My neo expressionistic acrylic paintingswere my second painting series when I was a young artist in my mid twenties new to New York City.Theywere created predominantly on plastic shower curtains, although a few were on canvas. I chose shower curtains as my ground in part because they engaged me as a female artist in bringing a domestic item of popular culture into the continuum of art. Their body-size dimensions encouraged large, expressive statements. I painted with disposable chopsticks, both as a second domestic symbol of my being a female and for the intense, detailed surface they called forth. Mixing three mediums—gel, matte, and gloss—with the acrylic paint resulted in a strong, ultimately visceral mark scape.I mixed my acrylic paints with the three mediums in plastic food containers. My paint was never left over. At this time, I was employed as an assistant in a paleontology lab at the American Museum of Natural History, and the experience of working with fossils informed my interests in natural time and consciousness.These natural specimens of history, whether turtle or dinosaur, inspired my work, as did my gender. I became interested in the life force from a female perspective. I saw my paintings as my offspring and the continuum and history of art as my genealogy. From that young age I have believed that surface is consciousness. I sought the profound in the original and the continuum in the timely or even current events. I saw visual art as a religious expression of democracy--a direct freedom of speech. I did not see my painting as silent. It spoke. It still speaks decades later.
Seeking to express a sense of my whole self as an individual living in a multi-cultural urban environment, I have been juxtaposing panels of popular fabric with my imagery for the past eight years. The anonymous and impersonal patterns of the fabrics are butted against the personal metaphors and abstract images of the paintings. Their wedding speaks of the feminine, the practical and the popular. Each part provides a bridge to different realms. The visual languages of our mass culture provide a broader social context for the paintings’ more personal statements, while the paintings bring the popular culture sensibility into another aesthetic realm. I’ve been painting for twenty-five years, working in an abstract, gestural, expressionistic tradition that has allowed me room to resolve paintings in a variety of ways. I begin without a preconceived plan and work with only general ideas for the painting. My intent for the painting evolves as I paint. I believe color and mark to be the equivalents of letters and words, and the meaning arises by my working with their visual elements. I’ll paint with palette knives, brushes, rags, or oil sticks. While most of the time I cover the entire canvas thickly with paint in a long process of discovering the image, I occasionally approach a canvas as if it were a piece of paper and maintain a white ground. I sometimes take up to six months to complete a work, giving the surface a history and consciousness that I find especially significant. My white ground works are spare and are involved less with surface history and more with creating imagery from an array of marks.
Currently, I employ several visual strategies to create works that speak of my experiences and interests in both the natural world and the urban culture of which I am a part. I start with an abstract imagery imbued with a psychological presence and physical import. That imagery ranges from abstract mark scapes to more figurative forms suggestive of underlying life forces that may seem part human or animal and part floral or vegetal. Often painted with visceral emotion, these forms appear as symbols for body parts and carnal energy, sometimes presented as people or animals joined as couples in a portrait. Upon first arriving in New York City as a young artist, I was employed as an assistant in a paleontology lab, and the experience of working with fossil turtles and dinosaurs has stayed with me, informing my interests in natural time and consciousness. Ultimately, I seek to give the paintings a presence that offers a suggestive viewing experience and provides analogies for states of being.
Just as my work evolves over a long period of creation, I intend to give the viewer a rich experience that can be absorbed slowly.
Alison Weld, December, 2002
Striation series of the 1980s – 1990 and 2011
My Striation series, whether the large paintings of the mid to late 1980s, or the small-scaled works of 2011, attempt to emanate both feeling and thought. They are a visual diary. They are a record of thought made physical and the physical made thought. They are the creations of visual thought. They are visual language itself speaking of significant form as being relevant to the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The initial Striation series invoked metaphors for the land, its natural force and its geologic history. Primarily oil paintings, they result from densely layered successive passages of strong, expressive marks, creating both a sense of depth and a forcefully worked surface. The gesso board Striations of the early years of this decade establish an entirely different sense of scale and meaning. They may be the size of a heart. They may be the size of a head. They contain the soul. They affirm the fact the natural world is essential—and immediate--to our personal lives.
Tonal Variation Series
Introduced in 2015, the Tonal Variation series comprisespaintings assembled into diptychs, triptychs, and asymmetrical groupings. These works are much like my paintings of the Home Economics series of the mid 1990s – 2006which also juxtaposed multiple elements of contrasting visual languages. However, in Tonal Variation the separateelements are all discrete,achieved paintings, rather thanone of my paintings contrasted to the stretched fabric or painted artificial flower panels of the earlier Home Economics works. In the Tonal Variation assemblagesthe sense of aesthetic contrast among the elements may seem less dramatic. They do not invoke the abrupt juxtaposition of the realms of personal statement of painting with the visual languages of mass culture and external reality implicit in upholstery and decorative fabric or fake flowers. Rather, the contrast and dichotomy manifest in Tonal Variation works are internally relevant to my life as a working artist within the history of past and contemporary art. The Tonal Variation assemblages may be constructed either from entirely new paintings or they may incorporate earlier paintings which were either single works or components of previous diptychs, triptychs, or groupings of multiple parts. For instance, the 2004 series, Vertebrae Continuo might find itself in dialogue with its opposite, the dark abstractions of 1999. Neo expressionistic works of 1982 can be aligned with works of much later and more abstract periods. The resulting new work may display a varied palette at times,or a varied gesture or mark in other instances, but all work to be integrated through structure and form. Structure and form define the overt content within my palette, and theyestablish what I see as the painting’s demeanor. These works are thus rooted in the present, yet do not negate the aesthetic past—whether that of our long, shared aesthetic continuum or my personal artistic journey. They acknowledge collective visual meaning. They are not separate from either the external lived world or our realm of cultural expression; they are a distillation and response, personal and shared.
Works on Paper
Rooted in the belief that the painterly mark and abstraction itself is visual philosophy, I attempt to imbue substance, color, line and movement with a visual significance. My painting, whether on paper or canvas, layers substance with gestural mark, ideas, and emotions. They interpret experience, drawing from a myriad of sources to work diverse associations and intuitions into a self-contained entity.
The life force is the content of my works on paper. The interpretation of essential forces such as will, act, growth, and spiritual presence within a visceral vocabulary informs the imagery. I search and discover a visual metaphor that result in a deliberate act, the movement of my bodily gestures and chance.
I employ both density as well as openness as the paperworks’ form of contrast and dichotomy, a theme central to all my art. In the works on paper, especially, I may embrace either a state of a fully-worked ground, even suggestive of horror vaccui, or welcome the simplicity and sparseness of the paper itself. Many of these works on paper relate to my body of painting diptychs, such as Home Economics 1994-2002 and Flower Juxtapositions, 2003-2006, through their juxtapositions of an overlay of dots, color, line and form. The works are metaphors for contrast and dichotomy, male and female, external and internal forces.
Painting as I do with an accumulation of mark and surface involves the recording of time. I may indeed work on a paperwork over years in spite of its small scale, for I have learned that an artwork can be created quickly or over a length of time, allowing for continuing contemplation and understanding.
For the past decade, I have been creating paintings on paper that employ the technique of pulling a monoprint but does not use a plate but rather solely paperworks interacting with each another. I work with both the pull and the original paper plate to create my paper works. Significant form arises in opposition and conjunction of print to print. My term for these painted monotypes is “pulled paint.” These pullings of markings might invoke the sightlines of a ridge of mountains, a tree line, or bird flight.
The reality of abstract visual elements coupled with my experience of being a female born in the early 1950s informs these works on paper, as they do all my painting. I strive to have my paintings have a paleontologist’s sense of form and a woman’s sense of biology. I am a silent composer, responding to the depth of the world, its physicality as well as its intangibility and find meaning and emotional resonance within the language of abstraction.
I believe abstraction is a portrayal of contemplation, a portrait of the psyche, and of significant form. Silent music. Silent thought. Silent Diaries. Visual philosophy.