Meet Alexandria Couch, a ‘neo-heritage’ painter

by Rosalie Murphy

Alex Couch is busy. When we meet in the lobby at the University of Akron’s Myers School of Art, the printmaking/painting and drawing reaches out for a handshake, noting that yes, there’s paint on her hand, but it’s dry.

Alex created “Embody,” which is on our cover this month, for the High Arts Festival in 2018. The mixed media work is currently displayed at the Mustard Seed Market in Highland Square.

Tell me about “Embody.”

I do a lot of work involving culture and identity. That particular piece was kind of mixing together the identities of multiple people, and expressing a celebration of cultures in one piece. I was looking at a lot of African-style jewelry and face paint and kind of merging those all together.

Being an African-American, I don’t know particularly where I come from, and so we’re always taking bits and pieces of things that we like and putting them together to make something that we’re proud of. It’s kind of like a neo-heritage piece — not knowing where you come from, but finding something that you can identify with nonetheless.

What’s your background?

I am a painting and drawing and printmaking [double major] and art history minor here. I’m very busy. [Laughs.] I’ve always loved art. My mom is an artist at the Summit Artspace… My dad also wanted to be an artist and ended up as a surveyor, but my mom and him have always supported me following what I want to do. I was an English major for a while, but I think I’m actually where I’m supposed to be now. Art’s challenging for me, and I never get bored. I’m never disappointed.

What are you working on now?

For that particular series [pictured on this page], I was working more with the identity of Black males, specifically in looking at how my own little brother is growing up and the hardships that he has in displaying his emotions or identities. I do a lot of things with limbs and gestures that kind of hint at vulnerability. It’s kind of the idea that someone can look confident, but if you observe them for a while, they have all these little tics that are kind of giving them away.

A lot of the clothing is pieced together from magazine ads or just things that I find that I like. It’s things that come from my history but also new things, again, piecing things together because you don’t know exactly where you’re coming from. It’s kind of like making your own kente cloth.

What’s next for you?

I’m going to be helping out with murals this summer… two I’m helping Lizzi Aronhalt with, one at Bounce Innovation Hub and one at Park East. I’ll be doing a collaboration with the Art Bomb Brigade, doing my own project for a community. After all of this comes grad school.

I think teaching is very important to me because I had a lot of teachers who affected the outcome of how my life could’ve been. I feel like a lot of people in the community that I live in, a lower-income community, a lot of kids don’t really make it out of there, and for me it was teachers taking an interest in my education. I really do love interacting with people, so I would love to teach and be in an environment like this.

Where can people find you?

For now, my Instagram is @cosmocouch. I also have work for sale at the Mustard Seed in Highland Square… [and] Stop by the Myers School of Art, because there’s tons of stuff going on around here and we love visitors. There’s always something new going on at the Emily Davis Gallery or just in the studio spaces.

Rosalie Murphy is Editor-in-Chief of The Devil Strip.