Alida Meyer gently dips her brush in green paint and then in water before making smooth strokes on a clean, white sheet of paper. As she continues, the colors come alive and soon the painting becomes something real. When her daughter Kathy suggests that the painting resembles the rolling hills of upstate New York, Ali takes it a step further. “Yeah, and look, there is a tornado coming from the East,” says Ali, pointing at a dark blue swirl of color at the top of her painting. Ali is a regular at Art in the Studio, usually attending with her son Larry or daughter Kathy — along with several other St. John’s Home residents.
From a young age, Ali had a passion for art. “If I didn’t have a birthday card for somebody, I’d make one. When you don’t have something, you make it,” Ali says. It was not until after high school when she realized her passion for painting with water colors. Ali attended a workshop in South Carolina where she was taught by well-known acrylic painter Virginia Cobb. “It was very interesting,” Ali says. “One week we went all the way to Santa Fe, New Mexico.”
A lifelong artist, Ali has painted numerous works of art, most of which are abstract watercolor or charcoal paintings. “I’ve painted all my life,” Ali proclaims, glancing at all of the paintings in her room. Ali is not the only one in her family with the artistic genes. Her sister, Kristine, also paints, but has a much different style. “Kristine paints very realistic. She likes to paint exactly what she sees. I like to make up what I see,” explains Ali.
Ali’s past experiences have shaped who she is as an artist today and although she has never formally taught art, she did acquire 6 ladies who would come to her house to paint. “We would start with a cookie, a joke, and then we would paint,” Ali laughs. When it comes to painting and children, Ali has one rule: Don’t ever correct them. “They may come up with an entirely new style,” Ali says. Ali’s grandchildren, whom she deems as ‘very artistic,’ have learned a thing or two from the abstract artist herself. “They all have a little bit of me,” Ali smiles.
While everyone has their own style of art, Ali explains that if people do not particularly like abstract art, usually it is because they may not understand it. “Everyone has their own perception of what art is,” Ali states. Therapeutic recreation specialist Mandy Duritza, agrees. “What I love about her work is that the images can be very prominent or very faint. Everyone has their own ideas or their own story to understand what the meaning behind the piece is. That’s what I find fascinating. It could be anything you want to be.”
It is obvious that Ali has been inspired by artists such as Virginia Cobb, Henry Miller, and Brian Rutenberg. Her real inspiration, however, comes from her last painting. “If you just start with a blank sheet of paper and put a dab of color on the brush and start, you will start to see something – anything – from that first stroke,” Ali continues. “When you get done with your painting but don’t like what you see, just cover it up and start again. This is how you get ideas; this is the start of your next painting.”