Shelby Alexander: Artist Profile

Ad Infinitum-

Marcel in the Trenches-


La Nausee II-

Shelby Alexander-

 Shelby Alexander is a multi-disciplinary maker with a background in painting and drawing.  She received her B.A. in Visual Art & Design from the University of Notre Dame, where she participated in a studio residency program at the South Bend Museum of Art.  Additionally, she received a certificate in Fashion Design from Pratt University, and now uses textiles heavily in her mixed media work.  Shelby currently works as a freelance artist & illustrator in Indianapolis and will be pursuing her MFA in painting & drawing in 2018. Find more of her work at
A Short Interview with Shelby Alexander-
  1. When did you know you were an artist? What made you decide to pursue your art seriously?

The core of my identity has always been tangled up in art for as long as I can remember, but my mom got me a miniature play easel when I was four, and she says she watched me contemplatively stand back to observe the first painting I was “working on” before making my next brushstrokes—according to her, that’s when she knew I was an artist.

It feels like I’ve spent the majority of my life convincing myself that the world wouldn’t come to a crashing halt if I didn’t pursue art.  I was raised by a banker father and a brother that was reading the Wall Street Journal for leisure at age nine, so I always felt this self-inflicted pressure to pursue something more “practical” while keeping art on the backburner.  I studied business at Notre Dame for three years before realizing that, if the classes felt like nothing short of capital punishment, I probably wasn’t cut out for that career path.  It took a couple more years of me trying to (unsuccessfully) squeeze myself into the traditional American mold of 9-5 office jobs until I finally got out of my own way and decided I needed to live a more purposeful life—and by that I mean, feeling as if what I’m doing is coming from my heart as opposed to my (very neurotic) head.  It’s funny how it took me two decades to finally just give in to the thing that I’ve wanted to do since age four.  Now I’m getting ready to pursue my MFA in painting & drawing in the hopes of teaching art at the university level while still having the time and freedom to support my own craft.

  1. What artists influence and inspire you?

I am endlessly enchanted by the photographs of Sally Mann and how she makes capturing someone’s raw humanity look so effortless.  I’m probably most visibly inspired by Lee Jin Ju, a contemporary Korean watercolorist who creates these dreamy psychological landscapes that often feature the female form.  I would cover my walls with her work if I could!  I also have some fashion design in my background, so I am very much inspired by artists of that medium as well.  The late Alexander McQueen and his retrospective exhibition at the Met, Savage Beauty, will forever remain an unparalleled artistic masterpiece in its own right. I also have a huge crush on Alessandro Michele of Gucci, who draws on sources of all artistic mediums to create this eclectic aesthetic that inspires me to no end.  Both designers are great examples of the type of artists I most admire; not only do they see life cinematically and reflect that in their work, but they simultaneously break all the rules while still acknowledging tradition.

  1. What do you feel the role of art is in people’s lives? Why is it important?

The role of art and its importance is evident in more ways than one, from the proven benefits of creative education in the classroom, to the fact that artists are put here to question the status quo and push culture forward.  However, when the topic of art is brought up in daily discourse, often times I’m met with the classic initial response that a person “just doesn’t ‘get’ art” (usually it’s modern visual art that’s brought to their minds)—many perceive the concept of art as some sort of highbrow academic discipline that is totally disconnected from their own lives.  In reality, the true essence of art is often subtle, unseen, and infiltrates our daily lives in huge ways for which it often goes uncredited.  Think of the collective architecture that forms the framework of your own city and public parks. Or imagine the feeling of listening to a song as you drive with the windows down on a summer night, or reading a line from a book that perfectly encapsulates a thought you’ve always had but never thought to articulate.  This sort of life-affirming artistic energy is almost spiritual in the way in which it connects us all—it exists everywhere in the world at all times, and our only responsibility is just to stop and look.  For me, this is the importance of art in the truest sense of the word.

  1. What do you love about Indianapolis? What are your favorite places or things to do here?

I love the feeling of community in Indianapolis as our cultural climate expands.  Whether its food, art, breweries, or any number of local businesses and creative workspaces, people support and encourage creators willing to take risks here.  I especially love the growth of women-owned businesses in Indy (special shout outs to Bluebeard and the Ball & Biscuit).  In the past couple of years I’ve also taken notice of the flourishing music scene here, to the point where I practically live at the Hi-Fi, Vogue, and Murat.  And lastly, I would be remiss not to mention the wonderfully bizarre and outrageously underrated Indiana Medical History Museum.  Seriously, go there; you’ll thank me!

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