While Attie never formally studied art, she was always interested in the visual arts, particularly ink drawings. Her Class Notes series were documents made throughout her education in the form of ink drawings that she made as notes in her philosophy and quantum physics classes at Columbia University. Class Notes is only one series of her many ink drawings using repetitious and minuscule words, figures, numbers, and images. As these elements accrue and grow, Attie intends to push the boundary between writing and drawing in order to "trespass over a threshold where language becomes something visual". Attie thinks of these drawings as a way of translating feelings into shared experiences.
Inspired by nature, Attie's photographs feature the meadows, parks, and fields of Iceland, New Hampshire, upstate New York, and Central Park. Taken with her father's old 1937 Rolleiflex camera, her photographs explore the idea of nature as visual poetry. Her photographic work and drawings on paper can be found in collections at The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Museum of Modern Art, The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Jewish Museum, all in New York, The Getty Museum in Los Angeles and The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas, among others.
In 2001, Attie published Alice Attie: Harlem on the Verge, (with introduction by historian Robin D.G. Kelley), a book of photo portraits documenting people and buildings in modern-day Harlem on the verge of gentrification. In 2012, Alice collaborated with thirty-four photographs on the book Harlem by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak.
While Attie herself has not been able to define exactly why she pursued the visual arts after so many years of studying poetry, she knows "the movement was, and continues to be, fluid, with intimate association".
Attie created the photographic reproductions of artist June Leaf's works for the book June Leaf: Thought is Infinite.
Attie originally entered the art world as a writer, studying literature and poetry throughout her career and obtaining bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees in the field. After spending several decades as a distinguished photographer, Attie returned to poetry. Her first volume of poetry, These Figures Lining the Hills, was published by Seagull Books in November 2015. These Figures Lining the Hills was inspired by a simple request from Naveen Kishore of Seagull Books: a call to "write about notes, notes that we write to ourselves, in journals, in notebooks, perhaps notes that we imagine writing, fragments of notes, notes in margins, and notes, perhaps, that are not written". Having kept a journal for almost 50 years, Attie rose to the occasion by culling from her recent notebooks.
Attie studied under June Jordan while obtaining her MFA in poetry. She has also cited Stéphane Mallarmé and Francis Ponge as early inspirations for her writing and credits the work of Franz Kafka as formative to her work in literature and art. Like Kafka, she sees her work as a mediation between two worlds. Her favorite books are To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf and As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner and she keeps the Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens on her nightstand or in her suitcase.
Attie is currently working on two books. The first will be a collection of small prose pieces inspired by the paintings in the Flemish wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The second will be a collection of responses to existing work: Roland Barthes' lectures on "The Neutral," The Hermeneutics of the Subject by Michel Foucault, and two essays by Jorge Luis Borges.