Ally Wilber is a Wisconsin artist who likes playing with fire. Her mediums of choice range from charcoal and oils to insects, soot, and gold.
Ally works as Executive Director for the artist nonprofit, Wisconsin Visual Artists. She is passionate about providing support and opportunities for artists throughout the state.
I am currently interested in dichotomy and relationships between the beautiful and the unsettling; evocative imagery which both disturbs and intrigues. I like pushing the viewer to respond to the discomfort they might experience when interacting with my work, as well as interrogate the roots of their associations with symbols. Nature seems to be a reoccurring trend in my work, reflecting my home and childhood in the woods of northern Wisconsin.
I am drawn to organic media, such as fumage (also known as fire painting). There is something invigorating and teaching about working with a medium that cannot be controlled; a process that is both destructive and creative. Most recently I have been enamored with the integration of science, nature, and magic. Taking inspiration from natural textures and imagery, I have been investigating what magic looks like: fireflies, shimmering sunlight over water, and curving plumes of smoke.
1. What are 1-3 books that have influenced your work?
Short stories by Aimee Bender; magic realism is heavily inspirational to me in all art forms. Poetry by Federico Garcia Lorca for a similar reason. Both writers wield the most strange and beautiful imagery!
2. What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on being a better human and a better artist. I’m trying not to push myself to do “impressive” things, but to slowly put more energy into building my art practice and create things that bring me pleasure.
4. What is your most unusual habit?
I’ve always slept on top of the covers. Sometimes I sleep on top of the covers and upside-down.
5. If you could have any painter, living or dead, paint your portrait who would it be and why?
Frank Frazetta. There would also be dragons and giant cats involved, I think. Maybe aliens. His figurative works are so luscious and wild. I’m a big fan of that art style.
6. What is the most indispensable item in your studio/workspace/office? What is your studio like? Could you share an image?
I have a second bedroom set up as a studio space, but usually end up working at my dining room table instead. I suppose that my whole apartment is set up to be relaxing and inspiring. I’m very sensitive to my environment, so I think that my cats, plants, and windows are the most indispensable items in my studio space (even though the cats tend to knock over art supplies and plant pawprints in paintings).
7. When you feel overwhelmed or uninspired what do you do? What do you do to get out of a funk?
After a few years of very minimal studio practice and feeling how that impacted me mentally and physically, I’m really working on pushing myself to play, and that has been the most valuable tool for getting out of a funk. No expectations of a clean, finished project, but an experimental session to push and poke at the materials I use. When I feel overwhelmed I take a nap.
8. Who/What influences your work?
I’m very inspired by the shapes and textures of nature. I’m also inspired by imagery and natural elements that, to me, are a visual representation of magic. FIreworks, fireflies, bioluminescence, moonlight on water. Plumes of smoke. Organic, moving, intangible things.
9. Do you collect anything?
I collect words and ideas, daily, on my phone, and I turn them into little sensory poems. I have quite a collection of plants and crystals. I have begun a collection of Wisconsin artwork.
10. In the last five years what new belief, or habit has most improved your life or studio practice?
Finding and leaning into your most genuine, weird little self is the best thing you can do for your soul and your studio practice.
11. Share an inspiring image.
Here are two: an owl I met at a wildlife sanctuary and a poem by Joy Sullivan
Ever notice the goosebumps that run down your body at the sight or sound of something beautiful? Anything might trigger them— poems, "Ave Maria," a stranger's lower lip. Somewhere between a shudder and a yearn is the enigma of frisson, a French word meaning "aesthetic chills."
Frisson isn't so much a flinch, but a quickening with no obvious evolutionary advantage. A primal ache at the shard of moon hanging above city lights. A reminder that our skin is still awake, our bodies alive. What a wild gift— how our bones howl. That even in a burning world, we still get the chills.o wonder.
Frisson isn't so much a flinch, but a quickening with no obvious evolutionary advantage. A primal ache at the shard of moon hanging above city lights. A reminder that our skin is still awake, our bodies alive. What a wild gift—how our bones howl. That even in a burning world, we still get the chills.
James May Gallery | 2201 N Farwell, Milwaukee, WI | 262-753-3130
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