Not only is Allison Evans a close friend and rockin’ person, she is truly an artistic inspiration. Allison and I met in undergrad at the College of Charleston while both studying Studio Arts. In the two year period we were in school together (in darkroom time it’s more like 5 years) I was lucky enough to not only follow her work, but watch it develop and grow. Allison’s work has brought me to tears more than a couple times. She captures a beauty and stillness that moves me every single time.
Allison Evans was born in Southern California, but grew up in South Carolina. She received her BA in Studio Art (Photography) in 2011 from the College of Charleston. Evans originally went to school to become a filmmaker, but got bitten by the silver gelatin bug as soon as she took her first darkroom class. As a result, she completely immersed myself in that environment while she was in undergrad. Currently, Evans is working towards her MFA at Notre Dame, where she also teaches an introductory photography class.
What inspires you?
Light…natural light is really the main inspiration for my work. I’m sure this is true for a lot of photographers so maybe it’s a little too broad or cliche, but I’m really obsessed with the ways we experience and understand the phenomena of light. In particular, I find myself drawn to the mundane, everyday interactions we have with light. For example, the play of light and shadow across a window shade. It’s our perceptions of those subtle experiences that really fascinate me.
Who are some influential artists?
Photographers like Sally Mann, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Uta Barth have all influenced my work since I began making still photographs. However, my practice has recently shifted into using light and video projection so as a result, I’ve been really influenced by Fluxist and Minimalist artists, particularly installation artists from the Light and Space movement in the 1960s and 70s. Artists working with the phenomena of light like James Turrell and Robert Irwin have really informed my work, but so have people like John Cage. Cage’s theories about simply providing the framework for art to occur like with 4’33” has affected the way I think about my own work, especially because I tend to incorporate natural light from the installation site–something that I can’t necessarily control. I kind of like having that element of chance, which is something the Fluxists definitely promoted.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently creating a series of experiential light and video installations that challenge our visual perceptions. The video projections I generate really only consist of subtle plays of light and shadow so they are very minimal. I try to seamlessly integrate these projections into the installation site or gallery in order to recreate and reframe mundane, ephemeral moments. I utilize the available light and space of the site in conjunction with the phenomena I record in order to confuse reality and the simulated. In doing so, I draw attention to the conditions of the site, to the existing phenomena, those elements left to chance. I’m interested in enhancing the sensorial acuity of the viewer. My work asks the viewer to participate, to notice the minutia of phenomena within the site.
What excited you about this new body of work?
I think working with installation and video projection has opened up a lot of avenues of creativity for me. In a way, the projector liberates the work from the wall and from the “frame”. I feel like that gives the work more freedom in a sense. I love making site-specific installations and reacting to different spaces. It gives me the opportunity to experiment and adapt to unfamiliar sites. It’s challenging–you go into a site with a specific idea about how you want the installation to look and it always changes. It’s a very exciting way to make art.
How has your work developed?
While I’ve been at Notre Dame, my work has shifted into the realm of video and installation art; however, I still see it as being strongly tied to my interest in photography. My thesis work in undergrad, Untitled Seascapes, was very photographic–I mean that in the sense that it employed a lot of characteristics fundamental to the medium of photography. It was all about seeing light and nuances in motion and subtleties in the tone of the print. With that being said, it wasn’t about the subject matter and it wasn’t about the “thing” in front of the lens, which was the same throughout the entire body of work: water. For me, it was my own version of Stieglitz’s Equivalents, in that each photograph transcended subject matter and sort of embodied a state of mind instead. My interest in this concept carried into graduate school. When I arrived at Notre Dame, I started photographing interior, domestic spaces, which over time, became more and more minimal. The photographs I exhibited in my first year show were literally just abstractions of space and light. Similar to the seascapes, these interiors were equivalents for psychological states; but, they also started to deal with visual perception and our perception of phenomena. In retrospect, I see those photographs as being my first explorations in using light both as content and medium.
What are some future goals?
My major short-term goal is to finish my thesis. I’m really looking forward to seeing everything come together for my final thesis show, which will be next April. After graduating, I’m hoping to get a teaching position at the university level.
Learn more about Allison on her website: www.allisonoliviaevans.com