Opening Night: Happy Birthday
Written by Monica McCafferty
A performance artist by trade, Allison Ward now brings the raw nature of expressive performance to her multi-medium art. Her upcoming show entitled ‘Happy Birthday’ at Positive Space Tulsa opens this Saturday.
Allison describes herself as an ‘artistic weirdo’, which could also be translated as a willingness to peel back human masking and reveal the colorful goo within.
As a kid, her creativity was allowed to run wild. Her parents, artists themselves, gave her a lot of freedom. “I painted literally everything I own with nail polish," says Allison.
The journey to her solo show debut encompasses a lifetime of creative pursuits. She has been a classically trained vocalist from the age of 14 and a student of musical theatre throughout high school and beyond, all the while exploring mediums in visual art.
While in college, a therapist who also had a background in design encouraged her to use art as an outlet for expression and healing. This was really the first time she translated personal weight and emotion into a piece of her own creation and had the sense of “what I’m meant to do," Allison tells ASLUT. “Art to me is expression. It's not just taking someone else's material and conveying it. Sure, this can be a form of expression, but I just didn't like it. It's not enough at all," she says.
For a period of time, Allison found an outlet in her musical project, Tom Boil, which was co-founded with a friend who saw Allison’s need for the release of specific trauma and internal struggle. It served its purpose, and the group disbanded in 2019. This show, heavy with themes of generational trauma and patterns she observed in her own family, is also a release of specific memories for Allison.
A reenactment of a family member’s funeral and a gory kitchen scene are two of the filmed performance pieces that you can view this Saturday through May 20th. Featuring original set construction and audio composition, layers of interpretation by Allison depict the disconnect that trauma wedges between perception and reality.
Captured in one take, these pieces embody the scream of Allison’s art - a necessary release from within the sinuous human condition. Allison says that they are “meant to symbolize the blindness people have to their own mental health issues and to the people around them."
Six years ago, Allison found a physical medium that fit her style; encaustic wax - a hot wax that can be pigmented. Her process of creating physical pieces also uses a performative headspace, usually spanning just a few days. One of these featured pieces uses the gustatory themes that appear throughout this show, and Allison says it “symbolizes the extremes of emotion, from sickeningly sweet to rotten and molded."
Alongside the embalmed nature of her work with wax, Allison also has an extensive background in floral design and uses her creative range to blend the textures of life and death into striking floral arrangements. For this show, one of her unique interactive arrangements will be featured - inviting viewers to touch the petals and reveal the deeper, darker thumbprint of her work. “To me, these symbolize beauty on the outside, but something haunting or different once you go below the surface," says Allison.
This is an exhibit you do not want to miss. Allison’s ability to translate the guts of the human condition into the colorful decor of a haunted funhouse is fortifying and sublime.
Come party opening night on Saturday, April 15th, or experience her work at Positive Space Tulsa until May 20th. You can also find Allison on Instagram @bittersweetbutthole and online at allisonward.me.