Sunday, August 17, 2008

Artist Interview: Allyson Smith

Ochre Pine

Today I'm talking to figure painter, Allyson Smith. She studies the aspects of the human face and through that, the human condition . Her complex work is composed of heavy contrasts in color, light and shadow juxtaposed with subtle nuances of expression, mood and posture. Although (or because) she uses only herself and her husband, Tyson Skross, as models, the pieces reflect the constantly changing universe. She is currently pursuing her MFA at the Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts, Indiana University.

Tell me about art in your childhood. As far back as I can remember I loved to color, draw and paint. I grew up in a full house, the youngest of 5 kids, and when there was something going on I'd be in there, I'd have to be there, but when things didn't interest me or it was quiet I was just as happy to be by myself coloring or just thinking.

The Sound of Rocks in Dover

Was there art in your home or was creativity encouraged? We had a few paintings in our house from my father's side of the family, One, still hanging in the dining room, is of a young woman in a corseted dress in the country but it is mainly of her and only hints of a earthy background. She is holding her dress up with her hand and poised so delicately. I remember inspecting the hands especially for brush strokes and to see where the color changed, how it possibly could have been made.
There was another painting in the staircase, 2 that were side by side actually, of flowers and they were much more modern. The first was very light in color with lightly applied pigment,almost dry. The second, my favorite, was dark and energetic with pigment thickly put on with a pallette knife so colors were not completely mixed and were streaked. I couldn't tell if it were ugly or beautiful but I loved it.

We had art books in my house growing up. I remember especially a book on Picasso and loving his Blue Period and his drawings. And, oh, I watched Bob Ross! Art was always encouraged. We were always encouraged to be ourselves. Art was it for me. Nothing ever frustrated or satisfied me so much as when I tried to make something.Your formal education, was it valuable to you? I received my BFA from MICA, Maryland Institute College of Art, in Baltimore. I think my education there was great - very informative and I loved living in a community of curious and creative thinkers.

What inspires you? A lot of things inspire me. People, mainly my family and close friends, are my biggest inspiration. Light captivates me; especially dusk. Things change so fast at this time of day. Randomly more things that inspire me: other artists, sounds (like the clay pot and lid in the Thai restaurant in Baltimore), the ocean, mountains, dreams, memories, travel, adventure and transformation. The way things can unexpectedly relate in a glimpse.

Claiming Winter

How do you relate to your audience and how do you want your audience to relate to your paintings? I think of the play between the painting and the viewer a lot when I work. I want the paintings to be confrontational and also intimate. Ultimately I would love if the viewer simply enjoyed the paint itself as much as I do when I'm working. The qualities of paint, how paint can hover freely over the forms and subject or attach itself to them is a constant thrill to me and for me - really relates to the mysteries and sensations that surround us all the time.

Do you listen to music when you work? Who or what? I like a mix of musicians, some are instrumentals from all different countries that my husband, Tyson, finds and puts on my ipod. Some of my favorites are - Johnny Cash (The American Recordings), Nina Simone, Amalia Rodriquez, Talking Heads, MIA, Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. When I lived in Bridgeport, Ty and I shared a studio and we had a record player and we played Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan records at night while we worked (and a Billy Joel record when we would make dinner!) I love the sound of those records.

Any favorite books, movies or TV you enjoy for relaxation or inspiration? I haven't been reading as much as I would like but I constantly have between 40-60 out from the IU library - mainly on different artists like Per Kirkeby, Piero Della Francesco, Nancy Spero, and Amy Sillman. I just started Dostoevsky's "The Double." I love Anthony Bourdain's show, Terence Malik's movies, Arrested Development TV series and movies "The Big Lebowski.' "Lost in Translation" and "My Blueberry Nights." Just the other night I saw a documentary on Julia Child which I loved. It showed how passion in life can translate into lucious forms.

Thank you, Allyson. I'm so glad you agreed to share your thoughts. You mentioned Julia Child, the great French chef, and I would like to share with everyone you're culinary achievement.

Allyson is a very good baker. She entered a healthy version of her decadent Dark Chocolate Florentines recipe to Eating Well. She is one of the 10 finalists! You can vote for her recipe here. Encourage all your friends to vote also.


tskross said...

Well, obviously I'm biased, but just wait until you see what Allyson has been doing in Grad School. I think that she is the truest 'natural' painter I have ever met. I like the interview idea and I hope you keep it up! I even learned some new things both responding to your questions and reading Allyson's answers. As an artist I always value what the artist has to say about their own work most.

Oh and by the way she just found out yesterday that her recipe was chosen as one of the four runners up, and so she will be featured in the September issue of eating well!

ellie said...

Thanks for the feedback, Ty. I'm learning from the interviews also. I hope to keep posting an artist's interview each week. Glad you are enjoying them