Saturday, February 03, 2007

Art Space Talk: Allyson Klutenkamper

I recently interviewed artist Allyson Klutenkamper. Allyson has instructed photography classes at several colleges and universities (including the University of Notre Dame). She is an active member in the national Society for Photographic Education (SPE). Allyson works in digital photography and imaging.

Allyson is known for her photographs of women that are void of distinct individuality. She refers to these women as "characters in 'stills' from a larger and ambiguous narrative. These women are set in depersonalized domestic spaces which create a fractured narrative that represents isolation, anxiety, and despair while utilizing the concept of beauty as an experience rather than condition.

Q. When did you first discover that art would be an important part of your adult life?

A. "I was about 19 and my parents had essentially cut me off from financial help unless I majored in engineering or something. To my family, art was a hobby, not something that was to be taken seriously. I remember feeling that I couldn't be myself without image-making -- like it defined me in some way. It was my air supply."

Q. How has society influenced your art? Are there any social implications in your art?

A. "Often critics discuss the social or cultural value of my work, but it has never been anything I've focused on other than pop culture. The evolution of personal identity, the construction of family relationships, and the private weight of politics are themes in my new work-in-progress."

Q. On average, how long does it take you to create a piece?

A. "From ideation to a work on the gallery wall takes anywhere from a few months to a few years. For me, it's a long process between having the scene in my head and the plausibility of physical replication."

Q. Can you share some of your philosophy about art and artistic creation?

A. "The only thing I can think of at the moment is my favorite Dave Hickey quote: "Art is not a spectator sport." "

Q. What was your most important exhibition? Care to share that experience?

A. "I'd like to reserve that for when I'm shown at Yossi Milo, the 303, or the Walker."

Q. Do you have any 'studio rituals'? As in, do you listen to certain types of music while working? What helps to get you in the mood for working?

A. "I have two places I work: in my studio/office and on location. After I finish my location work I will not look at my files for two days (aside from during the scene for proofing). I need that distance to objectively approach the image I will use, if any.

When I sit down to review the work I listen to really specific music. compilations are usually playing; but Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Plastikman and Sigur Ros fall into the most played category, too. In fact, I was teased relentlessly in graduate school for listening to "just sounds.""

Q. Do you have a degree or do you plan to attend school for art? If so, how did it help you as an artist? What can you tell us about the art department that you attended?

A. "I attended the University of Notre Dame for my MFA and the University of Missouri for my BFA degrees. As a BFA student I had instructors that pushed me to make images that were me instead of hiding behind work that was too safe.

Similarly, Notre Dame was a wonderful interdisciplinary program that allowed me to work with people from not only photography, but painting and film as well. I was fortunate enough to have many studio visits from well known artists, critics and curators.

The one person that really affected me the most was Kerry James Marshall. He had stopped by for a studio visit and spent some time discussing my work which in turn allowed me to see specific elements I had not noticed before. By controlling those characteristics I was able to nudge my work in a different direction, manifesting itself into what some say defines my imagery."

Q. Why did you choose the medium(s) that you use?

A. "At the age of five I was staging scenes with dolls and using my blue padded plastic Fisher Price 110 camera."

Q.Where can we see more of your art?

A. "In the coming weeks I plan on updating my website correcting dates on some work -- I paste too much -- and new information on upcoming shows, speaking engagements, etc."

Q. Are you represented by a gallery?

A. "I'm currently represented by The Photography Room in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I only received my MFA a year and a half ago and spent the last year getting used to my overly consuming job, so I am just now really starting to get my work noticed."

Q. What galleries have you exhibited in? Can you provide links to their sites?

A. "My work has shown mostly in museums and university art galleries. I was shown at Photo San Francisco last year.

(Snite Museum of Art, Lancaster Museum of Art, Midwest Museum of Art and the Southern Ohio Museum of Art; of those, only two have been solo exhibits. Some other galleries include the Harris Gallery at the University of La Verne, the Appleton Gallery in the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts at Shawnee State University, the Truman State University Art Gallery, The Box Factory and the George Caleb Bingham Gallery at the University of Missouri, to name a few.)"

Q. What trends do you see in the 'art world'?

A. "I see old concepts of postmodernism being redefined in the context of globalization."

Q. Has your work ever been censored? If so, how did you deal with it?

A. "At one show fliers were posted claiming "Adult Context" and "Sensitive Subject Matter." I thought it was both funny and sad."

Q. What was the toughest point in your career as an artist? Have you ever hit rock-bottom?

A. "I used to think that every time things got tough I had hit rock-bottom, but I came to realize in the last few years that I can get through things if I'm serious about my work."

Q. In one sentence... why do you create art?

A. "It is my air supply."

Q. What can you tell our readers about the art scene in your area?

A. "This is a funny story. Before I had even received my diploma I had at least a dozen interviews and a few offers from various colleges and universities I had applied to for teaching positions.

I accepted a position at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio because it was a small school dedicated to the education of Appalachian Americans. It wasn't until I started that I realized I had been taken advantage of or was naive to the reality of how things work in the "real world." So reality consists of a very singular existence; there is no art scene or a scene of any kind.

I used to travel to Cincinnati or Columbus as often as possible but the price of gas has made a significant impact on my ability to branch out. The most positive outcome of this situation is that I have collected a wonderful network of artists that I can contact and see at every conference I attend."

Q. Has politics ever entered your art?

A. "Some of my work from when I was in my late teens and early twenties dealt with body politics before it shifted to politics of identity.

My brother is serving his second tour of duty in Iraq and it is something that weighs on my mind on a daily basis, resulting in war politics entering my work on a very personal level.

I grew up in the 1980s and 1990s living in Minneapolis, where I had a teacher in high school that began each class with "God Bless Paul Wellstone," so I am automatically inclined to be politically outspoken and extremely liberal."

Q. Is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the 'art world'?

A. "I would love some of my large pieces to sell so that I could afford to purchase some new equipment. And I think the art world should also try harder to educate all these Philistines. It is the most under-appreciated profession in the world and yet we are the ones to change culture."

I hope that you have enjoyed my interview with Allyson Klutenkamper. Feel free to critique or discuss her work.
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is brilliant. Thanks for having the interview so accessible. Earlier tonight I took my students to see Allyson's show at the University of Rio Grande Greer Museum. The group was right on track with their comments and reviews. Allyson Klutenkamper has a gift for communicating universal messages through staged images. I'm thrilled to know she's teaching at SSU. -Amy in Jackson, Ohio.