Street: When you sit down in front of a blank canvas, how do you get started? What gets you inspired? Motivated?
Allison Zuckerman: My painting process begins long before I approach the canvas. I like to think of myself as a modern–day flâneur; I am regularly intrigued by the way environments shape one’s character, identity and behavior. My projects primarily concern the figure caught in spontaneity. Through observation, I fabricate narratives for these people, and it is those stories that inspire me to create paintings.
Street: Of your pieces, which is your favorite?
A.Z.: My mom frequently jokes with me that I treat all of my paintings as my children. During the painting process, I am very much attached to my work. But when I finish them, I let them leave the nest and I move on to the next piece with the new lessons that I learned.
Of all my paintings, Indeed, it does go on is one of my most treasured. The painting, black and white, focuses on a decomposing deer, set amid a forest made out of spinal columns. It was created in response to a dream I had in the dead of winter. Created over five years ago, my technical skills have far improved since its completion, but I believe I succeeded in capturing the emotion I felt at the time and that the piece emanates an eerie quality of surrealism.
Street: We’ve all seen your work hung around campus (Williams Café, Addams, etc.). How did you get this exposure and how has it influenced how you approach your work?
A.Z.: The paintings currently on display in Williams Café were made possible by an Arts Grant that I was awarded last Spring by the Provost of the College. The idea behind the project was to integrate the creative arts into the cultural fabric of the Penn community. Each painting represents the acts of generation and participation.Some of my work in Addams has been featured in the yearly Undergraduate Juried Exhibitions. At the end of last year, my teacher selected two of my pieces to hang in the stairwell for the new year.
I create art in order to arouse a response, a mélange of humor and repulsion from the viewer that would otherwise not be felt. The positive feedback that I have received from the work hanging in Williams Cafe and from my art websites has motivated me to continue to make as much art as possible.
Street: A little known fact is that art can be stressful. How do you detox? Clear your mind?
A.Z.: Painting is my form of meditation and enables me to center myself and become fully focused on thoughts and ideas that too often go unnoticed. Before beginning the painting process, I create a playlist, which reflects my mood and subsequently dictates the rhythm of the painting. As the painting progresses in stages, the music selection changes.
Many times, when I examine a painting I’ve created, I can actually hear the music that was playing during its final stages of completion. That in itself is my catharsis… just knowing that I am so intrinsically connected to my work.
Street: If you could live and paint during a different decade/artistic movement, when would you chose and why?
A.Z.: I’d love to work New York City during the height of Pop–Art movement of the 1960s. Back then, art was entertainment and knowledge. It was a hot commodity. It was dangerous and chic. If you were an art star, you were a celebrity. Art was on the forefront of people’s minds and created icons. I wish it still had that same impact in today’s culture.
Street: Did you always know you wanted to do Art (in general and at Penn)?
A.Z.: Making and appreciating art has always been a part of me. I could not imagine living life without feeling a need to create.
Street: What would you say is your biggest art–related accomplishment?
A.Z.: The inspiration and motivation that I gained from my experience at the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts during the summer of 2006 is truly my most valuable artistic accomplishment. My time at the program imbued me with an all–consuming desire to never stop painting and challenging myself.