ALYSON ZETTA-WILLIAMS

By SPECIWOMEN Illustration SENDRA UEBELE

"When I was little I honestly felt bad for boys because they had such boring wardrobe choices and couldn’t wear makeup"

 ©Sendra Uebele

©Sendra Uebele

Who are you?

My name is Alyson, I have blue eyes, three little brothers, and I still like Teletubbies. I live on a street whose name I will not disclose, but nonetheless looks like every residential street you have ever seen. My favorite food is sushi/hummus and my lip balm of choice is watermelon Lip Smacker. I can’t stand being part of the masses with unrealized dreams so I try to make them real. Also, I am in HL English typing the answers to these questions. 

How did you first get into art?

Well, I was born. That’s really when the creative seeds began sprouting. There was never a moment that was just like “oh cool, art” in my life. It has always been that way. I wish I had a cool story to tell you, but it’s just my life. It’s just me. 

What is the purpose of your work? 

I don’t know if I am a mature enough artist to identify what my work’s purpose is just yet. A lot of things I am doing right now is to get ideas out of my system, digging through dirt to find the treasure, you know? 

Being inspired by other artists/people has changed what I think of as “beautiful”. I go out to school and in my suburban town and see that those traits that I consider beautiful aren’t always admired by the society I am surrounded by. I hope that some of what I do now is leading up to helping people understand strange beauty with my future work. I’m getting there. 

Living in suburbia has trained me to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. I used to get really mad at media (ex. The Virgin Suicides) that glorified towns like mine, but they helped me to realize that there is a beauty in these places. I wouldn’t want to glorify it, but it’s definitely something that I am interested in pointing out. 

What materials do you use?

The materials I like the most are on opposite sides of the paint spectrum: oil paint and watercolor. I’m also really into ceramics but I only use Crayola Air Dry clay that you can buy at Walmart. I really love Prismacolor pencils! I realized, though, that even if I somehow come into a bunch of moolah, I will never use luxury materials such as Copic markers or Moleskine sketchbooks. There’s no way around it, those fancy things will screw with your process and psych.

Who inspires you? 

Everyone. Kidding, but the most random people really get me sometimes. I’m getting, like, really worked up just thinking about how out-of-control my fangirling can be. I’m so glad that it’s more of a celebrated thing now, even though taking phone pics of children in restaurants and girls’ hair for future reference isn’t-_-

People who bring me to a near fangirl-combustion are Petra/Anna Collins, Tavi Gevinson, Elle Fanning, Wes Anderson, Sofia Coppola, India Salvor Menuez, Best Coast, and Gorillaz. Those are my lifers. As an artist, they inspire me (duh), but I am also into my pal Kendra Yee’s artistic style, David Hockney, Dali, Natalie Neal and my painting teacher/school mom, Mrs. Sanders ;)

Where do you prefer to work? 

The only two places I really get stuff done is in my room or at the art room at school. But I actually really detest working in my room, because I am going to be alone and the minute I snap out of my concentration I am going to be depressed and lost somewhere in my head. I’m constantly happy in the art room at school. It’s ideal because I am painting with other people but rarely feel self-conscious because I have so many friends and we are all just trying to get something out of our systems and gahhh it’s the best!  Also because I have a wizard (my teacher!) there always to light the fireworks inside my left brain. 

 Courtesy of Alyson Zetta-Williams

Courtesy of Alyson Zetta-Williams

Who is your work for?

Do you realize how good of a question this is? Holy cow, I have had to deal with this question a lot recently (all the time, frankly). I mean, art says everything about you. I think that there have been times that I have tried to manipulate that or have done something to please the viewer rather than say what I wanted. The thing is, I know how to please someone with art. I can make a pretty portrait or draw your dog or whatever! But if I’m doing it for myself, the work is going to be strange and it’s going to require thought. I’m working on not being afraid of making this art for myself.

Has your art ever been on display? 

Yes. My summer art school, CSSSA, hosted galleries where my summer paintings and ceramics were displayed. I was going to have my ceramic Teletubbies mask displayed at the Teen Art Salon show in NY, but the shipping would have been treacherous. Sigh.

If you count Zine Club as art, it was just featured in the February 2016 issue of NYLON, and on various other lovely sites. I have been focused on promoting Zine Club and the work that it spawns rather than my own art, for now. I think it has to do with the fact that it is a lot easier to promote that greatness of other people’s cool art than just your own, haha. Well, the contributors are the raddest people ever, so they make it easy. Maybe when I can put a leash on what I want to do with art, I will try to concentrate on my paintings. 

Do you have any other interests? 

Like, um everything. Gosh I have so many ideas it literally hurts. It reminds me of how Zeus birthed Athena out of his head, but he was like “lol what’s happening” because he had a massive headache and didn’t know. But I’m totally not Zeus so my head will probably just explode. Shucks.

Editing Zine Club, writing pretty openly on Rookie, illustrating, taking amateur photos, shooting (and watching!) short films with my super cool friends, NYLON, and running Atomic Balm are some other things I like, to give you a sampling. Do Lip Smackers count as an interest?

How has the female role played into your life?

When I was little I honestly felt bad for boys because they had such boring wardrobe choices and couldn’t wear makeup (in the society that I was brought up in, at least). I thought being a girl was where it was at. I still do, but less. I’m so lucky to be a girl because I think that female artistic experimentation is socially more acceptable than male experimentation. Like, we can dress like boys and girls all at once and do all this crazy stuff (sometimes)! But then, of course, there is the fact that females get paid less and all those fun facts.

Being a girl and feeling, at most times, like the odds were against me has created ambitious layers like sediment within me. Tell me that I can’t do this or that, and you are only adding another layer. I’m not going to lie and say that I have faced so much oppression as a female in my good, American life, but there have definitely been moments. Because of those instances, my worst fear is constraints. I just try to use that fear to pave a variation of paths for myself and my comrades.

@alysonzw