Thursday, August 11, 2011

Interview with Artist Allison Long Hardy (Part 2)

Interview with Artist Allison Long Hardy
Part 2

Making art for a living is a scary thing!
. . . but if it's what you love, then do what you love.

Yesterday I posted Part 1 of my interview with printmaker and mixed-media artist Allison Long Hardy. In that segment we spoke about Long Hardy's education and mentors, her studio, the evolution of her style, and the media and materials she uses. 

Currently, Long Hardy's work is on view in "Synergy" at the Torpedo Factory Art Center, in Alexandria, Virginia, where she is a Visiting Artist. Join me there for tonight's opening reception in the Site 2 and Site 3 galleries, 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m., and meet Long Hardy and other artists in this summer's 2011 Visiting Artist Program. The show will be up through August 28.

* * * * *

Maureen Doallas: What are your sources of reference and inspiration?

Allison Long Hardy: I'm really interested in how communication occurs. Since my time at the Torpedo Factory, I've been very influenced by crowds. I find that how crowds develop, exist, and dissipate is very interesting to me and ties into my overall interest in communication.

Being at the Torpedo Factory, as an artist working in the studios there, I hear and see some crazy things. It's really funny to watch people go in and out of the studios and their reactions when they think you aren't the artist whose work they are looking at. 

I've been assigning certain marks to various individuals or groups of people and tracking how they move through the studios. On paper, I've been remaking those paths and noticing how people follow other people and where they are most drawn to in the building. It's been a really interesting experiment and has resulted in a fun art-making process.

MD: Who are your favorite artists, and what attracts you to their work?

ALH: My favorite artist is Julie Mehretu. What I love about her work is the "systems" she develops. She and I are very interested in marks and what happens when marks combine. Judy Pfaff is another favorite. What draws me to her work is the sense of chaos. I find, in my work, a lot of times I am trying to order the chaos I've created on paper. Judy Pfaff's work is like an explosion of energy and chaos; she's not so worried as I am about ordering her chaos. Lastly, Reed Danziger. Again, she seems interested in ordering chaos. I also really like her use of materials and how she goes about applying them to paper.

MD: What challenges you as an artist? When you respond to these challenges, what do you learn?

ALH: I get bored very easily with my work, so keeping things fresh and lively is always a challenge. I don't think my work is boring to look at but [making] it can be very process-oriented and sometimes I get distracted. I usually work on a couple of pieces at a time to alleviate the sense of boredom, and find that I learn a lot through the creation of multiple works simultaneously.

Allison Long Hardy, Daydream, 2011
Pen, Graphite, Colored Pencil, India Ink on Paper
38" x26"
© Allison Long Hardy

MD: You were awarded a three-month Visiting Artist residency at the Torpedo Factory. What is the value of such a residency to a professional artist generally and to you specifically? Do you undertake a residency with a particular goal in mind?

ALH: Anytime an artist can get a designated space to make art [it] is a blessing; so, I've really cherished the time I've been able to spend in the studio this summer. Last summer I did a one-month residency at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont, and had a fantastic time. I made a lot of work while I was there and hope to have the same experience at the Torpedo Factory. . . to make work for some upcoming exhibitions.

MD: Currently, as an adjunct professor at Northern Virginia Community College and University of Mary Washington, you teach courses in the fundamentals of design, painting, and drawing. What kinds of students do your courses attract (e.g., what proportion intend to pursue artistic careers)? What advice and encouragement do you offer?

ALH: I have a wide range of students, from seasoned artists to those who know absolutely nothing about art. Each type of student has his or her own unique challenges but that is what makes teaching at the college level exciting.

As for advice: Do what feels right! Explore. Don't be afraid to take risks and have fun! Also, don't be late for class; it will annoy your professor.

MD: What do you learn from your experience as a teacher that you incorporate in your approach to your art?

ALH: I admire my students for their adventurous spirits. I learn a lot from my students. They may approach an assignment completely differently than I do or they may make me appreciate a material more than I had previously. They keep me on my toes, which, in turn, keeps me on my toes when [I'm] making art. I try not to let my students settle for a "good enough" solution to an assignment, and I hold myself to this same standard with my art-making.

MD: Who or what has contributed most to your artistic success or progress?

ALH: You have to be willing to take chances. I think that if you follow your heart, it will work out. Making art for a living is a scary thing! You don't have a set paycheck, materials are expensive, framing costs are outrageous; but if it's what you love, then do what you love.

MD: What would you describe as your "lucky break" as an artist?

ALH: Oh, gosh, this is a hard one. I think going to graduate school right after undergraduate school was a horribly timed decision, but I think it helped to shape a lot of who I am in my professional life. I learned to be tough and to not take no for an answer, and to not accept mediocrity. I also was young enough that I would basically do anything for more experience, so I soaked up a lot of information in those two-and-a-half years that still resonates with me today.

Allison Long Hardy, Rise, 2011
Monotype, Pen, Colored Pencil on Paper
30" x 22"
© Allison Long Hardy 

MD: You've been in many solo, two-person, and group exhibitions. How did you feel on seeing your work in a show for the first time? Would you share with us a bit about what goes into preparing for a "typical" show?

ALH: I was absolutely terrified! Having people whom I don't know look at my work and judge it was a very scary thought for me. I've gotten over that feeling. I'm a lot more confident in my work now and am a lot tougher than I was early in my career. Of course, I want the typical gallery-goer to love my art but if he doesn't, oh well!

Preparing for exhibitions is always stressful. I've learned that things are going to go wrong, it's not going to turn out like you wanted but, in the end, no one will know that you had it planned any other way.

Framing takes a ridiculously long time, so I order my supplies early and take my time when framing work. Also, I've learned to edit down my selections for exhibitions. When I think I've finally selected the works for a show, I always remove two or three pieces. I find that I always plan to put too much in a space and then when I have to edit out while in the gallery, it never goes well. Editing out before I even arrive at the gallery eliminates feeling guilty about taking a specific piece out or getting frustrated because I spent money on framing that isn't going to be used or seen.

MD: What do you do specifically to market yourself as an artist?

ALH: I have a mailing list that I've developed over the past couple of years that consists of friends, collectors, galleries that I have connections with, and co-workers. Each of these different groups gets e-mails when I have something coming up. Each gets a very different type of e-mail, based on how I know the individual or organization. I also send out postcards and [publicize] via FaceBook and Twitter.

MD: What types of social media do you use regularly to facilitate your artistic career or promote the exhibition and sale of your art?

ALH: I have FaceBook and Twitter accounts where I publicize upcoming exhibitions, articles, or new art. I've gotten a lot of connections and opportunities through Twitter; it's a good avenue to explore. I also recently opened at Etsy shop where I am trying to sell some of my small drawings but I haven't truly figured out how to market that yet.

MD: What is the price range of your art? How do you decide how to price your work?

ALH: My art prices range from $300 to $2,500. Pricing is always difficult. When I earned my M.F.A., I raised my prices because I felt I had a higher degree now and deserved to get paid more. I basically price according to size. I determine how much money I would be happy receiving for a piece and what monthly bills that amount of money would pay for and then price accordingly. I don't price my work based on how much time I put into it, because  that aspect of my art-making varies greatly from piece to piece and can make my pricing appear very inconsistent.

MD: What importance, if any, do you attach to art awards and recognition?

ALH: Well, it always feels good to get an award or be recognized; it's a bit of justification for all of my hard work. Awards and recognition help to build connections and facilitate other opportunities, so they do serve a purpose.

MD: Which piece of your artwork are you most proud of, and why?

ALH: This is a hard one! I greatly value each of my pieces and have a hard time picking one that is my favorite. There is a piece I did at the Vermont Studio Center in June 2010 that I am drawn to because of the amount of labor I put into it. It's called You Did This. I started it the first day I got there and finished it on the last. I was determined to overwork a piece and I purposefully did this. I counted the runs through the press while making this piece, and it ended up being 52! I was just proud of myself for working a piece for so long and having it be successful in the end.

MD: Imagine for a moment having achieved great public recognition as an artist. What might a critic or critics say about your work? How would you like your artwork to be remembered?

ALH: What an exciting idea! Hopefully, the critics will say my work is exciting. I try to make work that is engaging and filled with details and areas that keep the viewers engaged. My work is very autobiographical, so I hope the viewers will see a progression through the years indicative of my growing and changing as a person.

Thank you, Allison, for an informative, enthusiastic, and down-to-earth peek into your artist's life. 

Allison Long Hardy's work will be in several exhibitions this fall and winter:

✦ "Engulfed: Works on Paper by Allison Long Hardy", McDaniel College, Peterson Hall, The Rice Gallery, Westminster, Maryland, November 22 - December 16. Reception: November 22, 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

✦ "Crowded Spaces", University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, Virginia, January 13 - 27, 2012. Reception: January 12, 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. (Check the exhibition schedule for UMW Galleries for details.)


Louise Gallagher said...

Really really enjoyed this interview. Thanks so much Maureen for bringing Allison Long Hardy here!

Maureen said...

So pleased you enjoyed the interview, Louise. Thank you.

Do visit Allison's Website. There are terrific images of her work there.

Julie Ali said...

I really liked this interview. It had some interesting information in it and the artist was very open about her work

Thank you for introducing me to her work.

Seth said...

Thank you both so much for this fascinating interview. I really enjoyed reading through. And I have been lucky enough to see Judy Pfaff's artwork in person and it is truly amazing.

Maureen said...

So pleased the interview has had so many readers, according to my behind-the-scenes stats. I thank everyone who has stopped in. I met Allison this evening and had the chance to see her work. Her prints are gorgeous. To quote Lenny Campello, if you're a collector, buy now.