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Tyler Visting Artist Resonse

Visiting Artist Response

Date - 11/13/2008
Time - 7:00p
Artist - Allison Smith

Allison Smith has worked with almost all types of media including ceramics, textiles, printmaking, but most often sculptures. Growing up, Allison lived in North Virginia, just outside of the Washington D.C. suburbs; she now resides in Oakland California. As a child, Allison grew up exposed to arts and crafts through both her mother and father. Her mother, as she described her, was an early Martha Stewart and loved making things involving quilting, needle point work, wreath making, and stenciling. Her father was also crafty in the sense that he loved making things such as kites, model airplanes and trains. Overall Allison had a very creative childhood environment and one that would foster a more hands on approach to art.

The Civil War was a very heavy theme for Allison as a child. She attended re-enactments, country fairs, toured historic houses, and attended living history museums. Allison even has family history ties to the Civil War; two of her ancestors signed for the succession of South Carolina from the union, arguably what can be blamed for the official start of the Civil War. Allison is very drawn to the amount of detail in war re-enactments, saying that “detail is almost an obsession.�

Her first major project that she introduced was the musters of 2004 and 2005. The first was held at a fellow artists Pennsylvania farm, while the second took place on the Governor’s Island in New York. These musters had participants answer the questions, what are you fighting for? The theme of having herself as well as the public live within her work is very strong in almost all of Allison’s work. The muster cannot happen without public participation, just as she uses her sculptures of firearms and others to put herself into her art.

One statement that she made was regarding a fellow artist who is a basket weaver. He said, “If I show my work at a gallery or sell my basket, my studio would become a factory and I would become a machine.� I was very intrigued by this comment. It has a very powerful meaning in this capitalist society in which we all live. The first thought that came to my mind was that this artist/artisan thought of capitalism as selling your soul to the devil. I then realized that I may have been reading to much into the statement and that the artist/artisan could have very well been so passionate about the intricacy of his work that should he ever be forced to make baskets strictly for sale, he would lose that passion. I find that this attitude can also be projected upon Allison’s works. The other comment that she made that was very interesting is that she thought of herself as a jack of all trades but a master of none. I think that this can definitely tie into her role in most of her art as the author or producer (especially seen in the musters) that she has a great appreciation for all trades enough that she would never want to push one aside to focus on just one.

The presentation was very interesting to say the least. I have come to the opinion that Allison’s greatest pleasure in art is to get a sense of how people interpret her creations. I think that is the basis for almost everything she has worked on. The muster allows every participant to interpret the question, what are you fighting for, in their own manner. On more than one occasion during the presentation Allison made the comment that she wished that she could get more of an incite into the reactions and views of the audience to get a better sense of what the public was getting out of her sculptures and works after putting so much personal touch into every aspect of her creations.