Alexis Pye sits on the floor next to her kittens, back resting against a door frame.
“I’m more comfortable here, really.”
She helps a kitten pry its claws free of a blanket, then sets it free only for it to get caught again.
Alexis Pye is an artist, painter and educator based in Houston, specializing in abstract oils depicting the African American experience interlaced with fiber arts. She marries rugs, knitting and free-form yarns into her paintings to add even more texture to her already pronounced strokes.
At the time of this interview, Pye was weeks away from hosting an art gallery/artist showcase, using her residency with MythoFutuRiddim to platform other artists.
MythoFutuRiddim, curated by Brooklyn artist Tony Evans, is a cultural arts festival that explores mythology, Afrofuturism and riddim/music.
Pye’s art gallery, Now! With Pink Plankton, was born of a desire to emulate a broadcaster she’d grown up with.
“Now! With Pink Plankton it is based off of a television show I used to watch when I was a kid on Fuse TV, called Later…with Jools Holland. It was one of my favorite television shows, I would wait for it to come on. I remember because we had satellite, this is when Fuse was very fresh and new. So they will get international television shows like so then like you would not see now. It’s so unfortunate. You know, like, yeah, the kids are a part of the internet but it’s also so limited too because like, you get to choose everything. You would turn on Fuse you just kind of didn’t know what you was gonna get. And so you got hooked onto something that you’re like, dang, I would have never thought.
“That’s how I learned about Arctic Monkeys. That’s how I learned about Lily Allen and all these like British people in the early 2000s. I guess I’m taking the place of like Jools Holland by telling you what is now in Houston. But Pink Plankton is a name that I would just say… I always told people if I was ever a musician, I would call myself Pink Plankton.”
True to her word, she collected a handful of fellow artists and musicians to showcase. The gallery took place from Aug. 9 to Aug. 11 at Winter Street Studios. The space was easy to find on the second story of a multi-room art studio, not because it was clearly labeled, but because of the lively sound luring visitors in.
“I was adamant about this being something that was for the community, by the community,” said Pye when asked how she set out to select the featured artists. True to her word, both the musical lineup and the artists’ list were littered with friends old and new, followings big and small.
She notes that the experience wouldn’t be possible without the practice she had running the Red Block Bash while an art student at UH, or the connections she made through Coog Radio.
Hung alongside Pye’s work are pieces by Rico Edwards, Oluwaht Akinyemi, Tony Evans, Quietstorm, Samira Percival and Beau ye Roc. The center of the gallery was dedicated to music.
Day one was dedicated to local DJs. Gravedigging, DJ Archaic and DOUBLEDUTCH kept the patrons entertained as they roamed the room. Food was provided by Glazed and Confused, fellow UH and Coog Radio alumn Jose Soto.
Day two spotlighted solo acts with fanbases ranging from 1,400 to 6,900 (based on Instagram). Musical styles varied from crooners to rappers, featuring Jordon McKinnley, Jacob Hutto and Pyjama Sam.
The final day was the most packed, giving the stage to bands. The lineup varied from Houston mainstays like Rinas’ and April Company to newer acts like Riot No. 3 and Worldwide Black Inturnet Radio.
“This is my love letter to like Houston, to thank Houston for accepting me. And also for the opportunities and these artists, these musicians who’ve basically supported me and helped me. Thank you.”
Alexis Pye’s art is for sale through the Inman gallery.