The Vibrant Painted Gardens of Alexandra Karamallis

New York-based textile designer and artist Alexandra Karamallis invites nature inside her work. Through the depiction of gardens and the juxtaposition of nature with architecture, she aims to draw attention to the beauty in diversity, with particular emphasis on marginalized cultures.

Her Iranian heritage also plays a central within her work. Identifying as a member of the Baha’i Faith – an oppressed minority in Iran – she explores themes including the oppression of women and minority faiths. Her artistic goal? To make art that is at once thought-provoking and joyful.

Having earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Rhode Island School of Design in 2010, her work includes anything from watercolor gouache paintings and collages to knitting sweaters. “I’m a very whatever I feel inspired to do is what I will do kind of a creative person,” she told Matter of Hand. “I love knitting and painting, but I go through phases with both of them. I will really focus on painting for four or five months and then, often in the fall, I’ll start to feel like I want to knit a sweater.”

Much like her work, Karamallis’ creative process varies from piece to piece. “Typically in the front end of the process I do the research and take notes, then I come to a decision more or less about what I want the content of the painting to be,” she explains. After her visual research, she sits down and paints. “I try to come up with a color story that feels cohesive,” she says. “Oftentimes if I decide on a color that I want to have some kind of movement throughout the piece, I will lay it down in a couple places instead of finishing one area first. I try to look at the whole thing throughout the process. I think that a lot of painters do that to create a larger, cohesive composition. “

Her inspiration includes artists like Matisse, Willem de Kooning, and Gauguin, but also Persian miniature painting, and Persian rugs and gardens. “One of the biggest goals in a Persian garden is to create protected relaxation outdoors with the same level of privacy that you would feel in your own home,” she notes. “That is something that is really interesting to me.”

Enter her painted gardens: