Palm Reader: Interviews with Artists and Leaders at the Intersection Of Art and Spirituality. by Caris Reid
Interview 1. Alison Blickle
"I’m deeply interested in the notion that women are by our instinctual nature at home in the dark."
CR-What's your relationship to stillness?
AB-My most powerful tools are accessed through stillness. Meditation for calming my mind, journeying to connect with my guides, checking in with my body to get in touch with my intuition. These are all grounding practices that help me remember and grow towards who I am. Connecting with other people is grounding and nourishing in it's own way. It often feels bigger and more outward and more exciting. But the stillness feels deeper, and like a gateway to other realms.
CR-How does your connection to stillness and intuition play into your relationship to your paintings?
AB-I make my paintings from an intuitive place. When I’m starting a new body of work, I have little daydreams or see something out in the world that gives me a flash of an image~ sometimes it’s an empty room or stage set that I use as a starting point to bring people into. Other times I’ll see figures connecting or posing in a certain way, and I’ll start with that and figure out what kind of space they are in. These flashes come when I’m falling asleep, or meditating, or staring out of a plane window at the landscape below, or visiting a new place for the first time. Times of stillness or outsiderness. As a group of paintings comes together, they start to congeal around a narrative. When the body of work is finished, it feels as if it had been planned out from the beginning, but the whole process is more of a dance back and forth between intuition and conscious decision making.
CR-What does Magical Activism mean to you?
AB-Magical activism to me is intentionally directing energy toward bringing about needed social or cultural change. Personally, that means creating spells. I believe that all art is magic, and that it can be powerful magic if done with intention. My art is part of my magical activism~ the work holds the energy of calling in some of the medicine our culture needs to heal. As the paintings and objects go out into the world, the magic goes with them and spreads out and amplifies.
CR-What's a song you're listening to in the studio?
AB-Unison by Bjork~ it’s about being an artist and a mom with all the complexity and friction and love.
CR-The vessel or vase appears frequently in your work, and recently you've starting making actual vessels to accompany the paintings. Can you talk about the significance of the vessel? And does the meaning differ if it's painted versus an object?
AB-Vessels are wonderful to work with because they are overflowing (!) with meaning. They are symbols for the womb, the cosmic egg, source, the creative process, all possibilities, the womb is the moon, the feminine, death. In my paintings vessels are often being tended to together by women, which for me brings up ideas of women supporting each other and our endeavors, and the age-old love women have for working on projects while sitting around with other women. In the paintings vessels are either literal or flattened into a silhouette, at which point they become formal devices. The ceramics have evolved to become approximations of vessels. They have the shape of vessels but do not open. I put some sort of drawing or copy of an old alchemical symbol inside, seal it in, and it burns up in the kiln firing.
CR-The women in your paintings often seem of a different era. Do you feel more connected to the past than the future?
AB-I idealize the past, and have a habit of comparing our ways of today to how our ancestors did things. I long for a time when we lived in community, and closer to the earth. I feel connected to that part of our past. My wish for the future is to bring that back for anyone who wants to live that way.
CR-Women are often communing in your paintings, how do you see their exchange?
AB-It’s important for me that the images I put out into the world are of women connecting with and supporting other women. I believe that when we learn to fully love ourselves and each other, a lot of healing will happen on our planet.
CR-How do you reconnect to your work after a period of being disconnected?
AB-I don’t tend to take much time away from my work, but sometimes I’ll go through times where it’s like I’m on autopilot in the studio, which makes me feel disconnected from what I’m doing. I have some rituals that I use in my studio that help me reconnect with why I am an artist, and that brings me back to feeling engaged with what I’m doing.
AB-I took several months off after giving birth. When I came back I picked up the threads of my work that I had left hanging, and slowly started braiding them together with the threads of the new experience of being a mother that I was just beginning to barely understand. And I think stillness helped to bring me into the present moment in my studio, and get me in touch with my intuition, which is such a fruitful place to work from.
CR-You have several upcoming shows, where can we find your work?
AB- The Myth of Inanna opens at Kravets Wehby Gallery in New York on September 6. Two large scale pieces of mine will be included in an exhibition at MOCA Tuscon called "Blessed Be: Mysticism, Spirituality, and the Occult in Contemporary Art." It runs from September 15 through December 30, and was curated by the amazing Ginger Shulick Porcella.
CR- Can you tell us a little bit about The show in New York?
AB- The Myth of Inanna will be an installation of paintings and ceramics meant to call to mind a sacred space or goddess temple, where a rite of some sort may be about to take place. The work is an homage to the myth of Inanna, the oldest recorded human story. It’s a Sumerian myth, in which Inanna descends to the dark of the underworld, loses herself in every sense, and is ultimately reborn wiser and stronger. I first learned about this story from a mentor while I was pregnant as a preparation for giving birth and becoming a parent. It helped me so much! And is still a touchstone during challenging personal times. The paintings in the show function as theatrical scenes, with women on stage-type spaces embodying the story as it resonates with me.
CR- What has this myth shown you?
AB- I’m deeply interested in the notion that women are by our instinctual nature at home in the dark. That our pathways of growth throughout our lives require going down into the dark~ a descent into the metaphorical underworld. If there is any truth to this notion, what are the implications of being a woman in a culture that upholds light and reason and fears darkness? One of my missions is to feel at home in the dark.
CR-Thank you Alison.