Canadian artist and self proclaimed “Queen of Double Eyes,” Alex Garant knows a thing or two about creating art that stokes your curiosity, that pulls you in while simultaneously keeping you at a distance, that leaves you hungry for more. Diving into her dizzying, color-drenched portraits overwhelms your senses with color and movement and optical illusions. They stay seared into your mind long after you look away.
Powerful art occurs when an artist isn’t afraid to flirt with the uncomfortable or run full speed into the wide-open wilderness of the strange. This kind of art is often met with a physical reaction: it makes you squirm, makes you squint, makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand at attention. It makes you feel something like déjà vu, a vision that softly skirts the thin line between dream and reality. You want to look away, but you find yourself unable.
After suffering an unexpected and life altering heart attack in 2012, Garant quit her day job to focus fully on her passion for art. Since then, she has been widely recognized for her mesmerizing and hallucinatory oil paintings of women, which merge traditional portraiture techniques with her signature double exposures, resulting in vivid, realistic portraits that are warped and blurred. Her work draws you in with lush color and hazy soft style, a visual hallucination that you almost don’t want to find your way out of.
To immerse yourself in Garant’s ethereal work is to notice the luminous way she drenches her subjects in light, her otherworldly washes of color, how her women look directly at you with a powerful combination of vulnerability and quiet strength, but it is also to feel trapped inside an optical illusion, fighting the message from your brain that your eyes are playing tricks on you. At their core, Garant’s eerie, enigmatic faces seem to urge the viewer to fight their instincts: to lean into the sensory overload, to not look away, to dive beneath the smooth surface of prettiness into the mystery and strangeness that lurks below.
Drawing on elements of 70’s retro kitsch and Pop Surrealism, Garant’s work is stylistically stunning, both broadly abstract and painstakingly detailed, awash in color and pattern. The women she paints are exaggeratedly beautiful, larger than life, jumping off the canvas with big eyes and flushed cheeks and a lovely and looming sense of sadness. The double eyes, her signature detail, only enhance their beauty, adding both physical and emotional depth, as if you were looking at them through rippling water or a cracked mirror.
The double eyes (double everything, really) are what keeps you actively engaged, searching for clarity amidst confusion, searching for comfort amidst the uncomfortable. Your brain tells you to find some way to make sense of it, and when you can’t, it short circuits for a minute, and that is the trippy power that Garant’s portraits hold. Her double-eyed muses reinvent and reinvigorate the classic portrait, embracing a vibrant sense of movement while paying a subtle homage to the strange. There is so much more here than meets the eye.
Can’t look away from Garant’s hypnotic dream girls? Neither can we. Shop her work here.