Student artist close to unlocking her happiness

Sarah Shadburne
Arts & Features
sshadbur@unca.edu 

On the walls of her room hang dead flowers, posters and a barrage of twinkling Christmas lights. Her space is so drenched with intention and care, even the tiles on her bathroom wall are embellished with a multi-color, abstract dry-erase marker mural. Upon entry, one sees they stumbled into a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-esque world of imagination.

UNC Asheville art student Alex Ginn lives in a world she creates. Coincidentally, we all live there, too, just better, happier versions of ourselves.

“I believe that self-love and happiness and enjoyment of life is the most important,” 19-year-old artist Ginn said. “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing with my life, but I know that I want to be happy and enjoy it.”

Alex Ginn poses in front of her bathroom wall covered in dry erase marker. Photo by Sarah Shadburne.

More than 15 million adults in the US suffer from depression, according to reports from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. For Asheville resident Ginn, the answer to finding happiness is not so foggy. Her path of happiness involves the pursuit of her passions, especially art.

Though her parents divorced when she turned two and she found herself brought up between families, their unwavering love and support never made her fear pursuing her passion for art.

“I’ve always been drawn to décor,” Ginn said. “I love lighting. If you see any room that I’ve inhabited there’s always a touch to it.”

Ginn describes her mother as one of the most amazing people in the world, who can do anything she sets her mind to. She proudly sees herself as the perfect mix of her mother’s values and morals, and her father’s quirks.

“They were very loving parents,” Ginn said. “I was their world. They didn’t even know they could have children. They thought that they couldn’t, so it was kind of like a miracle.”

After her parents divorced, her mom came out of the closet and Ginn found herself amidst a varying cast of characters between her mother in Asheville and her father in Hendersonville.

“My dad remarried several times,” Ginn said. “There were some very interesting time periods in there for me ‘cause with my mom’s side I was being raised by, like, this lesbian tribe and then on my dad’s, I was having multiple stepmoms here and there.”

Ginn sits with her legs crossed in an armchair under a small tapestry of a smiling moon, string-lights draping down either side of her. She wears a paint splattered maroon button-up shirt and sports a messy bun in her hair.

“I’m still trying to find my voice within art,” Ginn said. “It’s slowly happening but there’s still a lot more progress to happen. I recently thought of wanting to do an area that was just a room that’s like a new atmosphere for someone to walk into. Kind of like doing an installation piece.”

Ginn describes her desired atmosphere as one of a dream, inspired by abstract and surrealist art, with a touch of influence by The Beatles.

“I’ve always been drawn to that slightly cheesy happy atmosphere that’s very dreamlike,” Ginn said, citing the aesthetics of Baz Luhrmann and Salvador Dalí emphatically.

Surrealism relies heavily on unconscious imagination and expressing contradictions, with roots in romanticism, according to The Art Story, a non-profit organization promoting the education and appreciation of modern art.

Ginn admits she romanticizes many things, sometimes with reality crashing her harshly back into place, yet she maintains her positive attitude for the sake of herself and others. She wants to help people find their own romance with life.

Her long-time friend Hannah Katz, a 19-year-old Asheville resident, recounts many occasions in which Ginn drew Katz out of her shell with her contagious confidence.

“I wore a banana costume to a party with her,” Katz said, laughing. “I would never do that, but she was there with me. She took my hand and I was like ‘I feel so comfortable, I’m wearing a banana costume and no one else is wearing a costume.’”

Katz and Ginn’s friendship began in elementary school and continued through various moves and separations. They spent long hours together playing on playgrounds and writing their own comic called “Fz and Ebe,” chronicling the adventures of two best frenemies. The comic gained so much popularity with their teacher, he allowed the pair to distribute it amongst their classmates.  

Hannah Katz draws Fz and Ebe for the first time in years. Photo provided by Hannah Katz.

“You can tell in her face,” Katz said.“You can tell in her smile. She’s trying to see the positive in every side, in every person. I want to see through her eyes one day, she’s such an optimistic person.”

The strength of Ginn’s happiness-oriented, charmingly eccentric personality attracts various cohorts.

“She just had a really weird humor that I got along with. Plus we’re both art [students],” said Alex Nikas, the 19-year-old roommate of Ginn and other half of their roommate duo called “Alex²,” a titled coined by Ginn herself.

The roommates are both artists, Nikas sculpts and Ginn draws and paints. Ginn describes their relationship as being two sides of the same coin, Nikas said.

“She’s spiritual but not spiritual,” Nikas said. “Her artwork is dreamy. It’s like whatever you could imagine while you sleep, she draws.”

Ginn says she used to struggle with comparing her art to her peers, but now she works on letting it all go and feels much happier as a result.

“I’m just letting myself be with my art,” Ginn said. “It’s kind of like accepting this part of yourself that you’ve always denied.”

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