Alison OK Frost, Fill in the Blanks
We are very proud to host the insanely rendered and oh so delightfully disturbing paintings of Alison OK Frost (the artist formally known as Alison Offil-Klein) this Saturday at Zza’s. Zza’s Art receptions happen from 6 to 9 pm and the food is always great, as is the company. Hope to see you there.
Obi: How did you start painting and drawing? Where did you go to school?
Alison: I have always used painting and drawing as a way to deal with things around me that I don’t understand or can’t put words to, from a very young age. I was lucky enough to grow up in Los Angeles and have a pretty sizeable exposure to museums as a kid, and it was easier for me to relate to visual expressions than verbal. I went to a high school for the arts—think Fame but with painters and sculptors in addition to performers—which meant I was painting or drawing everyday starting at 15. I went on to go to UCLA for my BA, which was great because the faculty was amazing and I was exposed to a lot of subjects outside studio art, and I was able to take classes in departments ranging from History to Scandinavian Studies. (Although I never ventured into the math or science buildings in my four years there.) I went to the School of Visual Arts in New York for my MFA. It was interesting to go from UCLA, whose focus is so intellectual and theoretical, to SVA just a few years later, where just by the nature of its proximity to Chelsea, the focus becomes more commercial and you can’t help think of your work in terms of saleability.
Obi: Where does you vividly sociological subject matter come from?
Alison: When I was younger, I used to wonder if people would notice if the apocalypse occurred. The question would follow of course, has the apocalypse already happened? While I think these are pretty typical thoughts for a disenfranchised teenager, it does seem like we as a society are headed toward some ecological or biological catastrophe. The more inevitable this seems, the more noise and distraction we make to help mask the fear, or conversely we create illusions of control over our environment, airbags and water bottles and helicopter parenting. On a more personal level, a few years ago, I began struggling with issues related to my eyesight. The thing about your visual field is that as it starts to grow hazy, experientially it seems as though the world is disappearing. You are also left to imagine what types of horror you are missing. My brain would fill in the blanks sometimes with terrible things, so rather than the faces of fellow subway riders being blurred, I would see them distort with evil and disease. I ended up in a pretty dark place, and alternately sought out and was haunted by own personal demons. So while the imagery that I paint comes from a shared global experience of the world and humanity’s effect on it and vice versa, it is also related to a kind of micro-apocalypse, and the ways in which fear and self-destruction can manifest on a personal level.
Obi: I know you just got married…Has your life changed much? What is in store for the future?
Alison: Well, probably the biggest change is that I am no longer planning a wedding—my husband referred to me pre-wedding self as “Craftzilla” which I think is actually pretty funny and apt. I love being married, and I feel really blessed to have the love and support that Heiko brings to my everyday life. I have learned through experience to keep my romantic relationships separate from my art subject matter as much as possible, so don’t expect too much of a change there. In 2011, I am going try my hand at curating, starting with a group show I am developing with Kevin Clarke for MacArthur b arthur in Oakland. I have a long-distance collaborative project in the works with New York-based artist Elwyn Palmerton that I am really excited about, and I want to move more into printmaking, both as an artistic challenge and a way to increase volume.
For more on Alison OK Frost visit her website here.