The Queens-born artist Alison Silva has a new website. Minor news perhaps, but for those of us who love her fairy tale paintings, it’s a chance to see more of them, at least over the internet.

Silva is a self-taught artist whose early paintings bore distinct characteristics of outsider and folk art, with highly personal, often playful visions that appear outside of time. Outsider artists are often labeled so not just for being self-taught but because of diagnosed mental illnesses. Silva may or may not fit that exact description.

In 2008, doctors found a brain tumor affecting her temporal lobe, which can create blinding migraines, sleeplessness, distorted vision, intense hallucinations, even epilepsy, things that also afflicted Vincent Van Gogh and Lewis Carroll. Silva was 33 when she received the news and refused treatment, saying that it would negatively affect her painting technique. She forged ahead and in doing so found her style had become even more strange, vibrant, and imaginative than before.

“The Warrior of Manaz” (above), says the artist, was the turning point. Its three main figures bear facial features that recall an expressionist, symbolic spirit known to art brut, medieval icons, even Magritte. Silva surrounds them with detailed, pattern-like foliage. The central figure has her head covered by a monkey and a large rodent; the other characters are covered in animal feathers and corporeal headgear. The painting feels like a fantasya sort of return-to-the-wild, as in Alice’s trip to Wonderland, or the Wild Things world of Maurice Sendak.

They are not narrative paintings, however. Silva approaches each work with a diaristic touch, revealing the layers of inner reality as outer experiences. As Blake put it: “The eternal body of man is the imagination… the imagination which liveth for ever.” It is often the artist who must make sense of those moments when the line between reality blurs. (Brian Chidester)

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