Alicia McCarthy was born in 1969 in Oakland, where she currently lives and works. Her paintings feature complex interactions of form and color, sometimes with text, and typically on paper or found wood. Through her work, McCarthy blends the DIY aesthetics of American punk rock with those of outsider artists and folk artisans. She is a member of the Mission School, a movement that arose in San Francisco in the 1990s that embraced an urban rustic aesthetic; it was featured in the 2008 documentary Beautiful Losers.

McCarthy’s work has been shown in solo and two-person exhibitions at Johansson Projects, Oakland (2014), Jack Hanley Gallery, San Francisco (2013, 2010, 2008, 2006, and 2003), RARE Gallery, New York (2005, 2004, and 2002), and Midway Gallery, St. Paul, Minnesota (2003). She has been in group exhibitions at Toomey Tourell Fine Art, San Francisco (2014), V1 Gallery, Copenhagen, Denmark (2013), the Craft and Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles (2013), the Luggage Store, San Francisco (2007 and 1999), the Dallas Museum of Art (2001), Deitch Projects, New York (2001), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2001 and 2000), and the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery (1998). In 2013, her work was included in a major traveling exhibition that appeared at the San Francisco Art Institute, where she received her BFA in 1994, and the Grey Art Gallery at New York University. She is the 2013 winner of the Artadia Award and was both a 1995 Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture fellow and a 1999 fellow at Headlands Center for the Arts.