Allison Belolan creates mixed-media abstract work from her New York home to explore the connection between emotions and environment. Allison’s work has been shown in galleries across the United States.
Can you tell us how you got started in art?
I discovered my love for art when I was in high school after taking a summer course at a local school and eventually studied printmaking at the Rhode Island School of Design. I loved doing that, but it was tough to do without all the equipment, so when I graduated, I worked as a sample designer for a jewellery company. I enjoyed the act of making jewellery, but the fashion industry just wasn’t for me, so I started teaching art to kids for several years. In 2019, I had to take leave due to an injury to my wrist, and then the pandemic hit, so I have had two years to myself, and I started creating my work out of boredom, which has gotten me to where I am now.
What drew you to making mixed media art?
Part of that was due to necessity and using what I had around, but I have also always enjoyed making collages. I am also a bit of a hoarder, so when I was at home, I realised I had drawers of stacked magazines and interesting papers (that’s the art teacher in me), so I would sit at the kitchen table and just cut and create little things while I would keep an eye on my children.
What’s your favourite material to work with?
I like the way that tissue paper works. It has a translucency and you can layer it. The first bit of tissue paper I picked up was from a gift bag. I started tearing it and it became a creative escape and an outlet. I like the immediacy of collages, I don’t have to wait for things dry. I tear something and I have an immediate result.
What themes do you like to explore with your work?
With the landscape work I create, I like to think about our emotional connections to our environments. Thinking about my emotions during the pandemic and how closely it related to being in nature led me to use landscapes to express my feelings. There are the calming horizons of places I would like to go and then there are red volcanic pieces that have stemmed from a place of anger. Visually when people look at them, I am hoping that people can see and connect to the ideas of emotional landscapes, for example with the rays that you see in my work, I am trying to convey feelings of hope and that better days are ahead of us.
Who are some of your artist inspirations?
Kiki Smith has been one of my all-time favourites. I really enjoy her connection to nature and how she portrays that. Her prints have always been a favourite of mine. I also enjoy Richard Diebenkorn’s use of colour, his abstraction of landscape and the way he breaks landscapes down into shapes. I also like Richard Serra and how when you’re walking up close to his sculptures, it’s a different world. That is just amazing to me.
How do you think the pandemic has affected the art community?
It was really disruptive for me because this was the first time since college that I was really making art for myself. However, the pandemic has almost levelled the playing field for artists and changed the way the art industry works. Artists are able to promote themselves without having to find a gallery and there are more connections to be made person to person online.
What advice would you give to someone who may be interested in creating collages of their own?
Play! Grab some papers that are interesting to you. It could be colours that you like, or patterns that you’ve drawn, or your favourite daily newspaper, and experiment with ripping some paper and then experiment with moving it around and what it looks like (no glue yet) and see what you like about it. What happens if you have more of one colour, or if its symmetrical? Is there a picture you would like to create with the collage rather than a more abstract shape and form?
Finally, what can people do if they are in a creative collage rut?
There are many online collage communities that put up weekly prompts. That can help because sometimes you do need a perimeter to get you going and the prompts are fun.