Artist of the Week

Allison Wade

June 27, 2012

Allison Wade lives and works in Chicago.  She received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago this past May.  Allison will be exhibiting in our upcoming exhibition Wobbly Misconduct this August.

How did your interest in art begin? I’m a bit of a latecomer to art, or at least to seriously practicing it.  I studied English literature in college and worked a series of corporate jobs afterwards, but always took continuing education classes in visual arts.  I was taking this acrylic painting class at night and realized I was pretty good at it.  The satisfaction I got from problem-solving a painting far exceeded anything I experienced at work.  I rented a studio and slowly devoted more and more time to art, eventually going back to school.

What kinds of things are influencing your work right now? Playgrounds.  I’m obsessed with the forms—the construction, the mix of wood and metal and plastic, how things fit together.  The spaces seem simultaneously visible and invisible.  Because of the bright colors, you would assume they would attract more attention, but I think they blend in because of their functional role, ubiquitous nature, and context.

How has your work developed within the past year? For me, graduate school has been a lot about working with new materials and gaining skills since I came in with fairly limited technical knowledge.  I picked up ceramics about a year ago, which shifted the work in a direction I really like.  For the last six months, I’ve been learning to weave on a floor loom.  It is such a nice contrast to my normal process, which is fairly intuitive and unplanned.  I’m anxious to see how it gets integrated into the work.

What do you want a viewer to walk away with after seeing your work? A feeling of lightness.  Curiosity.  That the objects are what they are; they are not trying to hide anything.  I want people to think I would never have put those things together, that way, but somehow it makes total sense.

Can you share one of the best or worst reactions you have gotten as a result of your work? I ran into a woman who had seen my show last fall at SAIC’s Parallax Gallery, and she told me that she was glad I made those particular sculptures, that she was happy they existed.

If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go and why? Back to Finland.  I went there last summer for a residency six hours north of Helsinki, in the middle of nowhere. To get there, I took a train, then a bus, then I got picked up in a car.  It was the quietest and most magical place I have ever been. I also spent some time in Helsinki.  There’s an unassuming confidence and an elegant simplicity in the architecture and design there.  The harmonious balance between natural and manufactured materials really interested me.

What’s your favorite thing about Chicago? The lake, the architecture, summers, wild bunnies, above ground trains, the approachable scene for emerging artists, the fact that the city is urban but manageable, my friends.

What were you like in high school? I went to a high school in Dallas, Texas that was half Friday Night Lights and half John Hughes film.  I was a cheerleader.  I am still recovering.

Top 3 favorite or most visited websites and why? 1) An ambitious project collapsing – An adviser turned me on to this blog a few years ago, and I’ve been hooked ever since.  I love the curated mix of art, textiles, designed objects, graphics, archival photos, and much more. 2) Notcot – An aggregate of images/links to cool design and art stuff.  I spend way too much time going through the posts. 3) Hulu – I am a sucker for sitcoms.

What are your plans for the next year?  Any upcoming shows we should know about? My grandmother asked me this question last week, and I managed to successfully change the subject.  I’m in this exciting but nerve-wracking transition between grad school and the “real” world.  The next year is a bit blurry, so I’m approaching it on a day-by-day basis.  I do know a few things.  I’m moving into a new studio this week with some friends, and I have some shows coming up that I’m really excited about: my August show at LVL3 with Amy Feldman and Rachel de Joode, a show at ACRE projects with Lee Delegard opening June 17, a September group show at Carthage College curated by Daniel Orendorff, and a December show at devening projects + editions.