Tell me what you see: Alli Royce Soble exhibit asks viewers to interpret paintings

You’ve most likely seen her at some of the hippest gay and gay-friendly parties and events, shooting photos of DJs and dancers in motion, bright streaks of lights capturing them in the moment.

alli royce sobleBut Alli Royce Soble is also an accomplished painter and will have a solo exhibit at Ponce City Market on Saturday, May 10. Royce, 41, an Atlanta native, is also known for her pouring skills behind the bar at Virginia-Highland hot spot La Tavola, a job she’s had since 2000. She also shoots the restaurant’s food photography and portraits.

“It has been such an amazing place,” Soble says. “I have met some fantastic people over the past 14 years and I still love working there. There are several guests of mine that are also collectors of my work.”

The passion for photography and then painting came at an early age and it’s one she will always pursue, she says.

“Even as a little kid, I was always taking photos at school of people. I still have my Kodak Disc camera from the ’80s. I shot with film, y’all!” she says.

Meanwhile, Soble took every painting class possible during her time at Georgia State University where she honed her skill of combining painting and photography. “I have always been an artist,” she says. “I knew that is what I was going to be.”

GAVO: Describe what work will be exhibited—the medium and what you are trying to express.
ROYCE: The work is acrylic on canvas abstract expressionism. This series is from the past two years from two different studios. I took a bit of a hiatus in 2013, so part of the work is from 2012 and most is from these past five months.

When did you start painting? What is your process like?
I started painting back in 1997 while in college at GSU getting my BFA in photography. I was never very good at drawing, so I felt that I would not be good at painting either. My professor, Larry Walker, was the one who inspired me to begin painting. The class was mixed media and collage. This allowed me to bring in my photography and mix it within the paintings. This was a great transition for me and allowed me to become comfortable with the paints and trying different processes. Over the years, I have let go of the collage aspect and focused purely on paint on canvas. I have been painting ab- stract work for over 10 years now. It is always evolving and changing. Even the work over these past few months has altered.

I paint with acrylic, because I use a lot of water to create texture in my pieces. Although oil is so lush and beautiful, I do not have the ventilated space for all the solvents necessary to do my work. Plus, I do not have the patience for the drying time. The process is a bit of a “controlled chaos.” My intention is there, but the result varies. I have chosen the size of the canvas and I have an idea of my color palette, but what occurs is organic.

What tools do you use?
It depends on the variables. Do I use wet paint on a dry canvas, is it wet canvas and thick paint, or dry canvas with liquid paint? Has the canvas dried enough to add more or did I add too much water this time? The floor in my studio is a little wonky, so which way will the paint roll? These are all factors.

I use an array of old brushes that I have had for years. I have an array of spray bottles used for mixing paints on and off the canvas. There are different tools for scraping and shifting. I have ruined many floors.
I always love hearing what people see when they look at my work. Sometimes they see people or landscapes. I am eager to hear what you see. Tell me.

What’s it like to have an exhibit at the brand new Ponce City Market?
I am very excited about being asked to show my work in this new space. Ponce City Market Pop Up Gallery is brand new to the scene. I am the third installation to be exhibited. I am following up some great artists already shown since March. Susan Bridges of Whitespace represented Tommy Taylor, and Cash Rojas Projects are currently representing Lonnie Holley. This space is one of the only spaces in Ponce City Market open to the public. I am very excited to see what PCM does for Atlanta and the surrounding community.

What about your photography? You are often seen at many parties and events taking photos, mostly casual photos. You also take professional photos. How do painting and photography complement each other?
A lot of people do know me as a photographer, not as much as a painter. I guess, socially, people always see me out at events taking photographs and documenting life in Atlanta. Like I mentioned before, I have been painting since 1997, almost as long as I have been taking photographs professionally. What I love about photography is that I can capture life in a moment. Reality. What I love about painting is to create something out of nothing. I create an emotion by the colors I choose and the textures I create. The emotion is also reality.

Sunday: 17 gay things to do in Atlanta today

imageThe sun breaks through the clouds like a divine directive: Get off your butt, get out of the house and get with your gays, whether it’s at a house of worship or one of several Churches of the Poison Mind.

Come on in, precious. Sister Louisa’s “Sunday Services” art show and sale features Alli Royce Soble Photography (top photo), 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.


Atlanta, Georgia 2008

Painting the town. 
Artistic bartender Alli Royce Soble talks wines, cocktails and creativity

Spark St. Jude
Alli Royce Soble

By Hope S. Philbrick

Not all artists are starving, but it’s common to meet one with a second job. It’s rarer to meet an artist who is as passionate about that second job—in this case tending bar at La Tavola Trattoria—as she is about painting canvases and shooting pictures. When The Sunday Paper heard about Alli Royce Soble’s dual passions, we wanted to meet her.

Q What drew you behind the bar?

I started bartending almost 10 years ago at a restaurant called the Food Business in Decatur, which no longer exists. I would watch the interaction of the people at the bar. I thought it looked like something I’d be interested in doing. I just kind of dove right in.

    I started at restaurants when I was still in college. I grew up in the Chamblee-Tucker area. My first touch of the industry was with Arden’s Garden. I was the original “juice girl,” pedaling my bike around selling her products.

When I came to La Tavola Trattoria in 2000, I started out as a server but worked my way up.

What inspires you?

I made a drink last year that was popular this summer, the limonada. It came upon me sort of by accident. I was serving limoncello, an Italian lemon liqueur, to a customer who tried it and said it was too strong so she wasn’t enjoying it. I said, “Let me make something else out of it.” I threw it in a Collins glass with ice, soda water, fresh lemon juice, sour mix, Sprite and voila!, a refreshing drink that was less sweet. Inspiration can come immediately, such as in that case, and other times you might see a recipe in a magazine and think of how to put your own twist on it.

There are so many different producers making high-quality products. Personally, I like gin and vodka. They’re pretty easy to work with as far as creating different flavor profiles. We have so many different purees like blood orange and strawberry, and different syrups like rosemary or mint, which makes it easy to play around and mix things to add elements. I like adding bitters to drinks, as it gives a twang to it. I like to add non-traditional things people have never tried before.
Sometimes we flow with the trends, like when everybody starts asking for a pomegranate martini, while last year, it was blueberry and two years ago, it was apple. The bottom line is we’re an Italian restaurant, and our focus is on Italian wine. The cocktail list isn’t as much a draw as our wine list. 

I really didn’t know anything about Italian wine when I started, but now I can’t get enough. We have 120 bottles on our wine list. I love selling wine. When people come into the bar and ask about wine, I always start with three questions: Do you want red or white? Do you want light, medium or full body? Do you want Italian or domestic? Their answers help me edit down the list so I can give them options. That’s my best joy.

I love my job. We’re not a “bar bar,” we’re a bar that makes drinks. You’re not going to see me making shooters for eight people at 3 a.m. That’s not the kind of bartender I am. I like interaction, talking about wine, educating people, turning people onto something new. That makes my day. It’s only a seven-seat bar. I have tons of regulars. Coming to work is like being out with friends. I know what they like, and it’s a beautiful relationship. I have people who wait an hour to sit at the bar; it’s the biggest compliment.
I work at La Tavola four nights a week so I can work at my studio. I’m a painter and photographer and have been doing it for 15 years. Everyone at the bar has always been supportive of my career. SP
La Tavola Trattoria is located at 992 Virginia Ave. NE. For reservations or more information about the restaurant call 404-873-5430 or visit To learn more about Alli Royce Soble and her artwork, visit


PRIVATE QUARTERS / A look at Atlanta's properties and personalities

Couple revives Jova-designed Midtown home

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 04/08/08

When Randall Cobb and Lisa DeAngelis first toured their future Midtown home, they overlooked its outdated decor and overgrown garden. They saw past the inadequate lighting, and they paid no mind to the "wet campfire" smell permeating the home, caused by water leaking through the chimney.

Instead, what the couple saw was a living, breathing work of art. After all, famed Atlanta architect Henri Jova built this Mid-Century modern for his parents in 1965, next door to his own estate now on the market for $1.95 million. Jova pioneered a contemporary aesthetic in Midtown architecture, most notably at the Colony Square complex at 14th and Peachtree streets.

"The entire footprint of the house was flawless ... it was designed perfectly," Cobb said. "I just had to update everything."

Luckily for the couple, they both have an eye for structure — she as a dentist, he as an interior designer. They fell in love with the home's clean lines, its airy feel and courtyard garden. For them, the white brick abode was an impeccable canvas waiting to be painted.

"I knew instantly what it would look like," said Cobb, owner of Randall Cobb Interiors.

They purchased the home in February 2006 for $575,000 and wasted no time getting to work, moving in post-renovation that August. They had spent the previous decade in a Morningside townhouse, and were anxious to make this 7th Street property their own.

DeAngelis explains they called in every favor owed to them and set their sights on the home's virtually non-existent lighting scheme. (Think a single outlet in a room.) Because they wanted to keep the original stained redwood ceiling intact, they installed the conduit and a new roof above the planks. They introduced light by removing a wall that concealed the foyer's staircase and replaced it with a glass-paneled banister. The couple also gutted the home's three bathrooms and tore out overgrown bushes in the courtyard.

"We basically built a new house inside an old shell," DeAngelis said.

Through their work, the two restored the home to its intended contemporary feel, but with a hefty dose of cozy, Zen-like sophistication. And it works — the property recently appraised at $1.2 million, Cobb said.

"Even though I'm a modernist, I have a real issue with this cold, straight-line look that is out right now," he said. "Everything is about comfort."

The home's color scheme incorporates chocolates, creams, and golds, with pops of reddish hues to complement the ceiling. Cobb's aesthetic is sleek and understated, save for the dramatic crimson Chinese temple doors mounted above the living room mantle, which DeAngelis said she had to convince the owners of Paris on Ponce to sell.

Cobb carefully selected furniture in scale with the home. (The sweeping two-story living room makes the home feel larger than its 2,100 square feet.) When appropriate pieces could not be found, Cobb — a former designer with David Incorporated in Atlanta — created them himself, including the silverly beige sofas in the living room and cinnamon suede button-tufted bed in the guest room.

The couple's elaborate art collection is on display throughout the home, among them pieces by Atlanta artists Alli Royce Soble and Tracy Hartley. In the dining room, the paintings pop against the backdrop of creamy white brick walls, also found on the home's floors and exterior. (But in this room, a friend faux-finished the bricks white as a previous owner had painted them burgundy.)

Cobb completed the room with Thomas Pheasant chandeliers and ostrich-inspired host and hostess dining room chairs, flanking the glossy mahogany dining table he discovered at Paris on Ponce.

"We love the dining room," Cobb said. "When we're entertaining, and the French doors are open, we can hear the fountain and police cars. Midtown is great."

Doors from the living and dining rooms lead to the courtyard garden, home to a mangled metal sculpture that Cobb explained was once Jova's Porsche. A deco-modern wrought iron table is completed with a hand-painted Italian tabletop DeAngelis commissioned as a gift to her husband. The words "Villa Bosco" are inscribed on the piece — a tribute to Cobb's childhood nickname "Bosco," meaning hat with no brim.

The couple prepares their meals in a small, yet functional kitchen. Cobb made few changes other than adding additional lighting, installing a commercial grade hood, and finishing the space with a black backsplash. A butcher-block table on casters doubles as a breakfast table and serving cart.

"This is where we ran out of money," he joked. "We made do."

Perhaps his work is best seen in the master bedroom and study, both lessons in how restrained design, intimate lighting and rich fabrics create a contoured, urban glamour. Golden brown pin-tucked silk drapes line two walls of their bedroom, leading to a wall of glossy mahogany closets which DeAngelis helped design.

Their upholstered bed, by Swaim, features the same Kravet silk bedding as their linens. The floor is covered in a dark, lustrous hand knotted silk and wool rug from India. The master bath boldly glistens with Bisazza mosaic glass tile, which Cobb also used on the floor of the home's elevator.

(And yes, the elevator still works. It has been updated with shimmering gold Murano crushed glass wallpaper.)

The Homelift elevator and stairwell lead to the upstairs study, the only room on the second floor of the home. The couple co-designed built-ins and a workstation in this richly lit room, anchored by Cobb's beloved burgundy 1970s David Blumenthal sofa, an homage to the Atlanta designer with whom Cobb studied. Here, the couple often watches movies at home with Chihuahuas Pepper and Major.

"We manage to utilize every room," Cobb said.

DeAngelis said she and her husband plan to stay in this home permanently.

"There are still moments when I sit in the living room, and it suddenly occurs to me that this is where I live," she said. "I just wish the days were longer so that we could enjoy it more."


Arts: Feature

Out in the shanty
A humble shed becomes a tool for artist exposure
Published 08.19.00

While some would have you believe it's all about the art on the walls, more cynical types know that in the culture racket, it's as much showbiz as raw talent. Thus the headline-making importance of design in recent art-world spaces such as Richard Meier's Getty Center, Frank Gehry's Bilboa and Yoshio Taniguchi's expansion and renovation of New York's Museum of Modern Art. The politics and aesthetics of space are of equal concern to smaller venues where the difference between art hung on exposed brick walls and pristine white ones signals the difference between grass-roots exposure and upwardly mobile sales.
That subtext of space is being given an amusing spin by local writer-cum-art entrepreneur Joey Orr, an imaginative Atlanta native who's chosen an unlikely venue for a series of art exhibits: the humble, utilitarian shed. Formerly home to brown recluse spiders and dad's aborted home-repair projects, the shed is the outdoor version of the attic, a realm of denial where the overflow of American accumulation finds a country home. If the gallery space is all about fetishizing setting (and thus, the work that hangs there), the shed is the inverse -- the kind of forgotten space you put things you'd rather just went away.

ShedSpace, Orr's reinstallment of the shed to center stage, has the energy of the lemonade stand or puppet shows staged in summertime backyards as a kid -- the kind of anarchical lark far from the self-serious pretensions of the art world.

Throughout August, the ShedSpace exhibitions will feature a host of artists displaying their work for one day only in four sheds in East Atlanta, Decatur, Reynolds-town and East Lake. Shed owners chose the artists they wanted to present in their own sheds, though Orr says that in the case of the last shed, owned by Todd Johnson and Anne Palmer, "they didn't really have any connection to the art scene at all, so I hooked them up with Ballroom Studios."

The debut ShedSpace is in Orr's own Decatur backyard and features works by 27-year-old Georgia State graduate Alli Royce Soble. Soble's work has been featured in the 1999 Nexus Biennial and Hairdos and Tractor Pulls at Trinity Gallery. This is, thus far, her first "outbuilding show." Soble, who realizes the importance of venue says she wisely looked at the shed before deciding to do the show. As young artists quickly learn while pursuing their BFA's, the wrong shed could break an artist's career.

The idea for ShedSpace came to Orr after a visit several years ago to San Antonio where he was inspired by Blue Star Arts, an industrial space revamped into an art complex. Of particular interest to Orr was a small room housed behind the complex in which artist Ethel Shipton allowed a rotating cadre of emerging artists to exhibit for a week. It is, says Orr, "the same concept as the shed -- where they have three days to move in and do whatever they want to do, the middle day to exhibit, then three days to return the room to the condition they found it." In other words, a nightmare of disarray and rusting tools. Each ShedSpace project can be seen by the public for only one evening, on the Saturday of the opening.

Soble has taken the shed theme and run with it, offering a pun-oriented spin on the utility shed in works melding digital photography, painting and collage, all in an homage to that classically macho accessory: the tool. In one digital image, "Screwed," a woman's head vibrates violently on the head of a screw, while in another, a confused young man wears a wheelbarrow for a hat. Soble's installation blends the overt tools of her trade such as brushes, greasepaint and charcoal (displayed on a small table at the center of the shed) with more covert, technological tools like the printers, computers and cameras that allow her to translate idea to canvas. Like characters from her images come to life, Soble also displays a selection of the hammers, screws, screwdrivers and knives that make up the handyman's repertoire.

"There were a lot of things we wanted to accomplish with the show," says Orr. One of the things was to support the arts community by having a place for them to show and a cool project for them to be a part of. Curious backyard dabblers can spend every Saturday in August finding out just what lies behind the shed mystique. There are two remaining ShedSpace exhibits on view this August. Artists Charlotte and Tom Wegrzynowski will show their moody oil paintings with the Concept Union on Aug. 19, and photographer Todd Carroll, writer/performer Jason Wagner, painter Jeremy Dost and other Ballroom Studios participants will have work on display Aug. 26.


Arts: Visual Arts

The Year in Arts
Local artists' works foretell 9-11's far-reaching effects on the cultural landscape

Published 12.26.01

As Watergate, Vietnam or the assassination of John F. Kennedy were to previous generations, Sept. 11 was our own paradigm shift. While its impact on our culture won't be fully understood for a long time, its effect was immediately apparent among visual artists who struggled to deal with the tragedy in their artwork.
Joe Peragine was just one of a host of local artists who confronted this history-altering event in his own artwork. He created a video called simply "9/11" for the group show What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding organized by artists Mia Merlin and Ann-Marie M. Downs at Art Spot in the wake of the attacks.

Peragine says Sept. 11 will inevitably alter his own work.

"It's impossible not to. I feel like my work is really tuned into what's happening in my life, so I can't imagine it not."

Artists like Craig Dongoski used their art-making as a public forum for treating the many emotions and contradictions inspired by Sept. 11. His audio work "War Worlds," which blends Orson Welles' infamous 1938 radio broadcast "The War of the Worlds" with a CNN broadcast of the WTC attack, appeared beside work made by some of his own graduate students in What's So Funny ... .

For Dongoski, the television coverage of the WTC attack only crystallized larger problems with the media. "I felt the coverage that day began a campaign of fear. Fear, simplification of issues and squelching alternative/opposing viewpoints is what breeds nationalism, and I feel nationalism is a very dangerous thing."

As to whether the events have changed his art, Dongoski, like every local artist asked, is unequivocal. "My interest in the artist as collective was reinforced infinitely that day. Myself, my work, are forever changed," he says.

While some artists used the terrorist attacks to bring political activism and a need for discussion to the fore, others set out to honor those who died in the attacks as part of a new, community-minded art-making.

Atlanta curator/artist Cecelia Kane, along with a small group of like-minded artists, organized "Project Nine Eleven," a memorial displayed at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center composed of 5,000 red, white and blue ribbons inscribed with the names of the victims of the attacks. The installation of the public memorial coincided, ironically, with the Nov. 16 opening of the violence-themed show Rear Window.

Perhaps the local artist with the most direct relation to the events of Sept. 11 was Alli Royce Soble, a painter and photographer who was vacationing in Manhattan on the day of the attacks. Soble managed to capture an array of images of the aftermath as New Yorkers held candlelight vigils in Union Square or illuminated Times Square signboards showed images of firefighters responding to the tragedy. Soble exhibited the work for the first time Oct. 25 at the Showcase School.

"My work has been affected greatly," says Soble. "I have taken old paintings and have painted over them in white to create something new. I pull [off] papers that were once on the canvas to reveal what was once underneath. It is a process of change within me and how I am changing my work."

Says Soble, "Everything has changed in my life since that time in NYC."


BIRDI'S on Decatur Square

The Hudspeth Dining Report
March 2002

Over the past couple of years, Decatur has experienced a downtown resurgence, attracting many new restaurants and retailers to the area. Birdi's is one of those restaurant establishments, which recently opened on the square on March 12, 2002.

The three partners, Dewayne Mullis, Doug Sheffield and Sherri Dupree, along with consultant, Deena Keeler have converted the former 10-year-old restaurant, The Food Business, operated by Keeler, into a hip, funky causal dining arena, with an extensive Martini list. Birdi's offers seafood, pasta, a large selection of salads and sandwiches all within a three level loft-like interior.

"We wanted to create an environment which was fun, creative, and cozy," said partner Dewayne Mullis. The choice of having dinner at a conventional table or seated on a sofa is part of the comfort factor. The main level has four military navy colored sofas, two love seats and two ottomans. Large coffee tables surround each sofa area, making it easy to balance meal and conversation. There is seating on all three levels, with a large bar on the main level, which seats up to 35.

The color blocked interior is jazzed up with jalapeno green, sunny yellow, fire engine red, violet and khaki sun and set off by vibrant artwork by local artist Alli Royce Soble. The main level bar area is tiled in terra-cotta colored flooring. On the mezzanine level, the floor turns to an all-black tile intermingled with red and yellow tiles, giving it a very artsy, deco effect.



East Point is southwest of the neighborhoods of Atlanta in Fulton County, Georgia, United States. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 39,595. The city is named for being at the opposite end of the former Atlanta & West Point Railroad from West Point, Georgia.

East Point is home to R&B and hip hop groups such as TLC, OutKast, Coolbreeze, Organized Noize, and Goodie Mob. It is also the home of Teddy Geiger and author and film critic Alonso Duralde. A growing fine arts community includes artists: Bjay Allen, Marc Villanueva, Su Abbott, and Alli Royce Soble.