Saturday, February 16, 2013

"I am still sane" an Interview with Bridget McAlonan

Dark eyes, dark hair and a dark humor. Bridget McAlonan's drawings have been haunting me since the day I first saw them. Her drawings were dripping with wetness, clever mutations of animals, birds mixed with body parts, powered wigs and lumps everywhere. It was not long before I had to know who Bridget McAlonan was, and find out who was behind this dark and gruesomely funny artwork. I am honored to introduce to you an interview with Bridget McAlonan.

(artwork to the left: The Heart is a Fluttering Bird (Self-Portrait) mixed media on paper; 30” x 44”)

Bridget McAlonan is a 41 year old , short, white woman, with beautiful eyes and a fierce feminist intensity. Bridget says her age may be, "41 chronologically…otherwise, varies from day to day. Sometimes I vacillated between being an 11 year old boy, a 4 year old girl, an angry 17 year old and a 120 year old turtle."

McAlonan grew up in South Jersey "…in a little rural town" she says, "Alloway. We had a blinking red light in the center of town and a post office. There were 3 little grocers: Remsters’, Bud’s Market, and K&T Market. Remesters’ had penny candy and if you got the silver wooden gumball from the gumball machine, Mr. Remster let you have 25 cents in penny candy. They had a big pickle jar at K&T market…I loved them. They were right next to the post office. Bud’s market was gross. One time there was a big worm in the Lucky Charms we bought from his store. Also, when Francis Shimp finally had to sell his farm, Bud Hires (the owner of Bud’s Market) bought all of the land well below the appraisal
value (Francis had many learning disablitiies and was easy to believe whatever he was told. Bud took advantage of this). All of the Shimp farmland is now little nasty houses.

"We lived on a “gentleman’s” farm. We didn’t farm for a living- my dad is a veterinarian. We always had animals and things growing. My favorite playmates as a child were my dog, Allie, whatever lamb I was in charge of raising and a bunch of cats. I went out into the woods and fields as much as I could. The trees were safe and cozy."  

Now in 2013 Bridget lives in Topsham, Maine with dogs and cats. She is surrounded by trees. Her studio (seen on the right) is where she does most of her work, usually watercolor and pencil. But always playing with other mediums like cut paper assemblage, collage, acrylic, dry point printmaking, found object assemblage, ink, and coffee, "coffee is an excellent water medium-similar to watercolor!" she says. 

Bridget's most notable achievement, "I'm still sane."

That is where the interview begins:

What is your favorite work or series of work that you have created so far? Why is it your favorite?

Bridget McAlonan: "This is a hard one simply because I have been working for so long and make a lot of work. There is some stuff that makes me wince, but mostly when I am working on stuff I tend to feel parental about my pieces. In my head, the paintings kinda talk to me. I kind of get protective about the works while I am in process with them simply because they are tender to me during that stage. After they are complete, I don’t really feel like that. But while they are in process…yeah, I like to treat them as if they were a child- kinda
"I really kinda had a lot of fun with my Cat Collective Uprising series (aka Cats with Bombs). I think this series captures that playful commentary on society that I want to present in my art. In this case, that commentary is the ridiculousness of weapons and the war machine (among other veins). The cats in the series developed personas in my head that easily leant themselves to written stories to accompany the visual images. Bonus."

(artwork on the left: The Manx (Psychic Warrior(Cat Collective Uprising); watercolor on etching; 8” X 10”)

What inspires you to create?

BM: "I have to. End of story. It is a compulsion. I think it is like talking or sleeping or eating. Making things, especially painting with watercolor ultimately soothes me. The other Sunday, I was working on some pieces for a series that I will be showing in May and I was really tired of it. So I moved away from that imagery (just for a breather-) and started drawing an impling among plants. I grabbed my cheap-o $1.99 children’s watercolor set and began painting without care for who saw it.

"This happened to be the day after a big blizzard and the sky was this knock out shade of blue- the blue that makes you want to stare at it forever. The blue in my cheap-o set of watercolors happened to be a similar shade. The painting that had started as a one off, as a diversion, quickly meant much more to me simply because of the confluence of the colors, the imagery and the subversive metaphors within." 

(artwork on the right: Blue after Blizzard, watercolor on paper, 16” x 16”)

What is your artistic process start to finish, when creating a work of art? How long does it take? What are the steps involved?

BM: "The process takes as long as it needs to.

I have been working lately in compartmentalized themes. Currently, in my painting I have 3 main themes that I am focusing my attention: Gas Mask Feminism; Powered Wigs; and Mutations. These three themes highlight the ways in which I tend to work which is part intuitive; part rational; part “huh-that’s cool-where’s that going.

"The Gas Mask Feminism series should wrap itself up soon. This series began with a quick watercolor of a woman in the process of either taking off or putting on a glass helmet. This was rooted in the toxic nature of gender politics and the oppressiveness of the white, male, conservative dominated government.

 "The current breathe of the series incorporates about 7 or 8 finished paintings and a large amount of sketches and smaller works. It will be shown at Frank Brockman Gallery in May 2013 with another artist who is exploring the same concept with photography."

(artwork on left:  Gas Bunny, mixed media on panel, 4 feet by 4 feet)

"Powered Wigs is kinda in an odd stage. I have paintings completed in the series as well as some sketches. I know what the idea behind the series is but I cannot verbalize it. It is still deep in my head somewhere. We’ll see what happens with this series. The owner of gallery I have been working with of late (Frank Brockman) is scared of this series."

(artwork on the right: Death on a Pale Hobby Horse, Mixed media on paper, 30” x 44”)

"The mutations idea is ongoing…I think I have been working with this theme forever. I don’t know that I want to finish it."

Inventing trees is my favorite way to keep up with your work. It is a fabulous art blog that you update regularily. How do you promote /show/ display your artwork? Where does your finished projects go? How do people get to experience your work?

Bridget McAlonan: "I have a blog (, a website ( (that is serious need of updating) and a page on Facebook (Inventing Trees) as well as a shop on (Inventing Trees). I have self-published a couple of books on (under the name Bridget McAlonan). I am really bad a self-promotion…I think. My finished work goes usually somewhere in my house, unless it gets sold. (I make a lot of work.) Sometimes, I wish I had an agent who would just do it for me. But most times, I am glad I don’t as it gives me freedom to do what I want.

"I’ll be doing a Pecha Kucha talk on March 5 to talk about my Feminist Paper Dolls at the Frontier CafĂ© in Brunswick Maine.

(artwork on the left: Goat with Fishes, mixed media on paper, 30” x 44” )
BM: "Folks can experience my work at Frank Brockman Gallery in Brunswick, Maine; in the warmer months at the Yellow House Gallery in Rockport, Maine; and wherever I can get exhibition space.

"I love love love collaborating with other artists! The synergy that gets created when artists play off one another’s work is kinda fantastic."

The business of art.... Do you make money off of your art? Has it been a struggle or difficult determining where art fits into your life? What business strategies do you have in regard to your artwork and how you sell/market the things you create?

BM: "I hate it. Often people think that my work doesn’t look like it comes from me.

Let me explain: Once I was exhibiting some works at a space and my husband was helping me hang them. Some guy walked into the shop and started talking to my husband about the painting: what media was used to make them, where the imagery came from, etc. My husband turned to the guy and said, “talk to her (gesturing to me) about the works. She made them.”

"The guy refused to talk to me. He made a gesture and walked out.

"This has and similar types of situations have happened to me countless times throughout my career.

I do NOT make money enough to live off of my art. I am also an educator at a Violence Prevention Agency. My flexibility in thinking as an “artist” helps my teaching immensely. I love teaching and the prevention work that I do.
(artwork to the right: Simone de Beauvoir Paper Doll from the Feminist Paper Doll Series. The doll is (gently) able to be moved…)

"I make art whenever I can. But I am not a good salesperson and my business savvy sucks."

What is the reason you create artwork? How does it effect you and your surroundings?

BM: "I make art because I have to. My house is filled with my works, works from other artist that I love as well as plants and shiny things. Luckily, my husband and my daughter like my work as well. I think my house is a pretty good feeling place.

"If other folks like my work, I want to make it relatively painless for them to afford it. If they can’t afford it then at the very least seeing it on a regular basis online is what I can do. Close friends and family often get art for gifts. Usually, they like it."

Speaking to your prolific nature, it seems you are constantly posting new works. What are your current or upcoming projects? What are you working on now?

BM: "In addition to doing a daily drawing, I will be doing another round of Feminist Paper Dolls for the month of March 2013. I did this last year. It required a lot of research and labor but ending up being a good education tool and was fun.

"I am working on a couple of children’s stories, both writing and illustrating. 

"Who knows what else will grab my attention in the studio? Soon it will be time to go out and work in the dirt and that really pushes my creative juices.

If you had unlimited resources for a dream project, what would it be, and who would be involved?

BM: "I’d love to have a Bed and Breakfast with a gallery and a bar. Of course, I would want a bigger studio. But mostly, I really like to continue making art and being happy. I think the best resources are happiness and self-acceptance. (Having acceptance from the folks who are close to me is really also an excellent resource.)"

 List of few artists (living or dead in any medium) who have inspired your work. How did these influences affect your life?

BM: "Kathe Kolwitz. Her strong graphic style and presence has always been something I pull from. As a woman, we are taught to be polite and timid. But Kolwitz pushes that aside. Her works, however still remain nurturing and fertile.

"Alexander Calder. He plays. Art is about playing and experimenting. He made a circus for his children and grandchildren (?) that was filmed and showed him playing with it. The sense of joy that he had with that piece…love.

"Children’s drawings. Children about ages 3 to 6 have a wonderfully imaginative schema that I wish I could fully capture.

"Vincent Van Gogh. He painted even though no one but his brother (and a few friends) liked his work. He died not knowing how important his artwork is. He painted and painted. He painted because he had to. Also, can we talk about his lines and his sense of color? Wow.

"Odilon Redon. He drew his dreams. And the amount of blue that that man used in his works takes my breath away. I was at the Musee D’Orsay walking through a long hallway. When I turned the corner the next room was dark with black walls and they had 3 Redon pastels in that dark room (one was the Horses of Apollinaire). The colors of the pastels SHONE as if they were lit from within. It was the best. Thank you for that, curators at the Musee D’Orsay!

"Ana Mendieta. She took her body politics into her art and it was lovely. I especially love her goddess dirt mounds."

If you could suggest one acquaintance, friend, collaborator (any medium) that you would like to see interviewed like this... who would it be?

BM: "Asmina Cremos. She is a dancer currently living in Philly. She also makes these funky crochet doilies.

"She has always been kind of mysterious to me. She dated a friend of my mine when I lived in Philly in the early 90s. She moved to Chicago and left my friend completely broken hearted which (I know this is mean) made me even more curious about her. Her dance is powerful and abstract but her doilies are weird and fragile. I love the juxtaposition of the two."

Thanks for taking the time to be interviewed and talk with me. Before we end, where can we go to explore more of your work and keep in touch with your artwork?

Bridget McAlonan: 

"Wander over to Frank Brockman Gallery on Maine Street, Brunswick Maine. He usually has some of my artwork hanging and is a fun guy to talk with. 

"Head over to the Yellow House Gallery at 643 West Street, Rockport Maine during the warmer months. Destiny Ward is all kinds of awesome and would love to chat with you about whichever artist is currently showing in her space. I will have works there during the warmer months.
Email me at I’ll talk back. I also do art presentations for kids groups (Girl Scouts, Camp Fire, school groups and the like) to talk about making stuff and then making stuff.


If you could leave us with one statement as an artist, about anything, what would it be?

BM: "Grow things, make things, be kind, and have fun. Fall in love often even if it is with the same person over and over again. "

Thanks again to Bridget for being interviewed.  At the end of every month I post a new artist interview with amazing artists I have had the luck to meet, collaborate or interact with during my journey as an artist. Please subscribe to my blog and share these interviews so as many people can experience the incredible work of these artist. Do not forget to browse my blog for sketchbook friday and my collection of free printable mazes. And as always thanks for reading. ~ William "the canvas killer" Hessian

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