Interview by L. Valena
Can you describe what you responded to?
I received a musical composition, classical but also experimental.
What was your first reaction?
I remember receiving the email and wanting to wait to listen to it until I could really write down my first impressions of it, because first impressions are so important. I remember thinking that there was a lot of empty space in the piece, and that's immediately what stuck with me.
That space, the emptiness?
And what happened next?
After that I kind of let it marinate. I kept going back to wanting to respond to the space in the music, which I ended up connecting to an experience I had in Ireland.
Tell me about that experience.
I was traveling around with a friend, and we were in the south of Ireland, and we found this abandoned abbey. I love cemeteries and abandoned places, and we kind of walked around. And it was this old cloister that had a giant yew tree in the center, and it was beautiful and run down. And you could just feel the energy of the place and it just really resounded with me, and I really wanted to create something about that. The music really- once I heard the piece I felt as though I could have been listening to it at that moment while I was there.
I love the iconography in this piece. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Yes- the halo (it's really more of a crown) is not to portray anything necessarily divine about myself- it's about experiencing a moment that felt kind of out of time, maybe a moment with something holy. And also being in a religious place- a religious place in two senses. I later learned that the yew tree that was in the abbey wasn't originally meant for Christian monks, but was really important for Pagan religion, and then the abbey was kind of formed around it, so it was like two very important religions happening in one spot.
And what are these words kind of tucked into the border?
I read a lot, and I like to hoard important words and phrases, and I basically wrote in the blank spaces words that felt relevant to the experience.
Is there other symbolism here you want to talk about?
The details on the figure. There are two patches on the jacket, and a charm on the necklace. All of those have symbolism in the piece. The skull on the patch on the chest is a memento mori, the shoulder patch is a labyrinth which is kind of- I don't know if you've ever walked a labyrinth, but they're super meditative, and it's a really calming experience, which is what I felt after leaving that abbey. The necklace is so tiny, but it's an eye necklace- warding off evil. Even though it was such a jarring experience to feel something so 'other', it never felt threatening in any way. It was really cool.
I think it's amazing that walking a labyrinth is a really calming experience for you- I feel like that would really stress me out!
You should do it then- once you do it, it becomes less stressful.
Editor's Note: Alison also wrote a lovely artist statement, with all of her 'hoarded' words and phrases- you can find it here.
Call Number: C3VA | C5MU.laA
Alison LaFrance has traveled to many places in the past few years, living for a time in France. Her preferred medium is printmaking (intaglio and silkscreen), but also loves pen and ink. Themes of Alison's work include the supernatural and its effect of the self.