Backlog: Interview with Ali White

Some time around Spring of 2016 I spoke with Ali White about the mythical nature of her art, feminism, and her use of varied mediums.

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Ali White creates art made with anything from felt to paint. She is based in Brookyln, New York and holds a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Okay. First I wanted to talk about concepts. Basically I was wondering how your ‘characters’ came about.

I always try to draw humans and most of the time it just doesn’t feel quite right! I usually end up adding another and making them slightly less human, more archetypally reptilian, bird-like or mammalian. I’m externalizing that quality of not quite fitting in, making it a physical thing.

Anyway, I love Greek mythology and Greek female monsters in particular. I see characters like Medusa and Scylla as these tragic characters who just want to mind their own business. That thinking seeps into my work. My characters are these quasi-human female totems, and I often arrange them like they’re partying together.

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What do you think the reason behind drawing females is?

As a female and a feminist I spend a lot of time thinking about the female experience and the ‘male gaze.’ My characters are often nude in a Garden-of-Earthly-Delights kind of way, just hanging out in communion with other females and enjoying their bodies, posing for nobody. The female figure is essential to my subject matter… most of what I do is a celebration of femininity in some way.

Do you look at a lot of art? Do you feel like other art has a connection to this concept?

Yes, I feel grateful to be a part of a wave of females who are doing cool things with the female form. It seems like I don’t go a day without coming across a new girl crush on the internet.

Since I live in NYC I’m spoiled with museums but my favorite if still the Met. Even though my work has a cartoonish flair, I am really inspired by the Old Masters and neoclassical sculptures. I feel like I’m at the early stages of my evolution as an artist and am always striving to be better at my craft.

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I notice you use several different mediums. Why do you think that is?

I have a lot of respect for people who spend decades mastering one medium, but that’s not the way I work at all. Where I went to school, at SMFA, there weren’t majors. You just get a BFA and you have a huge amount of freedom with mediums, so I was doing things like multi-channel video installations. I go with whatever medium the idea calls for. Even within sculpture the idea might necessitate paper mache or felt or air-dry clay or ceramics.

It could be as simple as a short attention span. But I have this impulse to try working with every medium that I’m curious about.

I wanted to ask you about your ‘flower arrangements.” How were those formed conceptually and could you walk me through the process?

I actually made those several years ago when I was really into ‘fake nature.’ Astro turf, fake flowers, etc. I was thinking a lot about the sentiment of longing for nature. It naturally took on an absurdist look. They’re made from ‘GREAT STUFF’ insulating foam which might be my favorite material of all time. I have a visceral love for all things drippy, gooey and gross… a love I’m sure was born from watching Nickelodeon as a kid.

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So Ali, I’ve also seen that you were in a few art shows I really liked (Into You and Nowhere Now).

It’s crazy to me now, but I didn’t think about showing in galleries until fairly recently. I wasn’t looking into opportunities at all, I was just making work and sometimes posting it on the Internet. I guess I wasn’t sure yet if my work was good enough to show.

Grace Miceli (artbabygirl) hit me up to be a part of the US tour, and I was so stoked to be a part of that. I realized that, unsurprisingly, having the deadline of an art show is hugely motivating. There are so many people out there moving and shaking and making it happen, and I’m so happy to be getting involved.

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Ali’s work can be found at or on her instagram @aliwhitelightning

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