Heather Allison

Born in: 1982, United States
Lives in: Santa Cruz, California, United States
Describe your art in three words: Dramatic, Contemplative, Emotional
Education: M.F.A. Fine Art Photography, Academy of Art, projected graduation Spring 2023
B.F.A. Art History, Academy of Art
A.A. Photojournalism, Brooks Institute of Photography
Master degree Diploma
See More Work:  http://www.heatherallisonphotography.com

Copia - Photography, 32"x22", $2000

"Preoccupied with mortality most of my life, the unexpected loss of my father inspired my fine art work with focused on grief, memory, and death. I embrace the long-standing tradition of vanitas tableaux in an effort to acknowledge death and the beauty of living."

What themes does your work involve?
My work embodies concepts of grief, mortality, mourning, and death. While this may sound morbid, it is instead about inspiring life through an acknowledgment of our mortality. Grief is complex and never really goes away, but it does change with you as you change. I document my own experience of grief in my still life work and look to connect with the dead and living. I play with color theory to evoke emotion and use light to communicate feeling.
Describe your creative process.
My process begins with an inspiration or concept for an image. I then go about collecting all the props needed to realize the vision. I use antique objects, period correct when I able, I use fresh flowers and sometimes bone to fill my compositions. I spend a lot of time at antique shops searching for the perfect item for a work and tracking things down through antique dealers. I also work closely with my local florist to ensure I am able to find the flowers I want to include. Additionally, a few years ago, I started growing flowers in my own garden so there is always something blooming to photograph. I can spend anywhere from four to twelve hours on a composition, moving the objects and making adjustments so everything is just right before I click the shutter.
What influences your work? What inspires you? Why do you make art?
I find influences everywhere, and often in unexpected places. That said, the focus of my work shifted following the death of my father. I found myself lost in grief and felt so alone. I became obsessed with the mourning and death rituals of all cultures and how these have changed over time to become what they are today. I began to indulge this fixation through my still life work. I am extremely inspired and informed by the 17th century Dutch Masters, their lighting, the light of Caravaggio, and art history in general. I make art to connect with others, my experience, and the world around me.
What is good art? What makes a piece of art great?
This is such a loaded question! For me, connection and emotion is what makes art great. While the Northern Renaissance painters will always have a huge place in my heart, I love experiencing art across all mediums. Some of my most emotional experiences have been with abstract expressionist works. What makes a piece of art great for me is that deep communication that can happen between artist and viewer. If something makes me smile, makes me cry, makes me feel what the artist who created the work was feeling, if it reminds me of something in my own experience, if I carry that work with me after seeing it, it is a great piece of art.
What is the role of the artist today?
The role of the artist today is complex, but also simple. I chose art because it is a way for me to create beauty, to celebrate all aspects of life, and to explore the human experience. I think art should be accessible to all and should be a conduit for open communication and expression. I hope that art and the artist are able to inspire uncomfortable conversation, provide refuge, understanding, and joy. In my work, I aim to create a safe space for anyone and everyone to connect and find themselves and their experiences in the imagery.
Brevis - Photography, 18" x 22", $1200
Hām - Photography, 18" x 23", $860
Cyclus - Photography, 19" x 24", $900
Hāēlan - Photography, 19" x 24", $900
Lifian - Photography, 22" x 14", $60
Fallen - Photography, 23" x 18", $860
Sāwan - Photography, 22" x 14", $600
Vanus - Photography, 24" x 19", $960
Memorie - Photography, 22" x 14", $600


This interview was published by Circle Foundation of the Arts. © CFA Press ∙ Images are courtesy of the artist