ST. PETERSBURG, Fla — Alyssa Marie remembers sketching and doodling almost every day as a kid.
“I was always drawn to art. Any electives I could ever choose in school were always art classes,” she said. “I walk out the door and I am just inundated with inspiration.”
The inspiration combined with talent and has produced incredible works of art on the walls of her newly opened gallery in downtown St. Petersburg.
“Everything about Florida inspires my work," she said.
Her landscapes were different as a kid. She and her fiancé, Braden Everly, traded snowboards for paddle boards two years ago after moving from Denver to St. Petersburg, Fla.
The move opened their eyes to the beauty of the ocean. Sea creatures dot the walls of the Alyssa Marie Gallery.
“The move to St. Pete was kind of serendipitous,” said the 28-year-old Alyssa.
The sea creatures are eye-catching but the paintings which seem to be getting all the attention lately are miniature versions of her favorite fruit.
“Pineapples are one of my favorite objects,” said Alyssa.
Twenty-five “mini pineapples” hang in five rows of five on the first wall you see upon stepping foot in the gallery.
Each has a small dedication card next to a brightly-painted fruit. For $100, you can dedicate a handmade pineapple to someone you think needs an uplifting message, Alyssa recently announced.
“It’s a big responsibility to have one of these minis because you have to promise you’re going to love yourself every time you look at your pineapple mini," she said.
Loving herself was getting harder for Alyssa, who had breast ex-plant surgery ten months ago in Costa Rica. She was finding she didn’t want to live a life which only satisfied a standard the world claimed was acceptable.
She wanted to feel “comfortable” in her own skin again.
“Having my implants removed gave me the realization that I have more to offer the world when I can quiet the noise of needing to change," she said.
It’s a decision that helped her re-think “beauty” altogether.
That’s where pineapples come in.
“The pineapple has been a universal symbol of self-love across the world for a while,” she said. “There are a lot of questions around this wall, which is exactly what I envisioned.”
Braden, also 28, walked through the transformation back to his soon-to-be-bride’s natural look. He recalled tough moments and emotional swings for Alyssa.
“I loved her like crazy before and I still love her like crazy after. Nothing she could do would change that,” he said. “You could take off her arms and legs and I could love her the same.”
Even with support from Braden, Alyssa still needed self-love. She came to the realization others might, too. She painted 50 mini pineapples and allowed customers to purchase them in order to dedicate them to those needing more self-love.
The response has been overwhelming.
“When somebody comes in and looks at this wall they can feel that they’re not alone in their journey of striving to feel a little bit more self-love,” she said.
Braden and Alyssa will host ‘LOVE YOU, A Self Love Art Show’ on Saturday from 6-9 p.m. at the gallery, located at 300 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.
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