Friday, June 20, 2008
ARTIST SPOTLIGHT :: Allison Smith
Jugs, Pitchers, Bottles, and Crocks, Household Linens and Yardage in Stock, 2008
stoneware and redware ceramics, digital and hand-painted linen, mixed media, wood
Allison Smith’s diverse artistic practice engages in an investigation of the cultural phenomenon of historical reenactment and the role of craft in the construction of national identity. Smith uses history as an aesthetic palette to produce sculptural installations and live art events alluding to contemporary social conflicts around notions of gender, art/craft, and war.
Jugs, Pitchers, Bottles, and Crocks, Household Linens and Yardage in Stock is an ongoing project that will grow and change over the duration of the exhibition. Inspired by early American history, living history museums and the use of decorative objects, textiles and costumes as narratives of that history, Smith has created a cabinet based on the general store most popular in late 18th and early 19th century America.
The relationship between museum and retail store is a timely one. While there is no “for sale” sign for works in this Mattress Factory show, all the artworks are essentially for sale. Smith is interested in art as an alternative economy. Like a merchant or trader/shopkeeper, Smith presents her wares in a three-sided cabinet that suggests portability.
Interactivity is key to the work. She often apprentices with local artisans to learn the skills necessary to realize her projects. Working with ceramic artist Bernard Jakub, Smith created traditional pottery forms including stoneware and redware jugs, crocks, pitchers, plates and bottles. All of these vernacular, functional forms were primarily utilitarian. Smith is also interested in the rare examples that were commemorative and/or political.
For this project, Smith has taken these early examples (form) and imbued them with contemporary significance (content) choosing images, words and phrases from our current time period that do not get commemorated. The objects highlight the failures of our government and the precarious state of the natural world – all things that cause anxiety -- like the present war with Iraq, global warming, genetic engineering and homeland security threats.
Smith also created linens for the cabinet. Decorative printed textiles with floral designs, repeated motifs and scenes inspire the linens. Smith worked in her own imagery in response to the legacy of propaganda textiles made in wartime.