UNO Creatives: The Whims of Alyssa Schmitt


Eddie Okosi

Staff Writer

Photo by Andrew Smith/The Gateway.

It was a very cold day and that brought me immense joy. I was back in room 226, but just like the other creatives I have spoken to, location didn’t matter as they brought me into their own worlds. For the day, Alyssa Schmitt was sporting a pink blouse with a blue painted smiley face on it and corduroy pants with paint all over them. Schmitt is the type of artist who likes to play and doesn’t hold back. During this specific interview, I had the privilege of sitting inside Schmitt’s workspace cubicle. Shades of pink resided there in the best way possible. The mini disco balls hanging from the ceiling made me feel like I was at Studio 54 or some cool art house club from the Stephen Spouse ‘80s era. The whimsical environment was a 360 experience as all those pairings and work surrounded the whole area almost like an art installation. Except this installation was the full story of who Schmitt was, who they are now, and who they will continue to be in the future. 

Schmitt is living the dream as a BFA student. Most of their classes are in the Weber Fine Arts Building, which makes things easy. Schmitt said they are not a morning person by any means, but usually gets here around 10-11 a.m. on a good day, grabs coffee, comes in and usually starts working first thing, as they don’t have anything else on their mind. 

“My thesis is my core,” Schmitt said. “It’s my practice right now because I get to dive in and work on whatever my passion is and keep expanding and experimenting until I am ready to show the world.” 

What would you consider to be your art specialty?

Up until recently, which would be about three weeks ago, I would have told you I was a die-hard painter, but I don’t know — something clicked. Since that point I have been pushing toward this idea of installation art. It’s the idea of not only having these paintings but being able to embody a space. It’s interactive in a way; it allows people to be inside the art. 

How would you describe yourself as an artist?

Very spontaneous. I do things to my whims; I don’t take a lot of time and think ahead. A lot of times, my art happens to me and then after that, I get out my computer, I sit with the art, and I write. Sometimes it takes weeks, months, years to fully understand what my art means. 

Culturally, what excites you at the moment? 

I honestly feel like a lot of my inspiration is the furthering of humanity into this thing where there is such an influence of people having their self-expression we didn’t necessarily have ten years ago. Culturally, society is so vast now, there is room for everyone to do what they feel is who they are, and they are able to find connections.

Exactly! And I feel like social media has been a help toward that as well. Have you personally been taking advantage of social media, and do you think artists should have some sort of online presence?

Yeah! So I have an art Instagram that I have been using since I was in high school, so now I have this big accumulation of all the art I have been making throughout all of that time. I kind of use the platform as a way to share my art and a portfolio, so when I do get opportunities or if I apply for shows and installations, I have that physical backup.

So, you would consider social media to be an advantage?

Oh, for sure, social media has been part of expanding the art world. Not only do you have the ability to have other people see your art, you have the ability to see so much more art than you would have in the past. In the past, you would have only gotten art through publications or actual museums, but now we have all of this art right at our fingertips. Social media also allows you to control your narrative of what you are saying with your art.

With being an artist you have to have a sense of vulnerability, do you have to build that over time, and what allows you to become vulnerable?

A lot of my work is very deeply personal to me; it always has been. I have kind of grown in my confidence to share what my work means and, I mean — the nature of art is that people are going to see my art, they are going to choose to like it or not like it. They are going to have opinions, and you kind of have to learn to detach your feelings of your art from other people and still be able to hold true to what you believe about your art and accept that people will not see it that way.

I have noticed you have a specific color palette, where does the articulation of color stem from?

First off, I do this thing where I ask, “if you were a color what color would you be?” I like to learn that about people because it’s interesting to see what color people associate with. The color I mostly associate with is a neon magenta. The colors I choose represent the intensity of my life and what I am living through. I have had a lot of struggles with mental health where a core of a lot of my work comes from. So, this ability to create something that is as intense as what I feel and can cause the same feeling in other people.

With mental health in mind, what stories do you tell through the artwork you create?

I’m a psychology minor, so I spend a lot of time not only learning psychology but learning about the psychology of myself. I guess a lot of my art is taking experiences that I have had. What I have been doing lately is these small wood panels, one of them is like a pond that’s under water with lily pads across the top of it. The specific wood panel is an explanation of this feeling of being in kind of a lull in life. I have bipolar disorder, so I often go through a lot of ups and downs and I kind of wanted these pieces that describe where I am now. I’m healthy and I’m getting to be inside this pond calm and serene. I feel happy in my surroundings, it’s only a pond, I can be in it for so long before I need to meet the surface.

Do you use art to get into a better place? 

Yeah, there is something about mental illness and wanting to rid yourself of those feelings, and art in a way offers that. It offers you to take all this stuff that is scrunched up inside you causing this pain and just yank it onto to a canvas, it’s this sense of catharsis just getting rid of it, a lot of artists can associate with that because art is emotional at its core and it’s a language to speak those emotions.

I have an important question, probably the most important one here: who is Patricia? 

Patricia is from my intermediate class. For a project, I had to find a nontraditional item and paint on it. Lion’s Mane Vintage was closing at the time, and they had these vintage mannequins for sale. I bought one. It was like 40 bucks. I brought it to the studio, primed it up and spent about a month or two working on Patricia. I covered the mannequin with stories, and this project was probably the most influential point in my artistic career. It really was a first step to all that I am doing right now. So, I kind of treated Patricia like my alter ego, stripping myself to just a soul of a person, a crazy colorful soul is who I am at my core. The project was also out of disdain for the lack of expression around me. 

Where is Patricia right now and what is she up to?

Patricia is in my home. She sits next to my tv. My roommate Laine who you also interviewed has a mannequin too, it’s not painted, and we make jokes about them being in love. She has a plant for hair now. I need to get her out somewhere so keep an eye out!


I was grateful to have been able to see the vulnerability of an artist so pellucid and upfront. Alyssa is not shy to tell their story and their approach to art as a whole. I think the consensus with my generation is that we exemplify vulnerability to be universal, we want people to understand who we are, what we share and what we have been through. Long are the days of wanting to complete or over-contextualize things. Being vulnerable is not weak, rather, it’s a sign of the utmost strength. 

You can find more of Alyssa’s work at their Instagram account, @paintlegs.