn't what's being shown on the scream, it might be what people might react to what is being shown in the audience.
Simpson's other go-to films include Sisters by Brian De Palma (of course, the original 1973 version), The Bride of Frankenstein, and David Cronenberg's Videodrome, along with countless others.
"Good horror is hard to find, but I when I find it, it’s something I’m really drawn to," Simpson says. "When you find something good — like when you're really enjoying the feeling it gives you, legitimately creeped out but intrigued. I feel like when I’m sad or when I’m heartbroken, horror is my go-to. It’s a distraction."
Simpson's art is particularly relatable when it comes to femininity. She depicts women as complex — sexual, evil, bored, powerful, ugly. Her drawings are never just a pretty portrait, but more enjoyable in their recognition of these complexities.
"I will look up films or characters that relate to me," Simpson says. "Weird women and emotion and creepy things."
Simpson's art is perpetually developing, but she has a style that remains the same. She is currently collaborating with another Prescott-based artist, Jordan Palmer. The two are working on large-scale paintings.
"Jordan is the only person I’ve been able to collaborate with so far," Simpson says. "It’s hard to allow someone to finish your painting, because it’s hard to find a place to stop. It’s hard to trust another artist... It’s weird but it’s fun."
There is something about Simpson's art that draws us in and keeps us there. It might give us goosebumps — but in an enjoyable way, the kind when you're dying to hear the end of a ghost story. The art might include gore, blood and contortion, but our most universal and base emotions are what steal the show.