Following up from our recent post on artist Kelly Allen’s new solo show, ‘Everything Is Everything‘, which opened last Friday night at Medicine Agency, we got a very generous interview with Kelly before she shared her work with her San Fransisco’s fans and an exclusive look at her show!
Read our exclusive interview below!
I just have to say I absolutely love your work! I am so glad I came across it.
Hi Yasmine! Thank you so much for your kind words and interest in my work. I think answering your questions is going to be fun. 😀
Your works remind me of some sort of mass-hybrid creature. Is it your aim to create one big functioning creature or do you prefer to see your content as separate pieces all just joint together for a different reason?
I like the phrase “mass-hybrid creature.” I think that is perfect for the way I think about my pieces. At the core of my works and ideas about this world, I think everyone and everything IS one mass-hybrid creature. We are all part of one singular system. Each and every person, animal, plant is essential, playing out its own roles and duties to keep “the creature” alive. The creature could be a city, an ecosystem, or refer to the entire planet. Each one of my images reflects this idea in a certain way.
Does your content have a story? Either as one mass or as a linked-up sort of tale? Tale to tail? x sorry Im getting carried away.
Tale to tail!! Ha ha! I love it!! Well, I have a kind of strange way of relating to my pieces. I view them in two different ways. First, I do tend to invent a narrative of sorts about each individual composition. Like in A Star is a Seed, I have this idea about a person being in the jungle near the water, keeping one eye on the tiger and one eye on the amazing jungle nature that envelops them. Second, I have created a system for interpreting each piece through researching every component within them to discover various symbolic and cultural meanings they have been given over time and space. So, for instance, I’ll research tiger animal symbolism, symbolism for the color red, the symbolism of a pear, and so on. Then I weave all of these symbolic meanings together and devise a singular overarching meaning for the piece that I could have never realized in my own mind. I love to do this. It’s kind of like my own way of reading tea eaves or Tarot or dream interpretation. I’ve always been fascinated by that kind of stuff. This second way of thinking about each piece relates to the mass-hybrid creature idea in the way that each and every thing in the world is thought about in as many ways as there are people and other sentient creatures to think about it. That is very exciting to me. I keep my own specific ideas about each piece to myself for the most part. I want each viewer to feel free to connect with the work in her or his own way. That is very important to me. I do hope that they can connect with them in a positive way, but I know I don’t have much control over that.
What sparks the ideas for you to put certain objects together, is it something you decide as you go? Or have you mapped this out before you start?
I begin each piece with a “collage sketching” session, where I lay white paper out on the floor and start pulling out a bunch of cut out images that I have been collecting for years and begin moving them around. It’s really kind of meditative. I focus on keeping my mind quiet and just keep rearranging different images until they feel right together. It’s a process of discovery rooted in trust and allowing the composition to emerge. Then, when I have a composition I am happy with, I map it out and make a painting of it. I never glue the collage sketch down so that I can use the components again in future pieces, and also so that the collage sketch ceases to exist after the painting is finished.
Your work has been described as being mistaken for a collage work. Is this your intention? Have you ever worked with the collage medium or is it purely just your aesthetic and way of drawing?
Well, it’s kind of funny. I have been told that my images are “sneaky” because until someone gets right up on them, they just assume it is a collage. I like that because it compels each person to get really close to each image, spend more time with it and appreciate it more. With so much art around and so many quick and easy digital ways to make an image, it’s very important to me to be connected with the laborious, time-intensive practice of meticulous painting. It makes me examine every tiny detail of every cut out image I am working from and I feel a new appreciation for the individual beauty of each one. This relates to my ideas about our culture, as we are barraged by so many images and so much information every day that we are completely out of the habit of studying and focusing on a single thing for more than a second. It is helpful to my own psyche to take time to focus on the beauty in the minute details of life. One thing I love (which is weird, I suppose) is to come across a massive pile of ants, working on bringing a little piece of a Pop-Tart someone dropped back to their ant village. It takes me out of the endless thought stream of “to-do” lists and connects me with being a creature, coexisting with other creatures on this planet.
I love the movement and playfulness that is alive in your work, yet it sort of goes against that bold and liberal way of applying paint as the work is so detailed and specific. How do you feel you capture both the liveliness and focused attention in your works?
I think I kind of answered some of this question in the last one there. I think I capture the liveliness of the work through the exciting and colorful components within each piece, the unexpected partnerships that form between unlikely subjects, and the compositional format of all of these creatures and shapes “wadded” together with parts flying off into space. There is action in the stillness.
The focused attention then comes when either I, as the painter, or you, as the viewer take time to look closely at the image and see how every brushstroke needs to be made for the image to exist, and the time and dedication I put into each piece becomes evident. I really enjoy that pairing of feelings and I want the viewer to feel satisfied at every level.
What do you love about where you live? What is it about your surroundings that is evident in your work, if any?
I just moved to San Francisco a couple of weeks ago from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and I’m loving it here, but Michigan is where I was when I made this work, and I do love Michigan very much. West Michigan is rich with natural beauty. I used to live in the city suburbs in a big old house with a garden and fruit trees, close to the river, beautiful parks and great hiking spots. Then there is the amazing Lake Michigan, about 45 minutes away from the city and it is truly like a freshwater ocean; huge, clean, and gorgeous with sand dunes and endless beaches. I really appreciated being able to get out into nature, even if I went into my back yard to pick some pears off the tree. That was great!! Luckily San Francisco is an amazing city with so much natural beauty as well. Having just gotten here, I can’ t wait to ride my bike all over and get into both city culture and the nature that surrounds us.
Do you work from home or a studio? Tell us about your set up. What would be some ways to describe your working day?
Well, I just set up my studio in the teeny kitchen nook area in our studio apartment, and it feels cozy, so I think it will work out alright. In Michigan, my studio was in a spare bedroom, right across the hall from our bedroom, and it was really great. I have tons of nature books and files of all of my cut out imagery that I try to keep organized, lots of paper, a great easel my husband built for me, and my paints and tiny brushes. In the morning I get up, have breakfast, and get into the studio, which could either look like a bomb went off if I’m in the collage-sketching mode, or pretty organized and together if I am in painting mode. If I’m painting, I tend to listen to NPR or Luxuria music (my favorite internet radio) until I need to take a break and check my emails. Then it’s back to image making until I’m hungry again, and so on until I go to bed.
Your new show ‘Everything Is Everything’ opens this weekend at Medicine Agency. What do you love about showing/sharing your work?
I am so excited for this show! I can’t wait to show my work to a whole new group of people, many of whom will surely inspire me in new ways. The guys at the Medicine Agency are great and it’s so much fun working with them. I’m just really pumped to see how people react to the work and hear about what others think about it. That is something that’s really gratifying for me. When I can clearly see that a person is truly excited about one of my paintings and takes the time and energy to express how they feel about it, it’s really fulfilling, satisfying, and humbling.
Can you tell us about the ideas behind the title of your show, ‘Everything Is Everything’?
The title “Everything is Everything” goes back to our initial idea at the top of the interview, that all things in the world are interconnected in this massive, beautiful, living system (or mass-hybrid creature) we call Earth. Every person has their own ideas about existence and their own part to play within it that is necessary for it to be whole. I like to try to understand the core theories of quantum physics and the like, which through my base level of comprehension, states that at the quantum level, everything is composed of the same stuff. We all are made up of stardust. It is so incredible to me that a specific combination of particles and elements creates a human being that engages its consciousness with the stuff of the world, creates thoughts, ideas, and individualized meanings from them, and has a great effect on the world around them. If more people can come to realize the great benefit of living with that notion, that each person and each thing is connected to, and affects everything else, I think we are on the upswing. The upswing to exactly what, I don’t know. I like it that way.
What have you got planned for the rest of 2010?
Hooooo, let’s see. The rest of 2010 is going to be great! As far as shows are concerned, I will be participating in a group show at the Michael Rosenthal Gallery in San Francisco in June, and also for a fun exhibition I created and curated in Michigan, based on the childhood game of whispering secret messages, Telephone. (Remember that one?) I am excited to meet so many new art friends out here in SF and find my way through the city. I plan to get out of the city a few times and visit dear friends up north in Arcata, CA and go to Yosemite. I can’t wait to see how my new home will affect my upcoming paintings. I’ve got a lot of fun work to do.
Thanks so much Kelly!
Thank you Yasmine! Those were some great questions! Keep in touch!
All images are from John LaCroix for Medicine Agency