By Billy Ludt
Youngstown visual artist Eric Alleman opens the SOAP Gallery’s first solo exhibition, titled “Liminal” on April 1 from 6 to 9 p.m.
Alleman created this exhibition to express the turbulence in his life, from being diagnosed with bipolar disorder to relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis.
“I kind of want to show that through this show,” he said. “It is swinging between order and chaos. My whole life is made of swinging between these two poles.”
Relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis has the potential to inhibit his motor functions and can cause temporary blindness. Alleman said that he occasionally feels good, but the inhibitions cause him to seek out other methods to continue his artistic output.
Aspects of the exhibition will have progression as Alleman alters pieces that are on display. He will use the SOAP Gallery as a studio space for the month of April.
“I didn’t want to give the impression of resolution where there was no resolution,” Alleman said.
Eleven years ago, Alleman was not working as a visual artist. His main artistic output prior to that time was literary — writing poetry, books and plays.
“I very much used literature as a way of trying to explain myself to myself,” Alleman said.
Literature was a means to discussing the troubles that he faced: multiple sclerosis, mental illness and alcohol.
“When I had kids, that went away,” Alleman said. “It eased. I didn’t feel compelled to write anymore.”
He was told from an early age that he did not have any artistic talent. But upon trying his hand at stenciling, Alleman fell in love.
Channeling his literary talents, Alleman began working with spray paint, scrawling lines of quotes on walls. He began utilizing his stencils by adding the likeness of a celebrity next to his quote, and then eventually rid the text and transitioned entirely to stencils.
“Their facial expressions would always capture what I was trying to say,” Alleman said.
The studio he had in Cleveland allowed him to work with spray paint. After moving back to Youngstown three and a half years ago and finding a space there, he found out he was not permitted to work in spray paint there.
In this new workspace, Alleman was forced to try his hand at painting, a medium that mortified him. But he said he did not let the restriction stop him.
“I’ve always tried to see my disabilities as a way to try something different,” he said.
Daniel Rauschenbach is a curator and co-owner of the SOAP Gallery, and a fan of Alleman’s work.
“Let’s say you have The Ramones, Edgar Allan Poe and a 1980s beat poet — that’s Eric Alleman,” Rauschenbach said.
Rauschenbach said to have a better appreciation for Alleman’s work the observer must spend a few minutes taking it in.
Alleman will be creating prints opening night of “Liminal.” The catch is, with each print that is completed, Alleman will burn the stencil that he used to create it.
“You’re getting a true one-off print,” he said.
The exhibition opening will have live music and refreshments. “Liminal” is part of the April 1 Downtown Youngstown Gallery Hop, which includes an exhibition opening at the M Gallery and the beginning of Youngstown Cinema’s movie season.
The SOAP Gallery is located at 117 S Champion St. in downtown Youngstown. Free parking is available along South Champion Street.