Local Artist Profile

Houston Emerging Artists Share 5 Things They Love

Get to know Lovie Olivia, Rabéa Ballin and Alexis Pye.

By Amarie Gipson Published in the Spring 2022 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Get to know Lovie Olivia, Rabéa Ballin and Alexis Pye. 

Image: Lovie Olivia

Over the past century, women have made revolutionary strides in the visual arts. Although history has used their gender to devalue their creative work, artists like Niki de Saint Phalle, Faith Ringgold, Judy Chicago and Emma Amos worked to destabilize patriarchal hierarchies in the field. Be it through traditional mediums such as painting and drawing, or even conceptual art, Houston has a number of talented women artists working in the feminist tradition. Whether they aim to disrupt social expectations, unearth histories or escape to their imaginations, these artists have a unique approach. 

In honor of Women’s History Month, we asked three of Houston’s emerging artists — Rabéa Ballin, Lovie Olivia and Alexis Pye — to share five things that they love and why they are inspired to create.

Lovie Olivia

As a multidisciplinary artist, Lovie Olivia explores the body, beauty and identity through a Black, queer perspective. Working primarily in painting, Olivia aims to challenge the overwhelmingly white, Euro, male art historical canon by reinventing fresco painting — a centuries-old, plaster-based mural technique. The majority of her work originates in literary ideas from writers Audre Lorde, Pat Park and bell hooks. She is a proud graduate of the Kinder High School of the Performing and Visual Arts, where she built the foundation for her artistic success and her autodidactic approach to art-making. Her most recent solo presentation at Bill Arning Exhibitions in 2021 introduced a series of multitextured paintings and sculptures on queer desire.

Lovie Olivia

Five Things Lovie Olivia Loves:

  1. Uses of the Erotic by Audre Lorde: “This book is a go-to for me, especially lately as I am introducing more language around kink and the power of pleasure and aesthetics. This book is the center of that conversation.”

  2. Meshell Ndegeocello“She’s been a constant for me and my work. Her sound varies; she refuses to fit in a box.”

  3. Zola (2020)“I’m a cinephile; I watch movies all the time. This film was a new experience. It was uncharted territory. Five minutes in, I was stunned. I also like that it was a film that celebrated sex work.”

  4. Sonya Clark“As far as well-roundedness and the vast array of subjects she’s able to hit with one or two materials, Sonya Clark is a big influence on my practice.”

  5. Two Dykes and a Knife: “I’m a novice chef. Food is the other medium that I use to express myself and peel back layers of culture, people and diasporas. It’s a medium that isn’t loaded with any preconceived notions. I can just jump into it and reach people in a different way than I can with visual art.”


Rabéa Ballin

Image: Rabéa Ballin

Rabéa Ballin

Through drawing, printmaking and photography-based processes, Rabéa Ballin uncovers hidden and overlooked histories. Born in Germany and raised in southern Louisiana, she trained in graphic design and art history before starting her journey as an artist. Raised in her mother’s hair salon and inspired by the work of Nigerian photographer J.D. Okhai Ojeikere (1930-2014), Ballin creates work orbits around hair politics, multiculturalism and identity. She is part of an all women’s printmaking collective called ROUX, alongside Houston-based Lovie Olivia, Ann Johnson and Delita Martin. In addition to art making, Ballin is an educator and runs the fine arts program at Lone Star College-North Harris.

Rabéa Ballin

Five Things Rabéa Ballin Loves:

  1. MasterClass.com“One of the things I believe in is learning about things I know nothing about. I lose myself in MasterClass.”

  2. FrasierI’m a Frasier expert; it’s my favorite show ever. I’ve watched it at bedtime since before I moved to Houston. It’s witty, it’s light and well-written.”

  3. My girlfriends“They are amazing and such huge influences in my work.”

  4. Sancerre“I’ve been binge-watching shows on Acorn, and there’s one series where the characters were drinking this white wine. I found it in Whole Foods and it’s my new favorite.”

  5. Pollen on Spotify“Music is a huge part of my work; a lot of my titles are based on song lyrics. I’m also listening to Pollen, a Spotify playlist my goddaughter recommended.”


Man with Dog (2021) by Alexis Pye

Image: Alexis Pye

Alexis Pye

Alexis Pye 

With escapism as a point of departure, Alexis Pye uses painting to unite elements of the real world with the fantastical. She explores intimacy and Black identity. Her paintings are what she considers “odes to people,” based on stories, characteristics and metaphors taken from her upbringing in East Detroit and her imagination. Often posited within a lush garden environment, Pye’s subjects are depicted with neutral colors and soft brushstrokes. Although she is not originally from the South, Houston and its vast landscape have played a crucial role in her practice, providing her with support and inspiration.

Five Things Alexis Pye Loves:

  1. Escapism“I live in my head a lot, and a daydream can be extremely helpful when creating work. I often think about stories I hear and how they can be muddled from real life and reality. I get visions of scenes that I like to see play out through painting and drawing.”

  2. Detroit: “I spent my formative years there; my family is from there. I love the people, the current music that comes out of there. The Detroit Institute of Arts is one of my favorite places. You can get a great corned beef sandwich from Lou’s, Better Made chips or Vernors pop (ginger ale).”

  3. Chocolate Chip Cookies“Preferably home-made by my little sister Amanda, or from Mrs. Fields. But store-bought is fine too.”

  4. My Favorite Things — John Coltrane: “This is a go-to album in the studio; the title song is one of my favorite covers in music.”

  5. Sappy ’90s/early 2000s Rom-Coms: “I like how they convey mood and storytelling that you don’t see nowadays. The use of light and color is how I get pallets for painting. My favorites are Under the Tuscan Sun, Amélie, As Good as It Gets and My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”

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