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Life & Work with Allegra Bick-Maurischat

Today we’d like to introduce you to Allegra Bick-Maurischat.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
Well, I like to call myself a “multi-talented changemaker” because I am very much a Jack-of-all-trades doing everything from freelance copywriting to teaching art across L.A, dabbling in creative consulting and illustration… you get the gyst… but at the end of the day, whatever I do creatively needs to make a positive difference in the world. It sounds silly, but if my creative labor is doing anything in this big ol’ world, it damn well better be contributing to the greater good. So I’m really picky about the organizations and clients I chose to work with – they need to be aligned with my values as a human first and then a creator.

As far as my background, I’ve been making things for as long as I can remember. I am the happiest, calmest and most at home with myself when I am creating. I definitely credit my parents for supporting my pursuit of the arts and never questioning my desire to make a living from my creative work; it was never even a question of like, “hm, maybe you should think about a backup, or not go to art school or whatever…” I’ve had the unequivocal support of my family every single day of my life and they have always believed in me and trusted me to find my way. I also have the love and support of an incredibly giving and understanding partner who thinks I’m brilliant and would move heaven and earth to help make my dreams a reality. (Laughs) We all need someone in our life like that, no? Really, though, it makes what I do so much easier to have a system of support like that. Being an artist is hard enough without having to feel like you’re muddling through and alone in that creative wilderness, you know?

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It’s totally true that building a career as an artist in this day and age is not an easy one. Late capitalist structures in America just do not support living artists or make pursuing a career in the arts a sustainable enterprise. For anyone. Period. I went to art school as a 19-year-old in 2008, right before the economy tanked, and I have my share of student debt to tackle, etc., so that’s an obvious challenge on the financial front.

I’ve never experienced any sort of “creative blockage” that I hear other artists describe. Like, where they are just stuck or uninspired and totally lack the drive to create. I always want – I always need – to make. But I will say that I have grappled with, and maybe am just now starting to be able to come to terms with, many self-imposed pressures associated with being an artist. I put a lot of pressure on myself both in terms of what I make and how what I make should be presented to the world. It almost debilitated me for a few years, to be honest. Like, I was so concerned with living up to my label of being an “artist” that I was second-guessing everything – and really had no model for how to go about carving out a creative life for myself – that I was just paralyzed. I was making stuff, and I was inspired, but I was so unsure of myself, it felt disingenuous. Does that make sense?

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I am fascinated by America’s historical amnesia, its role in shaping Western ideologies, and the way these frameworks reflect and influence our cultural memory as a nation. Primarily grounded in a steadfast and genuine love of drawing – my first love, truly – my practice also explores processes such as paper-weaving, papermaking, paper-cutting and collage. I’m obsessed.

Basically, my process involves gathering and then mining old photographs, newspapers, and other discarded print material for content. Paper itself is one of those ephemeral things whose stories continue to resonate as time passes, but that also risks losing nuance as context fades from cultural memory and experience.

It was during my time at The San Francisco Art Institute where I first started to lean heavily into the power and meaning in basic manipulations like cuts, tears, fragmentation of things like vintage photographs and pulp fiction book covers, things like that. Those were kind of an initial investigation of material and a way to explore objects I loved. Dipping my toe into the pool, if that makes sense. I think now, those and other manipulations commonly utilized in my work are a way to revel in the paper itself as a physical object in an increasingly digital world, but also a tool for re-contextualization and re-interpretation of traditional narratives. I find that these manipulations of historical imagery – and then the delicate, labor-intensive process of hand-drawing them in graphite or oil or whatever – have a really interesting way of calling into question our understanding of history in hindsight, the immeasurable influence of visual documentation and our personal translations of imagery and memory as Americans. I’m really into the Civil War right now, for example. I’m making a bunch of paper weavings and paper cuttings as a way to kind of look at that particular conflict from our history and investigate the current state of U.S politics and civil discourse.

If you allow me to continue with this train of thought, I have sort of landed on this as a way to explain my work and my approach to visual communication: It’s almost like these deceptive, tricky drawings I strive to produce both deconstruct and reconstruct the original images without providing a clear directive or easy “answer” for the viewer. I hate art that hits you over the head with a direct meaning or a punchline.

You know, people will often ask me for the story behind a piece – expecting a tale of artistic heroics and noble vision for how the work should be seen and received. But I really just want to make work that is approachable. I want to make things that ask the viewer to look carefully and critically – and then listen to the story that emerges within their own experience of looking. It’s a tall order in this age of instant gratification, digitized everything, and endless scrolling for sure. But I think analog is making a comeback. Ha.

Is there something surprising that you feel even people who know you might not know about?
I’ve just released a limited edition series of jigsaw puzzles based on my graphite drawings and I’m crazy excited about them. It’s one of those things that you can’t believe you hadn’t thought of before, you know? My visual language is very detailed, labor-intensive, and borders on photorealism, so I’m always trying to come up with ways to encourage a deeper engagement with my artwork. On a gallery wall or on an Instagram grid, people often write my work off. Many don’t realize it’s rendered by hand – with a pencil. Old school. (Laughs)

So translating some of my drawings and collages into a medium that folks can interact with and engage with closely, over and over and over again in a puzzle, for example, feels cheeky and exciting to me at the same time. I’m into it.

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Image Credits:

Corderro R. Sweeney

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