Allison Smith’s objects and performances restage pivotal moments in American history to illuminate contemporary political issues. The myriad elements used in her projects, such as dolls, quilts, and uniforms, are handmade and labor intensive, foregrounding the role of craft in the construction of cultural identity.
Inspired by Civil War reenactments, recent performances have combined art and social activism to stage modern-day musters (rallies), asking uniformed participants, “What are you fighting for?” A related installation, Victory Hall (2005), included framed calligraphic war songs and a decorative wall pattern made of carved wooden rifles. Strewn upon a floor-painted compass rose were human-scaled porcelain dolls clothed as Zouaves, flamboyant male and female soldiers known for their eccentric uniforms and precision in battle. Smith navigates binary oppositions, like masculine and feminine, death and life, north and south, to both critique and celebrate.
Allison Smith was born in Manassas, VA, in 1972 and currently lives in New York, NY. She received her MFA from Yale University School of Art, New Haven, CT, in 1999. She has presented solo projects at Qube, Shropshire, UK (2006); at Bellwether, New York, NY (2005, 2002); and with the Public Art Fund, Governors Island, New York, NY (2005). Her work has been included in Ahistoric Occasion, MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA (2006); The “F” Word, Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA (2006); and Greater New York, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, NY (2005).