Alison Owen

providence phoenix review

Tax dollars at work

Imago hosts the ‘2010 RISCA Fellowship Exhibit’

By GREG COOK |  February 10, 2010

A LOVELY ALCHEMY A  detail from Owen’s untitled installation.

The standout piece in the “2010 RISCA Fellowship Exhibition” is Alison Owen’s hand-drawn wallpaper installation. She teases us with charming optical illusions — hanging framed designs alongside empty picture frames that actually highlight stripes and fleur de lis designs that she has dawn on the wall behind them. And then there’s her secret serious joke that the wallpaper stripes are drawn with dirty mop water and the patterns of fleur de lis made from dust she’s swept up.

Here’s where the catchy delicate loveliness of Owen’s light rococo designs nudge you toward heavier thoughts about the difference between art and decoration. And the place of women in art, and the world. As art has returned to out-and-out beauty over the past 15 years or so, it has come charged with lingering questions about why in the past beauty and patterns (think wallpaper) had often been dismissed as, say, women’s work. She presses further with that questioning by using the recycled detritus of housekeeping — another branch of what is often women’s work — as her art materials. Which raises another issue: how to keep making art amidst all the demands of our daily chores? Her answer is a lovely alchemy that turns dirt into treasure.