Alison Kudlow lives and works in Brooklyn. She has BA from the University of Southern California, a post-baccalaureate degree from Brandeis University and is currently an MFA candidate (2019) at School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has shown her work in group and solo shows in New York, Los Angeles, and Istanbul.
Alison Kudlow translates ephemeral sun events into physical forms, experimenting with how materiality impacts our experience of light. In her studio, she arranges liquid-filled vessels in front of a west-facing window to refract sunlight, and then creates a series of sculptures, drawings, photographs, and cyanotypes of the resulting refracted sunlight (Sun Interpretations). About two hours before the sun sets, the light passes through the vessels of liquid at an angle such that the spectrum of its light is pulled apart and reassembled. As the sunlight lands on the table surface it is reduced to a colorful two-dimensional projection. While the Sun Interpretation sculptures transform the light back into three dimensions, they are a representation of the projection, not the light itself, and are therefore a further distortion. Moreover, the sculptures transform fleeting and ethereal light events into lasting and tangible objects. Using a variety of materials, Kudlow has developed an intuitive visual language to create a series of sculptures that often reject objecthood—sheer lightweight silk sways as the viewer approaches and disrupts the surrounding air, intricate glass webs veer in and out of invisibility, texturally rich surfaces beg for a closer look but remain mysterious upon inspection. The sculptures then function not as representations of light, but as stand-ins for light that evoke their own sense of wonder.
Her process is an enactment of a ritualistic proto-scientific studio practice of sun worship. Invested in the feminist history of pagan worship, Kudlow emphasizes the female form in her photographic renderings of sunlight. While in Western cultures the sun is generally seen as masculine (as opposed to the feminine moon), historically the sun’s perceived gender has changed to suit the needs of the culture interpreting it. For instance, a nomadic culture that relies heavily on hunting for food will generally describe the sun as male; but as that same culture develops agriculture and settles in one place, they will begin to describe a nurturing female sun. The fluidity of the sun’s gender, and of gender in general, can be seen in Kudlow’s aluminum dye sublimation prints. The spectral forms and slivers of variegated color on the metal surface suggest a chemical process as their origin. The bilaterally symmetrical compositions alternatively suggest a womb, a tunnel, a protrusion, a shaft. When the images are inverted (converted to a negative), they do not become opposites but rather similarly ambiguous apparitions. The works question traditional notions of “natural” and its associated binaries and hierarchies.
Kudlow investigates the sun because of its singular universality. She feels that a common visual language, one that articulates the few universal truths, can be arrived at via the sun. As Harold Hay, a pioneer in solar energy states, “Once we begin to go back to a closer understanding of nature and man’s relationship to the Sun, we’re going to start developing whole new concepts of who and what we are, and why, and what our rightful place in the universe really is.”