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Alison Drasner, January Artist of the Month

Alison Drasner

Alison Drasner, January Artist of the Month

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Interview with Alison Drasner by Kerrie Kemperman
Tell us about your current work, materials, and process – why flowers? 

My work is more about the process and materials than it is about the subject matter. I like painting from objects in front of me and flowers are easily accessible and recognizable, so it allows me to play more with the materials. Right now, I’m fascinated by the way different paints react with different surfaces. I’ve been working a lot with alcohol inks and love the fluidity of the materials. I’m also experimenting with various shapes of my canvases and wood panels. 

What subjects or themes have you explored previously with your painting?

I studied Art History and Fine Art at Skidmore College and have always been fascinated by the vanitas genre for still-lifes. The idea of themes and meanings behind objects and how they’re displayed has always been interesting to me. I’ve been painting still-lifes since high school and will sometimes set up a display for my artwork. But the materials and experimentation have become more important than the subject themes in recent work. With a master’s in interior design from the Corcoran College of Art + Design I’ve also studied historically important interior designers, including Dorothy Draper, who in 1925 painted the exterior of Sutton Place with black paint and white windowsills to convert its image from a place no one wanted to rent into somewhere everyone wanted to be. This simple, economical trick to create a bold statement is an example of something that has influenced me in some of my color choices. I’ll often paint a black or dark background to my work to create a stronger contrast to the bright colors I tend to choose. When studying art in college I was always advised against using pure black. For someone who is typically not rebellious, I like to see this departure from what I’ve learned as a small testament to who I’m becoming. 

Who are some of the influences who have inspired your artwork, both in the past and the present?

Currently, my primary influences for inspiration are the artists working around me. From my amazing studio mate, Steven Cabral, to the other artists I interact with at Vernon Street Studios and Somerville at large. We don’t work in a bubble and I’m so grateful to live in a city where I’m surrounded by inspiration every day. I also take inspiration from Instagram, from artists I follow, and design sources. I’m inspired by art history, interior design, and in short by color, shapes, and materials. 

Tell us about your background both in general and an artistic sense. What brought you to Somerville?

I come from a long line of creative people. My grandparents dabbled in photography, painting, and needlework. I started drawing and painting in elementary school and continued through college. I studied Art History and Fine Art at Skidmore College. After moving to Washington, DC, I began a master’s program for Interior/Exhibition Design at the Corcoran College of Art + Design. I started selling my work after college and have continued showing at art fairs, various gallery shows, local shops, and open studio events. [I am] originally from Framingham, MA, and Somerville was a logical choice for me when I was looking for a creative community to set down roots. I love living in a city but with a small-town mentality. I’ve had a studio at Vernon Street Studios for six years now and I’m so grateful to be part of such a special group of artists and colleagues. 

How would you describe your work/life balance, or how do you balance your creative life with the pressures of directing the Somerville Museum?

Work life balance is always the aspiration and I’m continuing to work on creating boundaries for myself so that I make time for my artwork. But, as the Executive Director at the Somerville Museum I’m surrounded by other creatives all the time which continues to inspire me. 
What’s one of the best aspects of working at the Somerville Museum? (Or what’s a project you’ve done there that you are especially proud of?)

I’m proud of all the projects I’ve had a hand in producing. We’re continuing to expand the breadth of our programming. I particularly love being part of the exhibition design of various shows, most recently of the exhibitions, “Above and Beyond: The Remarkable Life of Somerville Olympian Phil Reavis,” “Blue: The Celebration of a Color,” and “Museo Inmigrante: Stories of Resilience from Somerville’s Padres Latinos.” And while I enjoy working on these programs and exhibitions, one of the best aspects of working at the Somerville Museum is working closely with all the volunteers. As a mostly volunteer-run organization our continued success really relies on the passion, dedication, and skills of our various volunteers. 

What are some of your favorite places in Somerville?

My studio at Vernon Street Studios, Hudson Street (particularly the neighbors and block parties), Highland Kitchen (for those who know me this is obvious), and the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square. 

What are your hopes for your creative future, or what are you working toward? 

My hopes for a creative future is to build up my artwork inventory and look into co-op and private gallery representation. I also plan to continue working on a better work/life balance that carves out more time for my art practice including my social media presence.