ALYSON PROVAX

 Alyson Provax in front of  Untitled  (everything) photo credit: Sierra Stinson

Alyson Provax in front of Untitled (everything) photo credit: Sierra Stinson

 

Tell us about yourself - what do you do, and how would you describe your work?

I’ve been describing myself as a printmaker and an animator for years, but my work has been branching out in new directions recently. I often work in letterpress, using hand-set lead type and experimental printing techniques to make one-of-a-kind text based work, including lightboxes. I also use scanned images of letterpress originals to create short animations, and more recently, posters and billboards. Within the last year or so my text-based work has expanded to include text-on-mirror work.

 
  Untitled  (only one) Billboard, letterpress. As installed at 15th Ave NW and NW 70th St in Seattle, 2018

Untitled (only one) Billboard, letterpress. As installed at 15th Ave NW and NW 70th St in Seattle, 2018

 

You've got some billboards out in Seattle! Congratulations! Tell us about how those came to be.

Thank you! I am in love with those billboards. They exist as a component of A LONE presented by Vignettes and Gramma, a month-long temporary public exhibition of artists and poets. The project is about being alone together in the city. My work for the show includes two billboards (one on the corner of Nickerson St and Florentia St near the Fremont Bridge, and a second on the corner of 15th Ave NW and 70th St in Ballard) as well as a series of free mirrors left in various Seattle neighborhoods during the first week of the show and window text at Mount Analogue.

 
  Desire isn't lack , Poster, open edition (unsigned), 18x24" 2018

Desire isn't lack, Poster, open edition (unsigned), 18x24" 2018

 

As I worked on this project I came to think of the billboard form as an inherint part of the piece. I have been working with letterpress for many years, but this form of display changes the work and required a specific approach. It is large. It meets the viewer in public. The form of the billboard asks for attention and announces itself as an advertisement. For the two pieces displayed, I really wanted to give a gift to the audience - both the intentional audience who visit the work after hearing of its existence and the unintentional audience of people who live or work nearby. The work on Nickerson Street reads “everything is about to change” which can be a comfort but is also a simple fact of this world, and certainly not always positive. It is helpful for me to remember that we are always on the precipice of something new. It is a reason to inhabit the present moment and to move toward the future that you want. The work on 15th Avenue NW reads “you’re not the only one” and is both a solace - many other people have experienced the same feelings you are feeling - but can also be read as chiding. Be mindful that you are surrounded by other people.

This work will be taken down at the end of May, however the experience of making this very public work has changed my practice. I’m excited to see what my next public project will be.

 
  Portable altarpiece III  (always like this here), Vinyl lettering on travel mirror, Edition of 5, 7x8x6” (display) 7x5x0.5” (travel), 2018

Portable altarpiece III (always like this here), Vinyl lettering on travel mirror, Edition of 5, 7x8x6” (display) 7x5x0.5” (travel), 2018

 

Your latest show, "you i everything else" uses the TV show The Bachelor as inspiration - can you go into detail about why that inspired you, and how it plays into your work?

I began watching The Bachelor not as fodder for a project but simply as a viewer. I kept watching, but wasn’t exactly sure why. My viewership was kept at an ironic distance, but I was hooked. After some time I became interested in the specific oddities of speech within the show. I saw a certain vernacular that crossed seasons, phrases that I’d never heard in any other context repeated over and over again by different contestants. Once I started collecting text from the show and working with it in the studio, the emotional resonance of the language became immediately apparent. This show is not just about its ostensible subject of finding a husband or wife, it is also a display of emotion and vulnerability on television. This vulnerability is something most of us try to avoid, but is very relateable nonetheless. Taken in the abstract, the disappointments and heartbreak that the show displays can personally resonate outside the show.

 
  Untitled  (know what you're looking for) Letterpress on uwa senka, 3x3" 2018

Untitled (know what you're looking for) Letterpress on uwa senka, 3x3" 2018

 

The Bachelor is also an example of the effect of the eyes of an audience on the individual. The contestants know that they are on film and feel the eyes of their audience. With this awareness they believe that they must become a consistent character, and they inevitably edit their own actions in order to display a consistent self.

I found that by separating the words from the context of the show I was able to point to both of these experiences in a more universal way. We all experience heartbreaks. We all change depending on who we are around, who is seeing us, and many of us are uncomfortable with that experience and try to edit ourselves to seem more like ourselves.

 
  Untitled  (it's been difficult for all of us) Letterpress on uwa senka, variable edition of 3, 2.75x4.5” 2017

Untitled (it's been difficult for all of us) Letterpress on uwa senka, variable edition of 3, 2.75x4.5” 2017

 

You use a letterpress to create your works. Have you always been drawn to older, more traditional styles of creating? Or do you dabble in more modern (i.e. digital, etc.) methods as well?

I love letterpress. I came to it from a printmaking background and have experience with other old technologies like woodblock and etching. Once I began to use my letterpress originals as digital images - as I do with the animations - my practice began to shift. I ask what a specific piece needs, and determine the medium from that perspective. It’s an exhilarating way to work.

 
 Type lockup - this is an image of ready to print lead type

Type lockup - this is an image of ready to print lead type

 

In this digital age, what kind of impact does printed/paper work have on viewers?

Something I love about the look of letterpress is that the slight indentation of the letters on the paper and how that relates back to touch. I am a very tactile person, and I want the viewer to feel the work. Even in my digital work, this tactility is extremely important to me. I have a specific scanner that can be programmed to scan for that slight depth or as a flat image.

 
  Untitled  (just be in that moment), letterpress on uwa senka, 3x4" 2017

Untitled (just be in that moment), letterpress on uwa senka, 3x4" 2017

 

How are viewers supposed to feel when they look at your work? In a perfect world, what would they take away from it?

I want my work to provide comfort, a sense that you are not alone in your vulnerability. Some of the best feedback I have heard about my work comes down to a sense of togetherness or suppose. I have heard that it helped someone through a difficult time; that it made them cry; that they visited my work as a form of therapy; and that they keep my work in their own workplace as inspiration. Each of those responses was deeply heartwarming for me to hear.

 
  Untitled  (wanted these feelings again), Letterpress on masa and kozo, lightbox, 4.5x5.5x2” 2018

Untitled (wanted these feelings again), Letterpress on masa and kozo, lightbox, 4.5x5.5x2” 2018

 

As creatives, it can be hard to measure our success. What does success mean to you?

This is a difficult question, and one that I continually return to. It is certainly something that we each need to define for ourselves. Success to me is my work touching people and having an effect on their lives.

 
  you i everything else  - gallery shot - at Wolff Gallery, 2018

you i everything else - gallery shot - at Wolff Gallery, 2018

 

What's one big thing you're hoping to accomplish in 2018?

Now that I've completed the work for A LONE and you i everything else I’m excited to get back into the studio. I’m excited about my upcoming summertime launch with Uprise Art and making plans for another public project.

 

 

Check Alyson out on Instagram and her website

And check out her Ten Facts feature here.