Upsetting to the Mind: Art by Alison Strub

Alison Strub is a poet and visual artist interested in the intersection of poetry, internet technology, and visual art. She enjoys exploring the way HTML5, the written word, and traditional forms of art can work in tandem to create a hyper experience. She received her M.F.A. from George Mason University in 2011, and her poetic works have appeared in Denver Quarterly, Shampoo, Alice Blue Review, Rhino, and other journals. She lives in Arlington, Virginia, and works in internet marketing.

Visit Feature Feminist Artist page for Alison’s work and a brief history of quilling.

Sheila: Does feminism play a direct role in your creative process? Meaning, do you make art with feminist intentions in mind? If so, how do you define those feminist intentions?

Alison: When I began quilling, I thought of the process as being uniquely feminine and domestic, and also an old art form that has gone through periods of popularity and decline. When I think of my art and process, I always begin from a place of calm and confidence in myself as the female composer driving the composition and being the emotional link between materials and art. I think of myself as the conduit, where the chosen ephemera and the system of random composition drives the process. When I create the composition, I want the quills to appear almost as small rooms that the viewer can become a part of and participate in. The compartmentalization of the quills represents a place of mystery and complexity.

 S: What are the intersections of art and poetry in your work? What does the process of collage represent for you?

A: Collage is important to my poetic work and also in my visual art. I like beginning with unrelated texts and assembling them, because in this way I begin from someplace else, and I have the opportunity to conflate and join various sources and voices together. In quilling, the joining is tangible, and physically I like piecing materials from different sources and intersecting myself with the way I assemble each spiral. In poetry, I like reincarnating other voices into a single piece. For both, I typically use antique materials that are speaking from a different place in time, and I like how I am the fulcrum connecting the two.

 S: You mentioned the canvases are mirrors wrapped in pages of books. From my view of the photographs, the reflected aspects of the mirror are completely hidden. Is there a suggestion here of casing or camouflaging, revealing, or addition in these pieces? Could you talk about these implications?

A: Casing and camouflaging are important to my work, as I reincarnate or join other voices into a piece, but also maintain the idea of distance and inaccessibility. I used mirrors in Through Viewer, to introduce the viewer into the dialogue. The mirrors allow the person looking at the piece to become a part of it, and place themselves within the artwork. Depending on how the piece is viewed, that determines how much of the viewer’s face is revealed. This camouflaging also connects with the idea of quilling as a place of safe art form that isn’t upsetting to the mind.

I want these pieces to create a sense of dissonance. The quills themselves both invite, yet hide. As the viewer peers in, they are at once invited into a small space, but kept away from it. They are only seeing a slice of an image. This connects to the tradition of quilling as the art form of the female, whose hidden mind cannot be revealed or be allowed to venture into straining thought or intellectualism.

 S: How do you hope people will interact with your work?

A: I think different viewers can interact with the work differently. From afar, the quills blend together and create a three dimensional shape. However, up close the viewer can explore the intricacies of what is contained within each quill. The usage of paper allows me to create a relationship between the printed word, the viewer, and myself. In this complexity creates a friction with the original idea that quilling is an art form “not taxing” to the mind. What I’d like the viewer to walk away with is an emotional evocation, yet also to inspire intellectual thought and meditation.

 S: What words of encouragement or lessons learned do you have for female artists trying to share their artwork with a large audience? Who are some other awesome feminist artists we should check out?

A: I would encourage feminine artists to not feel limited to one type of expression, and to explore connecting with different mediums, including the written word or visual art. I was influenced by the artist Joanna Drucker when creating these pieces, and was interested in her usage of interwoven texts, personal narratives, feminism, and the historic in her artists’ books. Her work can be read at the Library of Congress and also at Artists’ Books Online

Read past Featured Feminist Artist Ceci Cole McInturff’s “The Constant of Change”

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