By SUSAN MARQUEZ • Photography by RORY DOYLE
Inspired by her love of beauty and masterful teachers, Allyson Hardy’s abstract works have come full circle, layered with deep colors and mixed materials
Allyson Hardy always loved beautiful things. “I got that from my mother,” she says. “My mom loved and appreciated beautiful things, whether it was newly potted flowers, an antique persian rug, or a hand-stitched quilt, she appreciated the beauty and uniqueness in these items. She always did a lot of creative things in our home, but was on a budget, of course, which I think drives creativity. She was a wonderful decorator and had a green thumb. Our house always looked like a magazine cover. We went to art galleries and museums, and even to see the performing arts. That helped me to become the arts advocate I am today.”
Growing up in Senatobia as a young child, art classes Allyson took included instruction from noted artist Annabelle Meacham. “I felt I was good at it and that helped build my confidence.” In middle school, Allyson bonded with art teacher Terry Pegram who later taught art at Northwest. In eighth grade, Allyson’s family moved to Oxford where she continued her passion for art.
Upon graduation from Oxford High School, Allyson landed at Delta State University with a tennis scholarship. That is where she met her husband, D.D., a Cleveland native who also grew up playing tennis. “When I visited Delta State, I really liked the feel of the campus and Cleveland—I really liked the people. I felt like I had found my place in the world.”
Delta State also just happened to have a top-notch art department. And, although she was undecided about her major at first, by her second semester, Allyson declared her major as art. “I actually ended up getting a degree in graphic design. I just love a good logo! But, I was also interested in interior design.” However, in 1990, computers were new on the scene and technology was advancing rapidly—more rapidly than Allyson cared to keep up with. “I quickly realized that graphic design on a computer was just not my thing. I preferred working with materials I could touch.”
Heavily influenced by her professors and her time in college, some important aspects of her art education at Delta State have stuck with Allyson all these years. “One of my professors, Mary Anne Ross, loved collage and mixed media. I like the idea of mixing materials to add interest to my work. I now use things like old sheet music, pretty collage papers, glass, acrylic pieces and gold leaf. I like hints of things that are metallic. She introduced me to Matisse and other modern masters, and I fell in love with abstract artists.”
Renowned Delta artist Sammy Britt was also a big influence on Allyson. “He taught me painting in several classes. I learned to ‘paint the light,’ using layers of color to show the light. To this day, I layer my paintings a lot, and I paint in stages. Sammy appreciated that I wanted to explore other styles and allowed me to experiment. That was the beginning of my path to becoming an abstract artist.”
In 1994, Allyson graduated from college, got married and moved to Memphis, where D.D. was already working. Looking for work in the area she began teaching gifted art classes for high schoolers in Southaven, which she did for three years, followed by two years teaching Elementary art in Germantown. As life would have it, they started their family, and bought, sold and renovated a couple of houses along the way, starting in Midtown, ending up in Germantown. After teaching, she took a pause for nine years to stay home with her three children. “I enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom and taking advantage of the cultural offerings in Memphis.”
While she had dabbled in photography and interior design over the years, Allyson continued to paint as well. Then in 2008, D.D.’s work brought them back home to Cleveland and the Delta she had grown to love. Allyson got a job as a gifted teacher at Hayes Cooper Center in Merigold. “It was a teaching position that allowed me the freedom to do so many creative projects with my students. At this time I began finding my style in painting again, but mostly on weekends and in the summers.”
Not long after moving back to Cleveland, she put some of her work in a local store, just to see what kind of response it may get. “It got a great response—which really thrilled me.” For the last couple of years, Allyson has devoted even more of her time to her art having gone part-time with teaching in order to allow more time to paint and focus on the business side of her art.
Allyson’s work includes abstracts, florals and her own unique version of Delta landscapes. “So much of what people want in interiors today is all white and gray. I want to come back to color.” Her work looks worn with time, with layer upon layer that gives each piece intense depth. Allyson primarily paints with acrylics on hand-built wood panels.
Recently, a collection of Allyson’s work was featured at the Cotton House hotel in downtown Cleveland. “That was a big opportunity for me,” she says. “Delta people really appreciate the arts, and Delta folks support Delta artists! It was also a wonderful chance for me to have my art exposed to people outside the local area. I got a call from the hotel one day telling me that a couple from Huntsville, Alabama loved one of the pieces displayed in the hotel so I told them to leave a check at the front desk and take it home!”
Allyson currently markets her art on Instagram @artbyallysonhardy, her Facebook page Art by Allyson Hardy and her website artbyallysonhardy.com Allyson has shown her artwork at several festivals, including the Crosstie Arts & Jazz Festival in Cleveland and Double Decker Arts Festival in Oxford. She also sells locally at Cleveland Fresh and in Memphis at Palladio Antique Market. “The holidays are big for me, as I sell lots of my small pieces. But, what I really love is painting large canvases and doing commission work.”
For two years, Allyson painted in a converted outdoor shed and in her dining room. “We used to have a big house in the older part of Cleveland that had an extra space that was perfect for a painting studio. Now we live in a farmhouse outside of town. After painting in a shed for two years, we finally renovated the carport for my art studio. I hope it helps with my productivity!” The space is perfectly organized with paints and other supplies all easily within reach.
There is no denying that Allyson is committed to her art. “I don’t own a piece of clothing without paint on it,” Allyson laughs. “Even the clothes I wear to church will have a spot of paint somewhere on them!”