Alison Stigora, a Philadelphia based artist, explores creation through visceral materials, site-specific fabrications, and drawing. She experiments with diverse media such as wood, natural and found materials, resin, glass, and works on paper. Stigora holds her MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and has exhibited widely throughout the northeast, including numerous shows in Philadelphia, PA as well as New York City, Chicago, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Germany. In 2012 she was a Fellow with the Center for Emerging Visual Artists, and received an Independence Foundation Fellowship in the Arts. She has worked collaboratively with Kun Yang Lin Dancers, a contemporary dance group, to create environments and objects for dance, which culminated in a performance, Beyond the Bones, at The Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia. Stigora daily works and creates in her studio, a stone barn built in 1821. When not in her studio or teaching, she enjoys spending time outdoors, exploring new places, and playing with fire.
More of Stigora’s work can be found at her site.
Stigora, on her work:
My working process can be summarized with this sequence: Look. Listen. Respond. Repeat. Like any good conversation, it is not static- there is room for the rhythm to grow and change. Scale and space are themes I constantly think about. In creating physical and metaphorical spaces for viewers, my goal is to heighten awareness of the human body in relation to the space it inhabits. Whether in relationship to architecture, landscape, or other people, the way we exist in the world matters.
This concern can be seen in my installation “Crossing Jordan,” where architecture, material, and form came together to create a large-scale experience for viewers to physically and emotionally navigate. When I was given the location (a 5,500 square foot space), I did not know what I was going to make. I visited the site multiple times, created drawings and photographs, and observed how the space was used. Eventually I centered on the idea of a river of burnt wood, pouring from the second story balcony into the heart of the space.
Challenge: I only had 10 days to construct the project on site. I created many drawings and prototypes, and met with a team of artists who assisted me during the 10-day install. There was much preparation to gather and orchestrate the transportation of massive amounts of organic matter to an urban location.
During installation, emerging problems were solved and courses redirected. The process of creating such a large-scale work with a team was highly energizing! One of the most significant things was having conversations with viewers, and watching their physical responses. After one month, the entire piece was dismantled, and the materials salvaged for re-use. This process of creation, destruction, and recreation is central to my work as an installation artist.
Another recent project was in collaboration with Kun Yang Lin Dancers, a contemporary dance company. I created a series of sculptures that were suspended above the dancers. In the process, I attended many rehearsals and made drawings based on the movements of the dancer’s bodies. These lines were then translated into sculptures, and suspended. In turn, the dancer’s movements shifted in relationship to the pieces hanging above them. The work was a call and response, with dancers creating an environment for the sculptures, and vice versa.
Stigora, on current work:
Transparency is a quality of the material and also a way of being. I have recently been exploring sculpture with transparent materials such as resin, paper, and glass. These pieces have brought discoveries about interior/exterior relationships in sculpture, and opened dialogue about interior/exterior relationships between human beings and how we choose varying degrees of transparency with one another. I am very interested in how transparent or translucent sculptures can create a context for communication between viewers.
Transparency, by definition, indicates that light can pass through a material. Relationally, transparency implies openness, communication, and accountability. The Latin root refers to “showing oneself”, or making known one’s true self.
I am paying attention to contexts where the degree of transparency between people affects the growth and outcome of the entire community. In these contexts, I am looking for ways to invite dialogue about the implications of transparency in contemporary society.
Working with glass involves melting it down and forming something new. These individual pyramids were created through blowing glass into a wooden mold. When it meets the surface of the wood, the glass is at a temperature around 2100° Fahrenheit. As the mold is reused multiple times, heat from the glass burns the wood until the charred surface texture begins to subtly appear on the glass itself.
2100° is the state of being moldable, malleable, formable. When working with a fragile material, loss is part of the process of creation.
Sometimes the things that most draw you to something can also keep you away.
There are some things you can see, and some things you can’t. Forces beyond our control sometimes shake life up and we become more aware of intangible things. In the wake of the storm, we try fitting together flotsam and jetsam remnants like puzzle pieces.
Destruction and creation often live side by side. The process of destroying and recreating is what allows a sculpture to develop. Despite an early fear of fire, the creative process led me to overcome fears and use fire and burnt wood in my sculpture and drawings. Each piece of wood is methodically charred by hand, creating a velvety rich, black surface.
Creative work begins with a visceral response to physical material. Everyday materials become beautiful through the making.
Physical movements from the natural world inspire forms, such as the force of wind, the gravity of flowing water, or the spin of a whirling dervish.
Sculpture is drawing in space. I let the lines lead me; then I lead them.
This summer Stigora will attend the summersession (for which she received a full-tuition scholarship) at Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, WA (about an hour north of Seattle) to continue learning/experimenting with glass as a sculptural material. Her current work in the studio includes doing resin experiments, and other manipulation of multiple transparent/translucent materials.