“I use my grandmother’s sewing shears, and they’re right here with me,” exclaims an enthusiastic Allison Green as she wields what appears to be a pair of oversized scissors.
As shocking as this may seem, having intergenerational sewing materials is not an anomaly for Alli. She has worked on sewing costumes for multiple Broadway shows, and was recently commissioned to contribute to this year’s holiday window display at Macy’s flagship store in Manhattan.
Alli recounts her mother bursting into tears when she announced that she would be working on the Macy’s gig. “She was just overwhelmed with emotion, thinking what this kind of cultural place had been in her upbringing.” Alli’s mother grew up in the Bronx, and her grandmother worked in Herald Square, so this new achievement represents a “full circle” moment for her.
FF2 readers already know some of Alli’s work as a contributing writer, but beyond showcasing the work of others, Alli also has her own blooming career as an art history scholar and freelance artist. A fan of HBO’s The White Lotus and an avid reader of YA fantasy, Alli has a vibrancy that rivals the bright robin’s egg blue walls in her background.
…the art of creating a facsimile…
While she could not reveal much about the Macy’s project, Alli noted: “It’s basically the art of creating a facsimile. So rather than actually build the table, you need to build something out of table materials that looks like a table.”
Having worked on the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, this is not Alli’s first time working with a large team to create an ambiance of holiday magic. She cites the anonymity of being one of thousands of artists as a bittersweet moment of the process. “Everybody is a hybrid. Everybody is working interdisciplinary,” says Alli as she points out the community aspect of working in a field where a wide collaboration of specialty skills helps to achieve the spectacular end goal.
“I think it’s interesting that artists are among you all the time, especially in New York City. Sometimes I ride the train and see all the people who are exhausted from their long day, and somebody’s covered in splattered paint and they’re wearing big steel toed boots. And I’m like ‘Oh, my gosh! You could have been working on anything today. You could have been painting the walls of The Met white for the next show. You could have been three warehouses down from where I work doing some other windows to end up on 5th Avenue.”
Growing up in rural Vermont, Alli became interested in sewing and textile arts. “So, when I was even five, six years old, I was learning intergenerationally from my aunt, and from women who were my neighbors.” Having access to the equipment that would allow her to study traditional fiber art, Alli found herself pulled into the world of crafting.
While studying art history at Skidmore College, Alli concentrated on decorative arts and material culture. Graduating in 2015, Alli found herself radicalized politically after leaving college at a time which coincided with the start of the Black Lives Matter movement.
She realized that inherent colonialism was often embedded in the historical garments she studied. Speaking to working on Broadway, Alli acknowledges that not all stories are progressive. Some shows – for example, The Phantom of the Opera – mask cultural appropriation within its wonderful aesthetic.
When constructing costumes for dance shows like The Lion King and Moulin Rouge on Broadway, Alli spoke of the considerations and compromises that get made. “You’re using stretch fabric, for maximum moveability. You also have to think about durability and things that are going to withstand a lot of heavy motion. I’ve done headpieces for dancers and because they’re doing actual flips… I’m more likely to use paper mache and floral wire.” Not ungrateful for the chance to work with amazing costume artists, Alli also craved for her life to take a different direction to focus on her art.
This month, Alli debuts her sculptures at Local Project’s Trash exhibition, provoking a conversation about the environment and art, and at Cinema Arts Centre’s exhibition Living Life: Stories of Artists. Alli remarked, “I like using children’s art materials because they’re cost-effective.”
The pandemic sparked Alli’s obsession with miniatures.
The pandemic sparked Alli’s obsession with miniatures. “I started really producing these things by the hundreds in earnest because I think a lot of people are feeling nostalgia for the crafts that they did as kids… It became a place to put a lot of my anxiety, like a form of controlling a small idealized world.”
Alli’s work focuses on the themes of “Women’s Work,” and the meaning of domesticity and femininity. Not wanting to be shoved into a predetermined box, Alli noted: “I think we need to really make space for and spend time with these stories before they’re gone. They really inform the ones that we’re making now.”
Alli draws inspiration from the costume instructors she has worked with and from illustrators and cartoonists such as Tove Jansen (the creator of the Moomins) who is known for being a bit lost and a partier. “I think there’s a lot of pressure to feel like you are producing serious high art and fine art,” said Alli. “And I love to subvert that as much as possible and say I am just having fun.”
Another artist that Alli admires is Amy Cutler (best known for her watercolor work). The feminist themes in Cutler’s work emulate the subject matter that Alli strives for. “The paradigm is shifting. I think that craft is being taken a lot more seriously and I think that’s good from a feminist perspective as well as a global maker perspective,” noted Alli.
…ceramics are having a renaissance…
Not considered fine art in the past, ceramics are having a renaissance. Alli remarks “Female abstract expressionists are getting more coverage than they ever have [but] we are still underlining the gender and circling everything in pink.”
In a short amount of time, Alli managed to pique my evolving interest in decorative arts. If you are in Long Island City (in Queens) or the Huntington (NY) area, be sure to check out Alli’s pieces and consider the ways in which stories get told through craft.
© Taylor Beckman (11/13/22) – Special for FF2 Media ®
As of November 2022, Alli has written 6 posts for FF2. Click on the Allison Green tag below for links to all six!
LEARN MORE/DO MORE
Visit the Local Project Art Space in Long Island City (NYC) to see Alli’s contributions to the group’s Fall Exhibition.
Check out the Living Life exhibit in Huntington (NY) on view thru 12/15/22.
Find out more about Tove Jansen (the creator of the Moomins).
Take a look at the artwork of Amy Cutler.
CREDITS & PERMISSIONS
All photos courtesy of Allison Green & used here with her permission.