LOCAL FOLKS: Saltillo woman lives where art meets life

SALTILLO – For Alicia Pleasants, everything looks better with a little paint on it.
“I can’t stand anything plain,” said the artist, who just opened up her new studio at her home in Saltillo.
That’s evident by a tour of her home.
You’ll find art of some kind everywhere: decoupaged furniture in the living room, colorful ribbons draping the dining room, one room completely filled from top to bottom in paintings, a garage half-full of painted furniture.
A look closer reveals Pleasants’ antiques, and scattered about, her 27 scrapbooks.
“I love this saying, ‘Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life,’” she said. “That’s my motto.”
Pleasants, 53, began art lessons at a young age in her hometown of Chattanooga. Her family was creative, she said, and her own creative streak continued as she moved to Saltillo and started her family.
But her life story is better told not by events but by phases, particularly artistic ones.
She’s had a Coca-Cola phase and a rooster phase. Right now, Pleasants is in her black phase, in which she paints shiny, colorful designs, shapes and words on a black object.
She said she loves how bright colors pop against the black background.
“I’m all about color,” she said. “I don’t know that I’ll ever get out of black.”

Pleasants doesn’t hide her inspiration in her artwork – it’s directly woven into almost everything she does.
Take, for instance, the name of her new studio at her home: The Magic Mushroom House By the Side of the Road Where Art Dances with Nature.
Wordy, yes, but it reflects her biggest influences.
“House by the Side of the Road” is the name of one of her favorite poems by Sam Walter Foss.
The mushroom and nature references are a nod to her love of author J.R.R. Tolkien, who wrote “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings.” Pleasants often uses mushrooms as her signature in her artwork.
She also loves to incorporate nature into her art by painting on rocks, pine cones, sticks and gourds.
Her other influences include Edgar Allan Poe and Elvis Presley whose images and words adorn much of her house and artwork. She also paints Bible verses on many of her pieces.
Pleasants recycles through her art. She saves almost everything, knowing she can find a way to turn it into art.
“I’ve been green for many years,” she said, “before I even knew what it meant.”
When Pleasants’ son, Spencer, was a child, she taught him to paint by letting him paint over old cereal boxes. She still does that, in a way, by painting over old furniture, clothes, political signs and – her favorite – rocks.
“There’s absolutely nothing I won’t paint on,” she said. “Absolutely nothing.”

Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal

Click video to hear audio