What strikes me immediately about Chicago-based Allison Reimus' work is her choice of materials, which I can't help associating with grade school art class, and which bring a bright, fun, and relatable quality to her pieces. I love the glitter, pom poms, and bright pops of color. Her practice addresses ideas of the domestic interior and decorative elements, which immediately brings to mind wallpaper or collections on shelves and mantles, but the fun, even lighthearted materials she uses bring a playful reminder of childhood memories and heirloom treasures.
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YS: You mention in your statement that you explore the "psychology of the domestic interior by addressing elements of the decorative through abstraction." Can you tell me a bit about this? When or how did you first land on this topic?
AR: I'm not sure why I'm so obsessed with painting imagery from domesticity, other than I have always been an "inside person" and have many childhood memories involving stuff, lots of stuff, in regards to the women on both sides of my family. I can remember thinking a lot about an object's value or lineage. A relic from a deceased Great-Grandmother, Great-Great-Grandmother and the like. I've also never been interested in rendering things in a realistic way, and over the years, abstraction has emerged as the most efficient way for me to try and capture essence.
A few years ago your work seems to have had an emphasis on painting and geometry, but more recently your colors have lightened and you've been utilizing a lot of different materials! How have your influences or practice changed over the last few years?
I'm still heavily invested in painting, even though nowadays I'm far less concerned with traditional paint applications. In more recent work, I've been exploring alternative materials (towels, textiles, flocking fiber, pom poms, glitter, etc.) in an attempt to satiate a desire for texture and content and frankly, to not get bored. I often work on shaped stretchers and sewn surfaces. I'm trying to play with the notion that painting is a thing AND an idea. I'm still thinking about geometry in my new work, but as a system, or as a representation of order that needs to be disrupted. In general, I find myself trusting my instincts more and have been allowing myself to pursue my painting desires without worrying too much about failure, as failure is essential to success. My older stuff relied a little too much on my ability to craft something well. I was being too safe and it felt boring.
Who or what are some of your major influences in general?
I suppose I paint in reaction to my life, or to make sense of it. That involves thinking a lot about motherhood, order and disorder, domesticity, decoration, feminism, femininity, desire, failure. I have always been seduced and overwhelmed by color and pattern. I'm constantly looking at other painters and find a lot of motivation from them as well.
You use a number of different materials in your work. What is your process like? How do you get started on a piece? Is there much planning involved before you start?
Once I have a good feeling about scale and shape (I often work on shaped canvases) I get into the painting by way of a color combination, texture or motif. On my sewn pieces, I do have a very loose plan before getting started by way of a line drawing. Otherwise, I never have a plan. Basically, I try to follow my gut and do what feels right and over time, one painting move leads to another and eventually form and content get solidified. I find that ideas from one painting carry over onto the next, so I like to work with finished paintings hanging around the studio. I think of them like paragraphs or sentences in the same story.
What is your studio like? How much time do you typically spend there?
My studio is in the basement of my house. It's certainly convenient and really spacious. I usually spend about 25 hours a week there. It all depends on my kids and what they've got going on. I have two scheduled studio days per week while my kids are at nursery school. I also spend a lot of nights, weekends and holidays there, trying to get ahead. Working from home is time and cost efficient and necessary at this point in my life. I'm enjoying being able to work larger, something I couldn't do when we lived in an apartment.
What do you find to be the most exciting or fulfilling aspect of being an artist?
There are a lot of fulfilling things about being an artist but the biggest positive for me is feeling like I'm being my true self. Even when things are shitty, I know I'm living the life I've always dreamed of, and things can be shitty quite often. I've never questioned whether this is what I'm supposed to be doing. I know it is and painting consistency feels urgent. I also love engaging with other artists, as being in a community of like-minded people is very important to me. I also find comfort in knowing that my work will exist long after I'm dead and gone.
What do you consider to be the most challenging part?
Logistically, it's hard to spend so much money on materials, shipping, travel, application fees, etc, when making money from your efforts isn't guaranteed. Being an "emerging artist" is truly an expensive labor of love. It's also hard to vocalize to people not familiar with contemporary art why I bother with it, so I stopped trying years ago. Perhaps the worst part though, is how closely my self-worth is measured by what's going on in my studio. Its not healthy but it also helps me make better paintings-- it's the curse of the artist, I guess.
What is your arts education like?
I had the great privilege of studying visual art for half of every school day from 6th through the 12th grade at Saginaw Arts and Sciences Academy, a public school in my hometown of Saginaw, MI. I learned from an early age that making art gave me a sense of purpose so I had no doubts about pursuing a career as an artist. I'm from a blue-collar family and my decision was misunderstood at times, however, I'm extremely stubborn so I kept on. I got my BFA from Michigan State University in 2005 and my MFA from American University (Washington, DC) in 2009.
Is there anything you know now that you wish you would have known when you first started to pursue art seriously?
I wish I could travel back in time and tell myself not to be so anxious. I spent too much time worrying about if my ideas were good or not. I felt an intense pressure to be perfect, whatever that even means, that my work felt boring to make and looked stiff and calculated. It might sound cliche, but its better to follow your gut and take risks and just make a ton of work and think about it afterwards. I also would have told my scared, pregnant self to chill out because having kids has made my work better. I've learned about time management and more importantly, I have complicated life experiences to react to while painting.
Any upcoming exhibitions or projects?
Right now, I'm working on a solo show at Knox College and a group show at Roots and Culture, both opening in January.
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Find more information visit allisonreimus.com!