We are excited to announce that Alli Luhmann is our Artist of the Month for March 2016! An emerging artist based in Minneapolis, Alli Luhmann has a mixed-media practice that primarily includes hot glass. Emphasizing the power of simplicity and ambiguity through her work, Luhmann aims for her viewers to examine these in other aspects of their lives.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Was being an artist always a part of your plan?
Like most kids, I wanted to be a lot of things: astronaut, teacher, biologist… you name it! But I had never even considered being an artist. The common thread among all of the things I wanted to do was that it had to have a positive effect on a larger scale in some way. That’s still important to me. I’m working on it.
Utilizing glass is very versatile and allows for endless creative possibilities. What first led you to experiment with this medium?
I needed to fulfill an art credit requirement for my degree. It’s such a deadpan response, but it’s true. I attended Anoka Ramsey Community College to complete general education requirements. ARCC was close to home and the only school that offered glassblowing classes; I wanted to try it. The goal was to transfer to the University of Minnesota to pursue a degree in architecture.
I absolutely loved working with glass right away! My intended path didn’t make sense anymore. Everything changed.
Can you describe your creative process? What is an average day like in the studio?
I can’t really describe it – it never ends. I always carry a notebook for that reason.
There is no average day in the studio. That’s what I love about what I do. Some days I’m blowing glass all day or coldworking (coldworking refers to the use of lapidary wheels, wet saws, belt sanders, sandblasting, etc. to alter glass when it’s at room temperature). Other days, I’m teaching classes or tutoring one-on-one with people. I also assist local glass artists from time to time. Sometimes it’s all of the above.
The studio I work at is Foci Minnesota Center for Glass Arts. It’s a nonprofit, public access glass studio. Working with hot glass is inherently expensive and time consuming, if you’re trying to run your own studio. I’m very lucky to have a place like Foci to work out of. In addition to making my own work at Foci, I work as studio staff and an instructor. I feel like I live there.
You often represent specific motifs in your work (birds, matryoshka dolls). Can you tell me about these images? Is your interest in them more symbolic or aesthetic?
The birds and Matryoshka dolls are a rebuttal to our world of hyperstimulation. They are simple and intentionally ambiguous so that they invite the viewer to have their own experience. I find that to be in contrast to a lot of art I see, which usually explicitly states what the art is about and the feeling it’s meant to invoke. I chose those forms because they are so widely known I think it allows me to reach a wider audience. The forms also lend themselves very well to glass – they’re elegant and fluid. They also allow for different textures to be present on the same sculpture. This is important because I want people to want to touch the work and interact with it. It’s glass, so a person’s initial reaction is to leave it alone because it’s fragile. But, people tend to look with their hands, so the varying textures helps to further invite them.
It’s all about the viewer’s experience.
Who or what have you been inspired by recently?
The state of the world, the chaos of it and the misinformation of how much better the world really is.
If you could brunch with an artist, dead or alive, who would he or she be?
You were born and raised in Minnesota. How do you think that has influenced your creative growth?
I’m not sure. It seems too soon to tell and I haven’t been around enough people outside of Minnesota to know for sure. I do believe that growing up in a region that is notorious for indirect communication (Minnesota nice) has influenced my work. I frequently interact with people who don’t explicitly say what they want, think, feel, etc. This forces me to to pay more attention to details like body language, inflections, and mannerisms to decipher a person’s true motive. I believe that’s somewhat where my interest in stripping away all but just the necessary details derives from.
What are you currently working on?
Right now I’m working on larger, more complex glass Matryoshka dolls.
Any upcoming projects?
Yes! And I’m really excited about it. I’m in the very, very early stages of making another body of work different from everything that I’ve done. It’ll be a while yet…
A fun fact or two to share?
I have been given a unique opportunity to work in Belgium! Assuming everything goes to plan, I will be living there for a few months later this year. I’ll be working for a public access glassblowing studio in Ghent, Belgium. This opportunity is amazing! I still don’t even believe it’s real. In addition to helping with day-to-day studio operations, I’ll be teaching and working on establishing a larger, local presence for the newly established glassblowing studio. It’ll also be an opportunity to pursue my own work, work with the glass artists there and assist the founder and talented glass sculptor, John Moran (check out his work!).
All images are courtesy of the artist.