i first discovered visual artist allie pohl's work at spring/break art show this past march. the fair took place on two decrepit floors of the new york city post office, and it was comprised of some very cool projects like an installation of colorful treadmills by bret birnbaum and an interactive light and sound installation by visualpilots. while the fair has been around for a few years now, this was my first time there and i was blown away. i was especially drawn to some large scale embroidered patches by allie pohl (see below). i immediately reached out to her after and over the phone, we chatted about her upbringing, her creative work as well as life in los angeles (see this nyt article). i learned allie is most interested in why we follow certain cultural trends. her work challenges the guidelines society instills in us from a young age involving hair removal, femininity and masculinity, dating, marriage and pregnancy. i connect with her work in a lot of ways. and i just love those damn patches.
more about allie below:
cultureisland: tell us more about you.
allie pohl: i grew up in a very conservative town (winter park, florida) where people held “traditional” jobs. i always took art classes and did several years of ap art in high school. i went to hamilton college in upstate new york and was a communications major and a studio art minor. i wrote my thesis on the rhetoric and trajectory of the peace symbol. after college, i went to parsons, the new school of design in new york to study graphic design. i thought it was creative, and i could get a “real job” with my “skills.” i quickly realized i was not meant to have a client! i then went to the university of denver for my mfa in electronic media arts (it was technology driven). i chose the program because it was not a medium specific mfa. it worked with how i think. the conceptual artist “title” was placed on me.
cultureisland: what is your creative process?
allie pohl: i become fixated on a cultural phenomenon, read extensively on that subject matter, talk to everyone who will talk to me about it, formulate what i want to say, and then start thinking about the best way to visually express my thoughts.
cultureisland: tell us more about your ideal woman series.
allie pohl: i have always been interested in why we follow certain cultural trends. for example, the concept of body hair and hair removal: we remove hair from certain parts of our body and add it to others. as a way to respond to this cultural phenomenon, i created a series of sculptures using a “my size barbie” (the doll), as a metaphor for the ‘ideal woman,’ and i had chia grow out of areas where our society removes unwanted hair, i.e. the armpit, vagina, and legs. the sculptures transformed from prepubescent to womanhood during the time of the installation. i was captivated by the shape of the midsection and started to explore different ways to appropriate the shape and what it really represented.
cultureisland: tell us more about your peacocking series.
allie pohl: inspired by online dating, particularly the ever-so-popular tinder, i chose to explore how men market themselves to women. from my research (online and in person), i created man merit-badges (based on the traditional boy-scout badges) of the qualities men most commonly try to convey. i also made sculptures of dissected mannequin parts from different decades (finished in the most popular car color of the corresponding decade) to show how the idealized form has changed, and to highlight how contemporary men are also subject to society’s notions of perfection. given the change in cultural trends, this is not surprising. gay culture has become more accepted—both socially and politically—men are getting married later in life, resulting in them spending more money on themselves. you open up gq today and you might as well be reading cosmo; there’s everything from designer clothing to shaving products.
cultureisland: tell us more about your recent work, the engagement ring series.
allie pohl: i collected all of the high fashion magazines for the year (2013-2014) and cut out the ideal woman shape on the models. i collaged the images on canvases in the shape of engagement rings. these pieces are just touching the surface of discussing the pressures that are placed on women to be engaged or married by a certain age.
cultureisland: who are some of your favorite artists?
allie pohl: barbara kruger, yayoi kusama, tracey emin, sophie calle, marry bell, claes oldenburg, mike kelly to name a few.
cultureisland: what are your favorite places to see art in LA?
cultureisland: what are you listening to right now?