Alissa Goss, Lessons and Life
I’ve known Alissa Goss for a couple of years now and we have been working at scheduling her upcoming Zza’s show for a while. I am thrilled that the time is finally here! Saturday night, Alissa Goss brings her wall-hung sculpture to Zza’s in Oakland. 550 Grand Ave. Oakland. It is the first time I have hosted a show of sculpture at Zza’s and I know the effect of her colorful, organic ceramic will be wonderful. I had a studio visit with her this week as she was preparing for her show .
Obi: How did you become an artist working in Oakland? Can you walk us through a quick biography?
Alissa: In some ways my move from Los Angeles to Oakland was the easiest decision I’ve ever made. I was living and working in Venice Beach and I had a rare moment where I was in complete harmony with my future path. I knew without a doubt that I needed to come here. The choice was made all the more appealing of course because the art scene was (and is) thriving and geographically you can be in the city, nature and the sea practically all at once! I moved here to attended CCA where I studied ceramics and sculpture and I chose to stay. Culture, history and landscape make Oakland an easy place to call home. I’ve been here for over five years now, and today I am even more impressed than when I first arrived and am honored to add to the long list of practicing artist who call Oakland home.
Obi: When looking at your work, I immediately make associations with patterns of biological growth, like bacteria and other organic systems and yet I read in your statement that you investigate domesticity as a concept in your work. How is that connection made?
Alissa: Firstly, a concept which doesn’t get as much attention is the fact that the work is spontaneous and process based. It’s not my intention to frustrate a viewer, and so many people need to know what the thing is that they’re looking at and have come to the conclusion that it’s something from nature. But I am not interested in representation – the things that I make are all imagined. I rarely look at source material or sketches while I sculpt. My work is very of the moment. While I’m building I work quickly and listen to music in the studio to keep up a melodic rhythm similar to a dancer. My works in clay are composed of hundreds of small balls of clay as well as handmade tiny pins which protrude outward. I employ the use of knitting needles to poke small holes into the clay and create the works much like you’d knit a sweater (another activity I love to do!). After the structures are built I begin to think about what I am looking at and plan out what is necessary to complete the work. Color is essential - A recurring theme of pinks, greens and oranges has been prevalent in my pallet, which I attribute to the pop culture of LA where I grew up. Recently I see a shift happening towards darker muted colors as a result of my current surroundings. The fact that there are resemblances to bacteria, fungus and organic systems is happenstance and somewhat a byproduct of my process. The act of reproducing a texture over and over again and it taking over a form is intentional. The accumulation aspect in my work could relate to the natural order found in botany and each variety of texture I use acts as it’s own species, but again they are all imagined and non-representational. With regard to the domestic aspects I refer to, I think it’s the way in which I work that accomplishes this as well as the material of clay itself and its origin for utility in the home and hearth. Further my work takes on an anthropomorphic quality when they are arranged together and I play with this in the ways in which they are displayed as finished work.
Obi: Is there a gender aspect to your work? Do you find your work to be particularly feminine? Is it insightful at all to investigate your work this way?
Alissa: I don’t think my work looks particularly feminine or masculine. I’d like to think that it is simply gender neutral? Would you assume that Rothko’s rectangular color fields are associated with a specific gender? Perhaps his works are masculine because his most notable works were boxes and rectangles of intense color and he was a man? Arguably in this vein, I suppose my works would become feminine because they have soft edges and tend to have a lot of circles which could relate to the female and reproduction. But, if you’re asking if a man or woman made the sculpture – the abstract forms and color pallet don’t make it easy to identify the sex of the maker - however the obsessiveness and process I use to make the work could most likely demonstrate that the maker was likely a woman. But in all honesty, I can’t say that it’s especially relevant to me at the moment.