Denver Artist A.L. Grime Goes Optical

Grimm sits within her full-room "Magical Mystery Tour" mural for the Marijuana Mansion.
Grimm sits within her full-room "Magical Mystery Tour" mural for the Marijuana Mansion. A.L. Grime
Ally Grimm, also known as artist A.L. Grime, comes from earnest beginnings, but her work leaves a vivid mark. The thirty-year-old Washington, D.C., native started out working at electronic music festivals across the East Coast, eventually making her way toward Denver’s art scene. In 2018, she officially made the move here in hopes of sparking more imagination.

Grimm now has murals and graphic designs representing the human experience — from contrasting masculine and feminine energies to the technological advances of our generation — throughout Colorado. You can find her work at Boulder’s Fox Theatre, as well as at the Black Box and the Marijuana Mansion in Denver. We caught up with Grimm to discuss her aspirations as a growing artist and how cannabis plays a role in it all.

Westword: Tell us about the start of your artistic journey and what brought you to Denver.

Ally Grimm: I started four or five years ago in the music industry and worked my way up through every job. I worked in venues, at music festivals and all kinds of things until I eventually started live-painting, and that's how I got into art. First I was curating galleries for festivals, but then I wanted to put something in it myself, so I started painting, as well, and slowly climbed up until I’ve gotten to where I am. I created my first piece in 2016, at 24 years old. I was in school [at West Virginia University] and struggling to decide where I wanted to take my career. I sat down and put all my emotions onto canvas, and it just felt so liberating that I knew this was my path.

I moved out here just a few years ago because of the art scene. Within the music scene, I felt like Denver had some of the best artists, and it seemed like a place where people openly shared creative ideas. I wanted to be a part of that, so I moved here.

Can you describe the elements of your “Magical Mystery Tour” in the Marijuana Mansion and the inspiration behind it? How did cannabis play a role in this piece?

The Marijuana Mansion had this idea for something that was sort of ’60s-inspired, or retro. They wanted to have lava lamps and beanbags in there, and wanted me to create something that played off of it, so I instantly thought of Twiggy. I have her eyes as the centerpiece of it, because she’s such an iconic part of that era. I included all of the swirling lines and all of the optical illusions to give that wavy feel that cannabis might give someone, so that when they're chilling in a beanbag chair, they have this warm, wavy feeling from the whole room.

How would you describe your artistic style overall, and what does your artwork represent? Are there any specific messages you try to articulate to your audience?

My artistic style is super influenced by optical art, but also super inspired by computer glitches and technology. I try my best to create patterns that emote emotion.

My art is about the intersection of humanity and technology, but also the balance between masculine and feminine energy. I represent technology and stark, heavy lines as masculine energy, and then soft, curved lines and the human element more as the feminine [energy]. I just want to show the balance between the two and how they weave into each other.

Walk us through your artistic process: Do you use any unique methods?

I design everything digitally first, usually in Photoshop or [Adobe] Illustrator, sometimes Procreate. And then I use a projector to sketch all of my paintings or my murals, and that kind of helps me have a plan of where I’m going and helps me execute things a little better. Then, from time to time, I’ll take that digital version that I made first, animate it, and link them back together with augmented reality. And I smoke a lot [of cannabis] when I’m working or when I’m designing, because it just helps me unlock a piece of my mind that is maybe too focused on other things.

Within Denver, specifically, what do you personally aspire to achieve?

I think that artists are crucial for conversations. We’re both marking moments in history and time, but also having conversations about what’s going on in society, and I try to do both. Because we’re in this technological renaissance, my focus is about leaving that mark in this moment in history and really talking about how humans and technology interact.

On a larger scale, I paint only women, to make a statement on the importance of including the feminine touch in the technological world and not just in technological fields. I think we still have a lot of inequality when it comes to women, and I just want to create a voice that inspires young girls but also speaks to equality — how we are all influencing one another, and how it takes all kinds of people to make a perfect balance.

How do you believe technology and substances like cannabis play a role in the human experience? How is this depicted in your art?

I think technology plays a huge role in what we’re experiencing. We spend all day on our phones or computers, so we’re literally being influenced at every moment by technology. And cannabis, for me, is a way that I’m able to plug back into the natural side. It’s something that, because it alters your brain chemistry in different ways, it helps you come back in touch with all the things that you’re feeling. I think that the more I see cannabis as an industry grow, the more I see people wanting to return to nature and focus on wellness.

As in any place where you have huge cannabis industries, you see a huge industry of wellness, as well, and people who actually are focused on empathy and on human connection — which is something we don’t really get with technology. So I think [cannabis] plays this interesting role: It’s growing with technology, but also helping remind us that we’re human at the same time.
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