Sunday, August 03, 2008

Art Space Talk: Alison Brady

Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Alison Brady is an emerging artist that lives and works in New York City. Brady is currently represented by Massimo Audiello Gallery, in New York. Alison holds an MFA in Photography, Video, and Related Media from The School of Visual Arts (NYC). She has stated that her work is a series of color photographs that work to stimulate unconscious emotions, desires, and sexual compulsions, all unified within a dynamic that vacillates between the real and the fantasized. She explore issues related to madness and alienation as they exist in contemporary culture, concentrating on expressions of neurosis, on feelings of anxiety, displacement, and loss of identity.

Brian Sherwin: Alison, you hold an MFA in Photography, Video, and Related Media from The School of Visual Arts (NYC). Can you briefly discuss your years as a student? Did you have any influential instructors at that time?

Alison Brady: No, unfortunately not, never really connected with any of the professors at SVA. SVA is known for a more documentary style of photography - more straightforward. Most of my classmates shoot “the everyday” nothing manipulated. I often had conflicting views on art and the art world in general.

In hindsight this was extremely beneficial in developing the way I speak about my work, and how I articulate my ideas. Everyone can’t love your work, but I feel you are successful if you are able to incite some sort of powerful response, regardless if its love or hate.

BS: Your images are a psychological feast. In them one can observe aspects of sexuality meshed with murder and raw emotions. The people in your images often appear lifeless… yet the thoughts that they stir in the mind of the viewer is full of life and its complexities. Can you tell us about the themes that you explore within the context of your work? Tell us about some of thought behind your art…

AB: My work depicts moments outside the realm of time therefore beyond life and death. Much is unknown and unanswered, the image is static no before or after. Not necessarily to be assumed the subject is lifeless.

I imagine my work as stand-alone interior realities, as individual traumas, anxieties, or erotic compulsions whose objective reality has been reprocessed by a shaken-up mind incapable of facing them head-on, only to re-emerge as an impenetrable hieroglyphics of gesture and texture.

I’m looking to scrape images from the stickier, most neglected corners of the unconscious, photographs which take whatever power they have from the friction between sensuality and disgust, the expected and the uncanny. The use of simple props such as fishing wire, bed sheets, salami serving to illustrate the inner workings of the unconscious. The meeting of two random elements coming together to create a whole new relevance.

BS: What about psychology in general… do you adhere to any specific theories? When I view your work I think of Freud and Jung…

AB: I am very interested in psychology, in no way am I an expert, but I am drawn to certain theories. Freud’s “Uncanny” for one- the unnerved feeling one gets when the familiar turns alien and frightening. The potentially foreboding sensation within the familiar is something that I try to project through my work. What I find most disturbing is the subtle distortion of something I can relate to, or something that is closest to me.

I am also interested in the “death drive”: is the bodily instinct to return to the state of “quiescence”- why humans are drawn to repeat painful or traumatic events; through the compulsion to relive and reenact, the human subject attempts to "bind" the trauma. I believe my work touches on this strange repetitiveness, the return of something repressed.

BS: Considering the times in which we live… how do you define normality? For example, today there are issues that are widely accepted that would have been banned just a few decades ago. Today we make heroes out of the deranged… for example, our cultural fascination with serial killers as depicted in movies. In your opinion, at what point does someone break that threshold, so to speak? At what point does someone go beyond the norm in a time when the very idea-- the foundation-- of normality and what is acceptable is often in question by popular culture?

AB: This question is so packed I don’t even know where to begin. First and foremost I am not able to define normality. I don’t believe normality exists in an absolute state. I don’t believe that we make heroes out of the deranged.

BS: Do you do any kind of research as far as planning out an image is concerned? If so, can you explain that process?

AB: All shoots are the end result of meticulous conceptualization, set-dressing, grocery-purchasing, and costuming. Sometimes ideas have to be revisited a couple times and other ideas may not translate the way I intend it to.

BS: Alison, you often use friends as models for the environments that you create. However, you sometimes find strangers online who are willing to take part in your work. I’m curious, has anyone ever backed out? Has anyone found your ideas disturbing to the point of deciding not to take part?

AB: Strangely enough no one has ever backed out. I do my best to prepare the subject as mush as possible about what they are getting into.

BS: Can you tell us about some of your other influences? For example, are you influenced by any specific artist or event?

AB: Contemporary artists that I am in dialogue with are artists that explore ideas of the unknown: Photographer Simen Johan’s explorations into children’s relationships with the mysterious. German sculptor Rebecca Horn’s investigations into the human body’s relationship with the machine. Both artists manipulate reality and investigate notions of the fantastic.

BS: Finally, I understand that you are currently represented by Massimo Audiello Gallery in New York. Will you be involved with any upcoming exhibits?

AB: Yes, I am having another solo show in January. Please visit my site: as it gets closer to the date I will have more details.

You can learn more about Alison Brady by visiting her website-- Alison is currently represented by Massimo Audiello Gallery-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

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