3 Questions with Allyson Mitchell
Maximalist artist Allyson Mitchell on saying yes, starting conversations, and taking advantage of lulls.
3 QUESTIONS is series of brief, three-question interviews with PNCA’s visiting artists and lecturers. Each year, PNCA attracts innovative, thoughtful, and creative makers and thinkers who share our belief in the transformative power of creativity. In three short answers to three short questions, these artists offer perspectives on career, motivation, and transformation. When available, we include links to audio recordings, transcripts, slideshows, or video.
“Say yes to everything.”
What advice would you offer current students about to embark on a career in the arts?
I don’t know if this advice is useful for those artists who want art careers – I don’t really know about that. My practice is not so much of a traditional career. It is my entire life. My advice to people who are starting out in this lifestyle is to say yes to everything. Others may tell you the opposite but I have found that saying yes, rather than no, has meant connections, future opportunities, and a continuous momentum that sustains my art practice.
How do you maintain your creative practice? What keeps you motivated and engaged?
Talking to other people about my work and their art helps me keep motivated. Working on small projects continuously can make the big projects seem more do-able. Also, remembering that times when I may feel discouraged are actually really useful and productive in other ways than pumping out work. Lulls can be about gathering ideas, content, and energy for big projects.
Could you describe a moment or experience that profoundly changed the nature of your work?
Attending the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (a feminist separatist cultural event that began in the 70s) in the late 90s profoundly changed everything about my work. I exposed myself to new ways (and also frustratingly old ways) of being, thinking, and knowing that caused paradigm shifts on the tectonic plate level for me. This experience of utopia/dystopia, community organizing, and rearranged hierarchies fuel much of my art/activist work.
ALLYSON MITCHELL is a maximalist artist working predominantly in sculpture, installation, and film. Since 1997, Mitchell has been melding feminism and pop culture to play with contemporary ideas about sexuality, autobiography, and the body, largely through the use of reclaimed textile and abandoned craft. Her work has exhibited in galleries and festivals across Canada, the US, Europe, and East Asia. She is an assistant Professor in the School of Women’s Studies at York University.