Sunday, April 26, 2020

Somerville Artist Allison Tanenhaus: A Public Artist in the time of the Plague

Somerville Artist Allison Tanenhaus: A Public Artist in the time of the Plague
Interview with Doug Holder

Allison Tanenhaus is a self-taught digital abstract glitch artist who specializes in abstract geometrics, vibrant color fields, optical perspectives, playful patterns, mind-bending motion, and unexpected dimensional qualities. Applications include public art, street art, and commercial art, branding design, and multimedia presentations and performances.

Recent commissions and installations include Bulfinch Crossing, the ICA Store at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, New England Synth Fest, Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, and “GlitchKraft: Allison Tanenhaus + Friends” at Emerson Contemporary. She frequently creates music videos and album art for electronic musicians in Somerville, including The Square Root of Negative Two and Doug Bielmeier.

What is your connection to Somerville? (What part of town do you live in? How long, etc...)
I’ve lived right outside Davis for 16 years.

What makes this city unique?
There’s an authentic adoration for hard work, progress, creativity, and connection that I really vibe with. We have lively art and music venues, delicious and diverse restaurants, and other big-city benefits, but there’s a small-town flavor that permeates, which I find comforting and appealing. There’s also deep respect and support for the artistic community—from the top of the administration on down—which is vital and much appreciated.

What are you working on now?
I’m working on creating and compiling short animated clips to pair with sound samples from local musicians—mini music videos, essentially. The plan is that we will each post on social media to cross-promote the endeavors in our respective mediums, as well as prompt ourselves to stay active in the creative process.

What projects do you envision for the future?
I’d love to continue creating multimedia installations for galleries and other venues, but those opportunities would only be online for the time being, which does cut down on immersive and collaborative qualities. Hopefully when the world opens up again, there will be an invigorated appetite for new public artworks that everyone can joyfully experience out in the open.

Is your work now influenced by the virus? Do you think it will be in the future?
I’m finding that I’m becoming more experimental—trying out new techniques, styles, and technology—so that I can stay nimble (and relevant). My work is mostly abstract, so I don’t know if the virus’s impact on my art is apparent yet. Perhaps more obvious themes or imagery will emerge, especially when looking at a body of work collectively and in hindsight.

It is hard to make a living as an artist—period. How has this situation affected you?

Like many artists, I make a living from various simultaneous streams. In my case, it’s creating art installations that are either environmental (for example, building wraps, wallpaper, prints, and digital displays for construction sites, train stations, hotels, offices, architecture firms, and interior design projects) or in the academic or art gallery world. I also sell collectible art (stickers, postcards, buttons, and tote bags) at in-person markets, plus work as a cat-sitter for the local company Thoughtful Paws.

Since people aren’t traveling, I’m not doing any cat-sitting. With galleries closed, I’m not able to exhibit. Art markets are of course cancelled. And since construction and renovation projects are on pause, I can’t progress on those kinds of projects, either.

From a distance, my fields all seemed to be unconnected, but through the lens of the pandemic, it turns out they are all reliant on people being able to come together (at home, in public, in entertainment venues, or in new destinations while traveling).

I’m doing my best to stick with art that can be experienced virtually, but there’s a huge reduction in opportunities (whether they’re exhibitions, performances, or commissions), revenue, and audience connection. And I really miss the kitties I used to cat-sit for!

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