Studio Visit: Allison Yasukawa

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Allison Yasukawa has recently moved from Chicago to the Waverly neighborhood of Baltimore. Allison and her husband, Adam Farcus, run an apartment gallery called, Lease Agreement out of the two front rooms on the 1st floor–her studio is located in the basement. She says it doesn’t have the wonderful light that Garfield Park studios do (like Daniel’s and Holly’s) but she feels it’s a fair trade for a cozy feel. I had the opportunity to interview Allison some months ago about her work and practice–below is what she has been working on and thinking about since then.

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What are things that you would consider part of your practice that aren’t part of your studio or that you bring back to your studio to work on?

Since I’ve been in Baltimore, I’ve been thinking a lot about the everyday ways in which people find to really work the systems around them; I’m talking about hustling. I’m drawn to the ways that people work themselves into unwelcoming systems—of economy, of social convention, etc.—rather than wholly rejecting them by finding their  tensility. This topic is not new to my interests—it’s related to my interests in tricksters and humor as a tool of disruption and subversion—and Baltimore has hustles that I’m not used to.

For example, it’s common practice here for people to sell water andsoda by the bottle on the street. I know it’s not exclusive to Baltimore, but it’s very very common here. On its own, it’s already an interesting practice to me from economic, social, and physical (bodily) perspectives, but there was one particular time that two enterprising sellers caught my attention. Every year, Baltimore has an art fair at the end of the summer. This summer, some snack food company was giving away free bags of a new “health food” chip. They had pallets and pallets full of boxes containing bags of these chips and a large workforce walking around and handing the bags out to people. Their staging area was about a block from a major intersection where two young boys had set up shop near a traffic signal to sell water. The company had grossly overestimated how many bags of chips it would be able to distribute at the event, and, as a result, was giving away full cartons of the chips to passersby. The boys had taken a few cartons for themselves and were selling the free bags of chips for a “special deal” along with the water for $2.00 a bag.

What are you working on now?

I’m working with ideas of personal loss and mourning and the ways in which these ideas are lodged within the body. This work is more intimate than many of my other projects. It builds out of, and overlaps with the social and physical experiences of bodies; however, in this work, I am looking at encounters between responses to emotional pain, e.g., loneliness, control, juvenility, obsession, vulnerability, aggression, and fluctuations in self-worth. I’m trying to really dig into the complexities of these emotional experiences to locate points at which deep sadnesses interact with absurdity or anger or humor.

What is your experience of Chicago as an artist?

Being away from Chicago for a few months now has allowed me to see the city with new eyes. Chicago has a very active artist community and an energetic atmosphere of innovation that I now think is very much reflective of the city’s rich history in grassroots organizing and action. Artists make things happen here. People aren’t just motivated to be involved, but to forge a new way. I think this spirit is very much alive in both the tenor of the art that is made here and the organizations that propel this work into conversation in the public domain.