I have one of Allison’s drawings hanging in my dining room. Recently, I had a friend over for lunch and she went straight to it for a better look. It’s a 5″x5″ marker and pen drawing, and the only recognizable mark is a lower case letter “i” repeated over and over again in sprawling clusters and lines. She said “I love it, and that is surprising.” When I asked her why, she said, “I don’t like most abstract art, but this one is like what a mom feels during the toddler years.” I hadn’t even told her that the work was based on Allison’s interest in communication and that she has a one year old. I love when this kind of thing happens. I especially love when people who don’t care for “abstract art” make the connection that it is sometimes representational.
While Allison’s work is personal and experiential, it also communicates something many can attach meaning to. While I am annoyed that I have to constantly practice the letter “l” with my son who is having a hard time pronouncing it properly, Allison’s work reminds me that there is so much more happening in this simple interaction with my son, and I color it with my attitude. It’s a great visual reminder.
Her work isn’t just relevant to parents, though. Her drawings could have the same cathartic effect for anyone interested in the controlled chaos that is human communication.
So without further ado, Project Dispatch presents…
Allison Long Hardy
You’ve recently finished a body of work about language and communication with your son. Before that you focused on conversations overheard in crowds and in passing. Can you tell us what most influenced your visual translation of these experiences, and then how it changed once you were interacting with your son?
A lot of times I don’t know what my art is about until after I make it. I really trust my gut a lot of times. The series about communication with my son was planned ahead of time, but that’s because I made some preceding pieces and then realized I could make a focused, deliberate series out of them. However, I’ve always been interested in communication, especially bad communication, which is why interpreting a one year old’s language interested me. Also going from overheard conversations from strangers, to intentional conversations with my son made me a lot more observant and honed in on certain things with his language development.
You describe your mark-making as a mix of intuitive and deliberate. When you say deliberate, does this mean you have a method? Can you elaborate on what you mean by this regarding your current drawings. Do you have a composition in mind when you start out, or does that develop in process? What have you learned in the process of making this series of drawings?
When I say deliberate, I mean that there are a couple of symbols, marks, letters that I do plan out before I start. For example in the series about conversations with my son, I would plan to use a specific letter on a certain piece because that’s the letter or sound he was saying that day. I made a piece about my dog who was insanely lazy, so I planned on using a lot of horizontal marks to represent his lethargy. I generally don’t have a composition in mind when I start out, many times the composition creates itself, especially if I have a concrete idea in mind. From this I’ve learned that I rely on similar composition too much! I’ve had to really force myself to explore composition more in order to appropriately express each piece’s conversation.
How has having a son affected your ability and desire to make art? What would you say to a lady artist who wants to have a child, but fears doing so because of the many years where her time is not her own, and may mean postponing her own dreams?
Oh gosh, the ever evolving question, isn’t this what most mothers struggle with? Art was a part of my life before my son, before my husband, and before I really knew how to put it into words. It’s always been there, and is an extremely important part of my life (the same goes for fitness with me). There are periods of intense creativity and then periods where the creativity just isn’t there. Right now, I’m not feeling creative so I’m focusing on other parts of my life. I’m sure in a month or two, I’ll feel the need to make art again, and it’ll be great. The same goes for being a mom. It’s just an added layer to me and who I am. I do make art differently now. The works are smaller and I generally complete them in one sitting. When I was doing my massive eight foot drawings, I was in a completely different part of my life. I was pregnant, with time on my hands. So why not create huge art? Now, my time is more valuable. Nap time, time in-between classes, or time in the evening after my son has gone to sleep for the day are extremely valuable and afford me short snippets where I can do what I want to do, sometimes it’s making art, sometimes it’s sitting mindlessly in front of the TV watching the Real Housewives, and sometimes it’s surfing the internet for dinner recipes. Whatever it is, I now cherish that time. Now that I’ve completed this series about the alphabet and my son’s language developing, I’ll move on and the work will probably change again. Whatever happens, everything changes after you have a child, I’m not the center of my universe anymore, my son is. And while he is one of my major priorities, so is art and art-making. It’s figuring out the art-making that is the hard part. So, to answer your question about postponing your dreams, I think that’s a terrible idea. You have to figure out how to make your dreams work for you. After all, I want to be a good role model for my son, and I think chasing my dreams is a part of that. I want my son to see me working hard and doing what I love.
What are you working on now that you’ve completed this alphabet series?
I’m not really working on anything right now. I know, I’m not really supposed to say that, but it’s true. I find after I complete a huge series of works I have to take some time off. I’ve tried to make some work and it’s just been terrible. So I’ll give it some time and in a month or two, I’ll come back to it. In the meantime, I’ll focus on enjoying my summer and maybe through my experiences this summer, I’ll figure out a new series.
Have you made any discoveries in your practice as a result of becoming a member of Project Dispatch and making work for subscriptions?
I’ve met some really cool collectors. One particular collector who I worked with really loved my work, but wanted a certain size. Being inhibited by the size made me think of my work differently. It was a good challenge. Also, the interpretations of my work by the collectors has been really fun. Making non-objective work has always facilitated some interesting conversations about my work, but the collectors bring about a new point of view. Because this is a piece of art that lives with them in their home, they see it differently than just a piece hanging in a gallery. I’ve loved the conversations about my work that I’ve had with the collectors.
If you could pick three artists from the Project to subscribe to, who would they be?
Sheena Custer, Kendall Nordin, Evan Hume