Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Interview with Artist Allison Long Hardy (Part 1)

Interview with Artist Allison Long Hardy
Part 1

Much to my delight, I discovered a few weeks ago that printmaker and mixed-media artist Allison Long Hardy was awarded a visiting artist residency at the Alexandria, Virginia, Torpedo Factory Art Center. After viewing some of her striking artwork online (I get to see it in person tomorrow night, when I attend a reception for artists in the program), I asked Long Hardy for an interview, which she graciously completed by e-mail. 

An award-winning artist who holds a B.A. and M.F.A. in studio art, Long Hardy has shown in numerous solo, two-person, and group exhibitions, just one indication of her success, though she is not represented by a gallery. She also has been the subject of profiles or features in The Northern Virginia  Review, Old Town Alexandria PatchFrederick (Maryland) News Post, The Washington Print Club Quarterly, and other publications.

Long Hardy lives in Woodbridge, Virginia.

I can't see myself doing anything other than making art.
Ever since I can remember, I've always wanted to be an artist.
I love everything about art!

Maureen Doallas: You have both an undergraduate and graduate degree in studio art, with concentrations in, respectively, intermedia and painting. What prompted you to pursue formal study? In what way(s), if any, have have your degrees facilitated your career?

Allison Long Hardy: I knew that I wanted to go to college to learn more about art and how to pursue it professionally. While an undergrad, I realized that making art wouldn't pay the bills, so I went to graduate school to get my M.F.A., which allows me to teach at the college level. I'm an adjunct professor at two local colleges, which gives me the opportunity to teach and also make art. What I find most gratifying about teaching is seeing my students learn and grow as artists. It's great to be surrounded by fresh minds; I think [teaching] also keeps me on my toes.

MD: Did you have a mentor while studying? What was his or her best piece of advice or encouragement?

ALH: I had three major influences in graduate school. The first was my adviser Tonia Matthews, [who] encouraged me to follow my heart and do what I wanted to do. The second is New York artist Creighton Michael. We really got to know each other [they met during an exhibition of Michael's work at a gallery where Long Hardy was serving an assistantship] and realized we were very interested in the same sort of things when it came to art. I also got an opportunity to work with him during a printmaking workshop and learned a lot of techniques and ways to approach printmaking. The third is Judy Pfaff, one of my all-time favorite artists [who] was a guest of the graduate program one spring. I had the opportunity to critique with her and, while she was quite  rough on me, it was a great learning experience. I learned that  I was being too safe and that to have an impact I had to take risks.

I think about these three people a lot while making art, and how they've influenced me. I hope one day to influence my students the way [Matthews, Michael, and Pfaff] influenced me.

MD: Where does most of your art-making take place. How would you describe your ideal environment or ideal conditions for art-making?

ALH: I have a studio on the first floor of my house, so all of my printmaking happens there. The press takes up a majority of the space, so any drawing or non-printmaking-related processes usually happen on the floor or my kitchen table. I have a pretty good set-up but my ideal studio would have tons of tables, shelves for storage, homosote for putting work up and looking at it, and a monster press. Currently, my press can only go 22 inches wide, so I work a lot with piecing work together to create works larger than 22 inches wide. My ideal press would be at least 40 inches wide. [To see a photo of Allison's vintage press, go here.]

Allison Long Hardy, Finish Line, 2011
Monotype, Ink, Colored Pencil on Paper
10"x 10"
© Allison Long Hardy

MD: You work with a variety of materials (watercolor, inks, graphite, colored pencils, markers, cut paper) and use such techniques as collage. Do you prefer one artistic medium or technique over another and, if yes, what about that choice most engages you? Is there any medium in which you haven't worked that you'd like to explore?

ALH: I don't prefer one material over the other; I find that the different characteristics of each material help inform my work. Sometimes, I find myself drawn to one particular medium; currently, I'm obsessed with India ink. But I know this phase will pass, or I'll find a way to combine India ink with another material and move on. Having a lot of options with materials keeps my mark-making fresh and makes it easier to explore creating various marks.

A medium that I have not worked with but would like to is photography. I do photograph my own work but that's the extent of my photography experience. I really love cyanotypes and other alternative processes but just have not had the time to take a class or focus on that area of art.

MD: You work in both large and small format. What are the particular challenges in printmaking of working in one or the other size?

ALH: I love mixing up my sizes. Large work allows for more expression when creating marks. I can make large gestures or have marks that expand and explode off the page. I find I'm drawn to big work; I love how it demands attention on the wall. Small work tends to be a bit more intimate. I can't make so big a mark or show so much expression [as with large-scale work] but I like the challenge. Scale is an important aspect of my work, and I try to explore that as much as possible.

MD: How would you characterize your style? In what ways has your style changed or evolved during your career?

ALH: Obviously, it's abstract but I don't consider myself an Abstract Expressionist.

My style has become more complicated. My art is very autobiographical, and as my life has gotten more complicated, so has my art. There are many more layers now, a lot more thought-out use of shapes, and even more materials. I think I make with more of a purpose now instead of making just to make art. I have particular goals when I work in my studio, and timelines and deadlines. My time is much more valuable now, which makes me approach my work differently.

MD: Looking at your portfolio on your Website, I noticed that your 2011 work seems much less intensely colorful than earlier work. Is this deliberate exploration of process-and-effect or more the result of tools at hand? 

ALH: Sometimes it's just nice to take a break! Switching things up helps me to learn more about myself. I frequently feel that I rely on color too much, that color becomes a crutch, and I wanted to see if I could make art that I am happy with, without so much color. Also, I'm creating drawings at the Torpedo Facory in a studio that doesn't have a press, which is why no monotype is being used. It's a nice break from my typical studio practice and is helping me to create work that I find refreshing.

Allison Long Hardy, Combine, 2011
Pen, India Ink, Graphite, Colored Pencil, Collage on Paper
24" x 21"
© Allison Long Hardy

MD: In one interview I read, you said, "[M]y work is titled before I start a piece." That implies deliberate intent to capture something specific. Can you speak to that?

ALH: I started titling works before I made them so that my mark-making was more intentional. I sometimes felt that my work wasn't focused on one idea; this way of working made me think about what I was trying to communicate.

MD: Your Artist Statement addresses what you call your "interest in the certain moments that communication or lack of communication occurs and interpreting those moments through mark." Can you describe some of  those "certain moments" you've experienced and how they prompted your mark-making?

ALH: Most of my art has been based on conversations or statements and the ideas these elicit. A lot of these ideas come from conversations with important people in my life—most frequently, my husband. He and I talk a lot about our future and our goals and how we can work toward those goals. So, my work ends up being autobiographical in that it is very descriptive of what is going on currently in my life and how that affects my future.

MD: Tell us about the preparations you make once you get an idea for an artwork.

ALH: I just go for it! While I am more thoughtful these days, I am still interested in a spontaneously made piece, so planning just gets in the way of that. I don't plan out a composition ahead of time; I mostly just react to what emerges on the paper.

In Part 2 of my interview, which appears tomorrow, I talk with Long Hardy about her sources of reference and inspiration, the challenges she faces as an artist, her work as an art instructor, what contributes to successful art-making, her experience exhibiting her artwork, and more.

Allison Long Hardy's Portfolio: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008

Selection of Long Hardy's Drawings and Prints at Washington Printmakers GalleryOpen Museum, and CBS Art Collections

Allison Long Hardy's Etsy Shop

Allison Long Hardy on Twitter and Flickr (Long Hardy also has a FaceBook account under her name.)

What is a monotype?


Louise Gallagher said...

Fabulous interview of a fascinating artist Maureen. Thanks so much -- she's inspired me!

annell said...

I enjoyed reading your post!

Seth said...

Thank you for the wonderful interview. Thanks for introducing me to Allison and her work. I find the idea of titling artwork before it is started very fascinating. And I love the name of her Etsy shop -- Ordered Chaos.

S. Etole said...

"Combine" reminds me of the universe ... you do remarkable interviews.