A CONVERSATION BETWEEN ALLISON BAKER AND GRIN
ON THE OCCASION OF BESIDES
GRIN: How do you decide on your materials? It seems that they often include domestic object - does this come from a personal place, is it the product of observation, or both?
Allison Baker- I’m a shameless voyeur, an eavesdropper, and at times a wallflower. While driving around at night I sneak brief glimpses inside homes, captivated by interiors illuminated in the darkness. The scenes I discover are reminiscent of a tableau vivant; they capture the anonymity and intimacy of private spaces. I fictionalize narratives of people in their personal dioramas: the crestfallen, pudgy suburban middle-aged couple at Applebee’s getting shithoused on cheap happy-hour margaritas, not because they necessarily want to but because it is what they have done for every Thursday ‘date night’ for the last fifteen years.
“Smother” was inspired by similar fabricated observation and the façade of a Laura Ashley clad Midwestern family: syrupy, quixotic, and ultimately unrealistic or at the very least oppressive. The video is a sort of fugue state, a fantasy enacted within the panopticon of the home. The figure is so habituated in the domestic that any transgression is still imagined within the scope of femininity. Pointless sublimation.
I source materials in a palette that reflects an exaggerated, cloying sweetness while maintaining a cheapness or artificiality. I’m certainly not touting the virtues of matching monogramed towels or decorative soap (for company only). At times my work is emblematic of everything I don’t want in life. I don’t want to live like that but I fill my studio with the junk anyway.
GRIN- Where do you live? Where do you work? Are these places the products of convenience, calculated choice, or necessity? Do you see yourself in a different place 5 years from now?
AB- Recently, I relocated from Providence to the Twin Cities; I live and work in Saint Paul, MN as an Assistant Professor at Hamline University teaching sculpture and drawing. I applied to teaching positions across the country and am beyond pleased to land back in Minnesota after completing a residency at Franconia Sculpture Park. I could never give up teaching; it affords me the time, space, and security to pursue my studio practice with impunity. I plan on staying in the Twin Cites for the foreseeable future, however, you might ask again after 3 more months of winter here.
GRIN- Utilizing relatable subject or material often amplifies a viewer's interaction with a work. What level of consideration do you place with this reaction during your process?
I strive to make work that elicits a strong affective response. I want to infect the viewer with unwanted emotions. Domestic discontent is a reasonably universal experience, at least wherever bourgeois, middle-class values preside. But even if your world consists of unicorns and cotton candy, my sculptures and videos will nonetheless putrefy your gut with a deliberate and bodily affect. That is probably megalomaniacal but work about being happy is boring.
And nothing is more depressing than Tiffany blue.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
My work bucks notions of traditional femininity with a subverted re-appropriation of femaleness using the very thing that oppresses us: our prescriptive gender roles, our weakness, our plight, and our fits of fancy.
We sad girls are bad girls. Blatantly refusing to act properly, show decorum, and be the well-mannered darlings we were raised to be.