Make the Brutal Tender with April Artist Allison McKeen

April artist Allison McKeen is a primarily self-taught photographer and mixed media artist based in Maine. Her work is largely inspired by the rural environment of her upbringing along the Kennebec River. She equates her creative process to the themes experienced while playing outdoors: observation and adventure.




What appealed to you about this season’s theme: Make the Brutal Tender?
“Making the Brutal Tender” is a timelessly important and relevant theme. (And also necessary.)

How do you think your work and/or practice relates to the theme?
Making art is a way to process what’s going on around me; it’s a way to mentally process experiences (the good, the bad, and the brutal) into something tangible, meaningful, and ultimately relatable.

Describe the editions you’ll be contributing this season.
Last year I started experimenting with block printing for the first time. For this project I created block printed patterns comprised of chairs, plants, and dots: symbols of stillness, comfort, familiarity, and playfulness. I’ll start with a rough sketch, then carve the design (or “carve my problems away.”) From there I’ll use the carved images to create a pattern. These patterns and the images that comprise them create a sense of balance and calm. But they aren’t rigid or strict, the images float and dance around each other.

Who are some of your artistic influences?
Wayne White. (Go watch “Beauty is Embarrassing.”) He said that it’s okay to pursue any art form you want, and not to let yourself get boxed in, which I found extremely validating. (it’s really easy to buy into the “need” to have one singular cohesive path.) I also really appreciate his down-to-earth authenticity and loyalty to humor.

What interests you in Community Supported Art?
It supports the idea that art is for everyone, not just elite social groups/select demographics.

What are you listening to / reading / looking at right now?
I have been following a lot of block printing and quilt artists lately, I have been really into patterns. Particularly the sort of wonky, imperfect patterns.

What role do you think art / artists should play in our communities?
In regard to “Making the Brutal Tender” I think that’s exactly what art is for. I think it’s important to acknowledge the brutality of life but there are ways to translate it into something tender and relatable. And I think that is where artists come in.