#QTPOC Of The Week | Alanna Fields, Visual Artist
What’s your background?
I am originally from Maryland. I received my BA from Trinity University in Washington, D.C. where I studied literature. The goal was to continue on to the MA and PhD track but after two years, I was creatively unfulfilled. I taught myself the basics of photography and started to photograph subjects that I knew intimately. I had no academic background in fine art or photography and I wanted to use the resources of a Fine Arts institution so I applied to Pratt’s MFA program. I was accepted with my focus on photography and the opportunity to experiment with other mediums. From there, I set things in motion to move to New York, left my graphic design day job after creating my own design company and taking on clients as a freelancer. Six months later, I’m here in Brooklyn, working full-time as a artist.
What role does the artist have in society?
I think that roles and responsibilities are unique to the artist, their work and the trajectory to which they come to the work. As a black queer woman, visibility is important and as an artist, I navigate that in many ways. I’m consistently pushing back against monolithic representations of black identity and illuminating nuanced depictions of blackness. My work aims to create visibility by bringing intersections of race, gender, sexuality and class into the discourse and practice of black art.
Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?
A few months ago, I began a collage-based project that was inspired by a quite disturbing walk home from my studio. During my walk, I was met by blinding NYPD flood lights shining from the entryway of the Armstrong Houses on Lexington and Tompkins. These lights lit up the block, shined into the windows of residents, and cascaded over the foreheads of children playing sidewalk games. This wasn’t your normal street light positioned for pedestrian visibility instead a light to surveil residents. As a black woman, I immediately connected with why this was happening. Black bodies are inherently seen as threatening and criminal but what disturbed me most was how this was impacting the children, who every night expected the generator to hum and the lights to blind. From there, I began a series of collages around the criminalization of black children in housing projects. Historically, black children have not been afforded the luxury of being seen as children, innocent or vulnerable. In these collages, I position children atop of project buildings gazing directly into the eyes of those surveilling.
What is your dream project?
My dream project right now, would be to expand my collage series into large scale mural sized prints on more experimental surfaces. This would require more studio and workshop space, resources and funding but I would love to see this work progress. My greatest frustration as an artist is having my creativity hit a ceiling due to a lack of resources. Being able to my idea come to life from inception to execution, without constraint, is the dream.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
The greatest advice I’ve received was from a visiting artist at Pratt. She urged me to create despite the opposition my work might receive. She affirmed that everyone won’t get my work and if they didn’t then it wasn’t for them. In my experience, art school can shift your creativity and practice into conformity, becoming less about the content and more about the ability to produce digestible work. That is why this advice is invaluable, especially as a black artist whose work is predominantly critiqued from a white gaze. Creating honest and authentic work requires a constant pushing back against creating for digestibility.
We always hear that the artistic life is a lonely one, is that true for you? If so, how do you counteract that?
I think there’s a lot of truth to the notion that an artist’s life is lonely. For me, that’s been the running theme. Creating full-time has caused me to become very Insular. Much of my work is independent, so a great deal of my time is spent alone. But as I begin to partner with other artists, I’ve found a kindredness that has been a great cure for the lonely nights.
Name something you love, and why.
I love looking through archives of vintage photographs. There is something about it that transports me and allows me to interact with past in such a visceral way. I’ve even begun to incorporate it in my creative process a lot more, either in using the photographs in my work or as reference material.
How can we keep up with your work?
Follow Alanna on Instagram at @_abstrkt