Artist Bio

Who’s In Your Way? /Or/ I Guess I’ve Grown Up Now.

I came across a post from an old friend on facebook a couple weeks ago that read “The phrase I hear most from weak people is ‘You’re holding me back’.” It’s one of those things you read that stops you in your tracks mentally for a moment. Being me, my first thought was “Ouch! That’s kind of mean … and can’t that be true sometimes?”

I’ve been through this scenario in a workplace situation. Far back yonder, I put someone in charge of a project they wanted to lead, and spent copious amounts of my time and energy making sure they had what they needed to be supported and thrive. I was alongside the whole way, being sure to ask probing questions to get them thinking and planning while still empowering them to take the lead. I made myself available for any and all help needed, even for troubleshooting and brainstorming outside of work that I would not be compensated for. Long story short, even with all this they continued to sit on their hands until after much pleading and prompting, I was forced to take over because others were depending on the end result of this undertaking by a certain due date. The other helped about 20%, and a lot of what they did I had to improve upon or fix because full effort wasn’t put in. Afterwards, both our names ended up on the project and they were PISSED. The attitude was that they had done most of the work, and I was just in the way but everyone always wants to give me all the credit and attention because of favoritism. Not to get into my life and/or work history, but the idea of me ever getting superfluous credit or “favoritism” is laughable. Oftentimes it’s honestly been almost the polar opposite. I never had asked for my name to be on the project or even told anyone I’d done most of the work because I hadn’t wanted to make the other look bad, and I had actually been planning to let them take the credit which was why their reaction especially upset me. Yes, that’s dumb and unhealthy but as I said this was years and years ago. The truth has a way of being noticed regardless, and so someone had deemed fit to add my name in the final credits. At the end of their rant was when I was treated to the above statement, when I was told all I do is stand in the way of their success, and I was rendered quite speechless. They are lucky I was speechless, because I had entered full volcano mode at this point.

I’ve also run into this accusation in my social life outside of work, usually when I won’t drop everything to completely manage the events of someone else’s life.

However, I certainly can’t sit here and point the finger as if I’ve never had a similar attitude during some struggle points in my own existence. I remember countless frustrated, tearful conversations with family as a teen and young adult asserting that I would never find my success because of where I lived, and it was their fault I’d never find a job in my field because they didn’t pay for me to go to college out of state, and wouldn’t drive me across the country and get me an apartment in California, and how I would never have any real friends because they chose to start a family in such a boring place where no one likes me … Yikes, I’m super embarrassed now at how rotten that sounds but it’s the truth.

I have struggled to find my place in this world, and at times still do. Only now, I’m not convinced location has a ton to do with it. Maybe a small percentage, but I also think I may just always be that way and that’s ok, we all have things.

Not quite what she had in mind…

It’s always easier to point at someone else as the reason you’re floundering. It takes strength to look at yourself and say hey, I’ve got to step it up and make some changes. The moment I stopped being so narrowly focused and started being open to doing things with my art career outside of a very specific, internally special to me, niche subject I started reaching people, which in turn drew them into all that special interest stuff too. In the past, I never would have created a mixed media landscape because, “Allise only does a, b, and c” (Freshman year of college, a friend asked me to paint a girl holding a cat for her dorm bedroom and I did but put dragon wings on the cat because I was on a dragon kick! – This reminds me now of something some of my Artshop students would do. Ok, maybe I have found one place I feel at home most of the time ūüėČ ). I expanded my scope to add a broad letter d, I also do art that may not be my special subject of interest but helps improve others’ lives and makes people happy, especially those groups that may not have access to fine art on a daily basis.

Sorry for the language, but it’s funny. Oscar Wilde once said, “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh. Otherwise they’ll kill you”.

The moment I stopped thinking I deserved more than where I was and cut the entitlement, I saw doors where before I’d thought there was only a brick wall. Am I rich and famous now – hell no. But am I pretty happy most of the time, and do I generally like my life? I’d say, sure, I think so.

No one can stop you unless you let them, and no one is obligated to prop you up. Show gratitude to those who do anyway, and do your own work.

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Throwback Art

Throwback Chapter 2 : Baby It’s Dark Out There

Happy early throwback Thursday, since I likely won’t have time to post on Thanksgiving as I’ll be enjoying family festivities :). Today I’ll be continuing my series using the past to delve into why I create what I do‚Ķ I hope others find this interesting and entertaining, and I hope it helps readers reconnect with their past selves and realize how all of those different ‚Äúus-es‚ÄĚ had a part in creating who we are today, even those versions of us we don‚Äôt like to spend too much time with.

These early drawings from age 1 and 2 respectively cracked me up when I discovered them (Yes, I have a drawing from one year old … in my previous post I mentioned my mother’s expert level archival skills.). The first is of a sad girl who lost her helium balloon she’d been holding to the skies – It seems I had a pretty good grasp on the fact that life is full of disappointments and setbacks after only 16 months of hanging around on this planet. The second drawing is of a reoccurring nightmare I had that actually continued into my teens where my regular, awesome mom would be replaced with an evil, distorted, imposter mom that would often try to kill me or something equally unpleasant. I had terrible nightmares as a kid and what I later learned is called sleep paralysis, and I still don’t logically understand where it came from, my only explanation being our brains are weird sometimes. Thankfully, I eventually grew out of these and started sleeping better.

I’m fascinated by the fact that I was using art as a tool to deal with troubling thoughts even in my pre-K years. This is a testament to the healing power of art that is the driving force behind why I am passionate about sharing art with others not just through showing my own works but through teaching as well.

In a very early blog post, I discussed how art has always been an important tool for communication and self expression as someone who struggled (and still does to a lesser degree) with social anxiety. When I would create art as a teen, I didn’t plan out a concept or specific symbolism as I do now. I just sat down and drew whatever came out basically. Even if I didn’t fully realize it at the time, I see now many of my drawings were communicating my specific anxieties and feelings of isolation or entrapment. In the leftmost drawing, my anxieties and meditations on long term relationships. On the right, titled “Timebound”, my fears of being behind my own personal timeline I had set and my impatience and frustration at being held back from the experiences I yearned for in life (I am still learning that life has its own timeline and good luck trying to force my own timing!). In the mixed media work below, titled “Actually, It Is This World That Is Too Small”, I put to paper my thoughts on confining gender roles, stereotypes, and expectations and feelings of isolation, of just not being the right “fit” for the world around me.

I appreciate artists that lay themselves bare and aren’t afraid to communicate uncomfortable emotions in their work, not for shock value or to be negative for the sake of being negative, but to let others know that they are not alone in their difficult emotions and personal struggles. It’s why my last big concert experience at the end of 2019 was so impactful. I have a deep love for fine artists, musicians, writers, actors, all creatives who are willing to risk transparency and forming a true connection akin to friendship with their clients and fans. It is a risk, and I’ll be honest it doesn’t always work out, but to me it will always be worth it.

In my most recent work that has an underlying darker feel to it, viewers have told me that even in the darkness, they still see that I have left a thread of hope in the narrative. That is another one of those unconscious things that sometimes happen in the art making process, and something to truly celebrate. For more information on some of these works, you can visit the links below.

Top Left: Outer Space Outer Space Is A Lonely Place To Be / Top Right: Flight Response (Currently installed by the river in Wenonah Park as a metal print for Bay City’s 50 Artists Of The Great Lakes Bay Region River Walk) / Bottom Left: September – She Is An Atlas / Bottom Right: Legacy

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Art Education, Project Ideas

Elizabeth Jameson – Creative Minds Art History Project

Hello all, it’s time for another artist based creative project! I have a great group of ladies in my Creative Minds class this semester at Artshop, and have loved seeing how they interpret the techniques of the masters and make their creations their own. Though often times the focus of my class is renowned artists from history, I also love sharing inspiring and accomplished artists from the present with my students. I work primarily with adults with disabilities so I especially enjoy the opportunity to share the stories of artists with disabilities with the class, and how the artist’s identity as a person with a disability influenced their art and legacy.

Elizabeth Jameson is a visionary artist who found her creativity through an unexpected MS diagnosis. Jameson is a Doctor of Law, and her lifelong passion and driving force for her career was to fight injustice and poverty through the law, striving to make a difference. In the late 70s and early 80s her health took a turn suddenly, and she was eventually diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Due to the progressive nature of her illness she was unable to continue working, and she felt her purpose was lost. A caring friend pushed her into trying an art class just to get her out of the house, and this class ended up changing the way Jameson saw the world and her life. Art teaches us to look at the world through a creative lens, and upon receiving her usual MRI scans from a doctor’s appointment, she came up with¬† the idea to etch in the stark, clinical and emotionless black and white images with rainbow colors. Her work evolved from there. Today, Jameson is still living her dream of changing the world, and says the goal of her work is to encourage others to, “contemplate the beauty of the brain, discuss what it means to live in an imperfect body, and to stare directly at the imperfect brain’s beauty and complexity with curiosity”. She collaborates with Neuroscientists and a studio assistant to continue her work.

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Messages that can be learned from Jameson’s art and story are that with creativity it is never too late to begin, it doesn’t make you any less of an artist to ask for assistance, and individuals with disabilities have an unlimited potential to change the world for the better.

Obviously, we don’t have access to MRI machines ;), but to pay homage to Jameson’s art we did drawings with colored pencil on black paper. Students were asked to imagine a visual representation of the inside of their head, thinking about the emotions or memories different colors may symbolize, what straight, smooth lines versus wavy or jagged lines may say about what is going on inside their head, and to think of any representational forms that speak to who they are. Some students chose to indicate blocks of color for the different things that consume their thoughts, and some chose to do an all-over image or pattern. One student even dated hers in acknowledgement that one’s mental state changes over time.

I can see this project being an interesting activity for any age, and was pleased within my class on how a dialogue between the students about the meaning of their developing “artistic MRIs” grew as they worked.

As always, feel free to steal, share, or try it yourself at home :). I am hoping others will enjoy and become inspired by trying this project out.

 

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Art Discussion, New Work

New Work – September: She Is An Atlas

This was¬†one of the most challenging pieces in my series thus far, because I was working with multiple layers of meaning and thoughts. It also is the most “mixed media” of all my series installments, utilizing not just mixed fine art mediums but fabric, metal chain, tiny rhinestones, and torn book pages. I have been so into metallic accents since the¬†collaboration with my friend and student, Heather. I also blame her for the inclusion of rhinestones – she encourages me to be sparkly.

she is an atlas

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that when I feel, I feel BIG or not at all. There is no other way. The sketch that inspired this piece started as a way for me to process the weight of my own emotions and feelings of powerlessness. As ¬†I began further conceptualizing this current series, I realized the idea could fit as one of the 12 pieces.¬†For new readers, here’s my blurb briefly explaining the series (If you are already in the know, feel free to skip ahead ūüėČ ):¬†I am¬†creating¬†12¬†mixed media, surreal, conceptual portraits in which¬†the meaning is influenced by the use of pattern and color. They will depict women of all ages, races, and time periods, and each will communicate a different theme. I aim for the pieces to¬†speak to women‚Äôs collective experiences beyond their differences. Each of the 12 will represent a month of the year. We tend to think of time and events in terms of our own personal history or the history of the nation in which we reside. But of course, there are women everywhere living out their day to day life all over the world, with hopes, dreams, fears , relationships. Our situations and struggles are very different, but were we in some alternate reality all given a chance to meet, I suspect we would find some surprising similarities, maybe more than we ever expected. The title of each piece starts with the month it represents, followed by “She Is _______”.¬†The figure in this piece quite literally has “the world on her shoulders” through the pattern on her clothing, much like the mythic Atlas. Atlas the physical object is also defined as a book of maps or charts, and can signify one feeling that¬†they alone must have all the directions and answers to all of the world’s problems, a grand and impossible responsibility.

The exposed heart necklace represents empathy, an open heart waiting to be wounded , left unprotected and raw. She leans against a bulls-eye wall, surrounded by an outline of thrown knives, a target girl like in the well known circus act. With each act of injustice and malice directed at others, she feels as if she is standing in their place, each offense a knife thrown at her, just missing. Though fearful, her face is strong and even. I’ve written before about how compassion and empathy does not equal weakness. To stick one’s head in the sand and be ignorant of the world’s ills is weakness; foolish, avoidant, and selfish.

Another way the subject can be viewed is not as the empathizer but as the victim. Some people are born into situations that are so difficult, living day to day is much like standing against a target with knives being thrown at them. It can be their geographic location, their income, the people that surround them or lack thereof, and the list goes on. Though yes, our personal choices certainly can influence outcomes, isn’t so much of life like a gigantic, living lottery when you think about it? Yet we shake our heads and wag our fingers when we see people who are struggling both around us and abroad, because certainly they must have done something wrong or things would look different? This way of thinking frees us of the responsibility to help others, and gives us a false sense of power that by doing certain things we can be 100% sure we attain the exact sort of life that we want. It all goes back to empathy and control.

One of the things I love about art is the way people can discern completely different meanings from a piece based on their own thoughts and experiences. Did something different strike you as you looked at this piece, did it remind you of something? Please share, don’t be shy!

 

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Art Discussion

Art Discussion: New Year’s Resolutions

I have to admit, I never make New Year’s resolutions;¬†partly because if you¬†are truly dissatisfied with something, it seems silly to arbitrarily wait until the turning of the calendar to fix it. In part also¬†because we all tend¬†to¬†set the same goals, those goals that we know everyone else is setting so we can easier relate to those around us as we share¬†that we want to find our soulmate, get a promotion, or lose weight, and we can all laugh together about how we probably won’t actually do anything to work towards¬†most¬†of those things. But, what would happen if we committed to doing one thing that we were truly passionate about in this new year, one thing that we didn’t over analyze to death, asking ourselves,¬†Should I want this? Is it too silly? Too shallow? Too lofty? Too weird? No one would understand anyway …¬†

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During my senior year of college 7 years ago (Whoa! 7 is a big number.), I entered an art book into the Annual Student Exhibition at Central Michigan University. I asked a sampling of the people I encountered in a day, some I knew well and some I did not, to think of a couple of experiences they would like to have before their life was over, and pick the most obscure one to share with me. I chose 35 different submissions to illustrate, and¬†Underneath¬†was ¬†born. This¬†was my first experiment with¬†creating art based on collected personal stories, something I would use to create many more projects in the future. I also ended up winning the Grand Award for this piece, which was the first time I’d ever won anything for my art aside from a coloring contest in 4th grade, and not a bad way to exit my college career ;).


As annoying as it may be that the first thing anyone asks when meeting someone for the first time after “What’s your name?”¬†is, “So what do you do?”, we kind of are what we do. This doesn’t have to mean our day jobs, or even be workplace related at all. What we do with each day is a choice, and it is these choices that reflect what we value and shape who we will become. True goals can give immense insight into each individual’s unique personality, drive, and psyche. That is why I so enjoyed sifting through the responses I received for this¬†project.

I was reminded of Underneath¬†recently for an unfortunate reason. The young woman who 7 years ago submitted the far right response above took her own life in a murder-suicide earlier this month. She attended my high school, but our school¬†was so large growing up there were tons of people who walked in graduation with me that I felt like I’d never laid eyes on my whole four years there. I never knew her well, but our paths did cross and I remembered her submission deeply affecting me back then, as the news of what occurred deeply saddened me now. A couple of my good friends had had classes and clubs with her, some¬†even keeping up over the years at least through texting and facebook, and the news hit them even harder.

This may not be a typical resolution, but something to be mindful of in the new year is this: we do not know everyone else’s story. We have no clue about everything the people we run into in our day to day life may be going through. People learn to adapt, and to act, and to portray themselves in person, at work, and in social media as how they want others to see them. I know I do it; I think we all do to a point. I have always been fascinated with the dichotomy between individual’s alone personas versus their public personas. It is a concept¬†that is interesting to explore. It can also be a concept that is dangerous, because it can prevent people from reaching out who need help. If you make one resolution (aside from foregoing all convention and chasing your oddest dream / within reason and lawfulness, of course), resolve to be transparent and authentic, and resolve to be someone who is willing to make that reach when someone needs support either in the form of just a listening ear or otherwise. Christmas falling on a Sunday, I attended the Christmas morning church service at MFMC with my family this year. We spoke about how there¬†is the whole Christmas story which most of us, churchgoers or not, have known since childhood. But, we all have stories, and our story, how we live and interact, can change someone else’s story for the better if we allow it to happen. We have nothing to lose for trying.

To see the rest of my art book in order, visit the album on my website.

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Art Discussion, New Work

March: She Is Everything At Once

Obviously, though I had a fun idea of doing the whole “a drawing a month” reveal for my new 12 part series, that didn’t happen as I am on March and it is now almost September. I would like to enter this series into Art Prize next year, and decided if I have until next Fall, why impose such a crazy impossible deadline on myself simply for the sake of themed blog posts and risk the quality of the work? Impossible self-imposed deadlines are this thing I like to do that I really need to ease up on. For those who haven’t read my previous posts,¬†my new series involves¬†12¬†mixed media, surreal, conceptual portraits in which¬†the meaning is influenced by the use of pattern and color, one representing each month of the year. They will depict women of all ages, races, and time periods, and each will communicate a different theme and season. I aim for the pieces to¬†speak to women‚Äôs collective experiences beyond their differences.¬†I want the series to flow together in its mainly black and white scheme with pops of color, soft mixed media application, and it’s classic portrait composition. However, I wanted each month’s portrait to still be distinctly different “characters” from one to the other, achieved via aesthetic theme and accent colors. For this piece, I went with bold, dynamic primaries and a nod to pop art. You can view January and February from earlier posts.

In this piece for March, my goal was to take the commonplace negative stereotype of women being “emotional” and turn it on it’s head, marrying caring and empathy with strength, and sadness and despair with hope for a better future. A surreal merging of classic pop art, which often featured dramatic beautiful women sobbing, ¬†with realistic portraiture was the perfect fit for this concept.

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Women are constantly being told they are too much of something, despite the fact that they are often expected to wear far more different hats¬†responsibility-wise than their male counterparts. Google searches have become an interesting way to peek into mainstream society’s views. Anyone who uses the internet knows when you begin to type something in, google will¬†finish it with the most popular searches and subjects. A UN Women ad from 2013 was the first to make a statement using this innovative approach.

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I tried the same concept, only typing in the starting phrase “women are too…” What I’ve found is that women are apparently too picky, but also too easy, too intelligent and successful to find love, yet too weak and too emotional to be leaders, the president, or involved in politics at all, but at the same time also too dominant.¬†It looks like we’ve got a Goldilocks problem here.

As one who believes¬†that sometimes problems we assign dominantly to one gender are still just basic human being problems, I didn’t want to negate¬†the idea that there may be similar findings for men.¬†However, when I tried “men are too…” I got nothing. In fact, when I simply pressed enter to see what articles would come up, the main article up top was “Monkeys turn into grumpy old men, too” about aging primates and behavioral changes. While hilarious, it is clear that this whole “Be everything at once yet also be nothing at all” contradictory expectation is something that, while maybe not entirely absent for men, is something that women face more in mainstream culture.

A descriptor routinely used to discredit women’s abilities is the fact that they are “too emotional” by default of their gender. However, when men step out of their perceived box by showing any degree of emotion aside from anger, they too are often chastised and ridiculed. This shows that our¬†revulsion towards caring at least is a societal problem on the whole, not just a women’s issue. For some reason, people seem to view caring as weakness. This can be seen clearly in the dismissive term¬†bleeding heart, always used with a strong air of disgust. (A note to be made here… when I talk about caring I am not including people sitting behind a laptop screen typing angry, obscene responses to random articles that they don’t agree with because they get off on being offended and telling people off. Nor am I talking about people who shut down and throw a fit every time they have to hear something that they don’t agree with. This is not true caring or passion, this is an addiction to “being right” all the time and putting people in their place, and it is unhealthy.)

I recall a conversation had with a person from my past 5-ish years ago. We were discussing some political or sociological issue.¬†The other person, whom supposedly respected me, was nevertheless making zero effort to understand my view though I myself had stopped and listened to theirs. I remember growing frustrated and stating, “I don’t know why you are refusing to try to listen and understand where I’m coming from when this is an issue that is so important to me.” Their response was given bitingly and with a wave of the hand, “Oh, everything’s¬†“the most important thing” to you.” Though it was meant as an insult, the more I pondered¬†it the more I thought, I’m ok with owning that. Because everything does matter, in some way large or small.

In our culture, it’s¬†cool not to care. You can see this fact brazenly displayed in popular entertainment (The Hangover¬†1,2,3,4,5? They just keep going.)¬†People are routinely being told the answer to their feelings of isolation, depression, and anxiety is to just “let go”. But is the “ignorance is bliss” model really the one we should be following? This idea in and of itself seems to admit that caring is not weakness, but strength. Experiencing emotions of concern and empathy is an active state; not caring for anything outside of your own pleasure and needs is passive. To put it simply, caring about things is hard work. It can force us to take steps towards action that may make us uncomfortable, and take up a lot of our time and resources. It can be mentally¬†and psychologically draining.

Caring is strength. Let’s lift up our mothers, our fathers, those taking care of an adult family member, our nurses, our teachers, our home health aides, our daycare workers, our counselors, our missionaries, our activists … No matter what societal norms¬†tells us, they are our true heroes.

 

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