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Art Watch : Alison Moritsugu

Alison Moritsugu is in focus for our Art Watch for today. This section is brought to you by Art From Us and Divvya Nirula. The Artists we spotlight here can be from any field, across any discipline, and using a variety of media. We share here why we think they are important and worth watching. Be it genius creators of eras gone by. Or the upcoming contemporary artist who is yet to have their first show. All come under the purview of Art Watch.

Alison Moritsugu was born and raised in Hawaii, but she left the islands after completing her high school in the pursuit of art as a career, armed with a vision and a head full of ideas. Alison graduated and received her BFA from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri and an MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York.

In 2011, Moritsugu was commissioned for a mosaic commission for the MTA Arts for Transit. She received a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in painting and participated in residencies at the Cité International des Arts, Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, and The Marie Walsh Sharpe Space Program.

Through her log paintings, Alison investigates the contrivances that were apparent in the popular landscape paintings of the 18th and 19th centuries. These were worked on, by artists such as Albert Bierstadt and Frederic Edwin Church, but Alison found that they were deeply rooted in the political constructs of that time and depicted the land as a bountiful Eden, a limitless frontier ripe for conquest.

She takes these images out of their known zones, the framed canvas, and paints directly over on wooded slices with the bark intact. These landscapes seemingly appear as a homage to the idyllic art of the Hudson River School yet, by viewing the painting’s surface, the cross section of a tree, any sense of nostalgia or celebration of nature is countered by the evidence of its destruction.

Why Alison Moritsugu?

Her cultural context is imperative to understand her art thus her series about Hawaii, her childhood home, is a combination of the genre of landscape with the decorative arts to create paintings, sculptures and installations that explore the islands’ complex identity. For Alison the synthesis of native culture, tropical Eden, and site for commercialism and profit is a compelling question. Much of this art involves wallpapers that depict lush florals choking out endemic species, a Zen-like fountain that examines issues of water and riparian rights, and a fishing net chronicling a family’s history and past way of life once based on an intimate relationship with the ocean. Alison’s art and her study are interwoven and show up a complex pattern.

Through her work she wants to expose how idealized images of the land shape the concept of the natural world – in essence, how our experiences are mediated by the mechanisms of art and culture. This is the perfect time for her art – in the event of understanding the environment and serving it better and the conservation of the natural resources of the planet are critical. Painters throughout art history from the Northern Song, Baroque, Rococo and Hudson River School tailored their depictions of nature to serve an artistic narrative.

She finds it problematic that photoshopped images of verdant forests and unspoiled beaches invite us to vacation and sightsee, providing a false sense of assurance that the wilderness will always exist. “By exploring idealized views of nature, my work acknowledges our more complex and precarious relationship with the environment.” Also belonging to a country that is beautiful – Alison does want to bring to the world that the real world problems persist no matter how beautiful the environment is or is made to look.


For more Artists handpicked by Divvya Nirula – explore the ART WATCH archive.

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