Allyson Strafella

[Artist]

“Being an artist, if you can get through it day by day, surviving and paying your bills, the basic needs, then it’s a pretty expansive life.”
Things that won’t save the world:
Making a drawing
Having a garden
Teaching one’s offspring about honeybees

Allyson Strafella can draw with a typewriter, a skill she’s honed over nineteen years of working with a number of Smith Coronas, special transfer papers, and a machinist willing to crack the typewriter open and retool it for her. In some cases, the drawings are made entirely with a colon, a hyphen, or a symbol from Strafella’s own lexicon, punched with extraordinary repetition through colored transfer paper. Some of these gorgeous works have been compared to Ellsworth Kelly’s prints, large geometric blocks of color.

We met one afternoon in her studio, in Hudson, New York, situated on the top level of a two-story barnlike building in the back of the home that she shares with her husband, Max, also an artist (his studio occupies the building’s first floor), and her two children, Miles and Pepper. Between the two buildings are a densely planted garden and a trapezoidal beehive, designed and built by Max.

—Suzanne Snider

*

THE BELIEVER: Tell me about all these typewriters in your studio.

ALLYSON STRAFELLA: I draw only with electric typewriters, which people usually find disappointing. I think they like the idea of me sitting and hammering on a manual. Some are here because I love them as objects. Most are Smith Coronas. The first typewriter I used was my father’s—also a Smith Corona. That one on the white bureau-y thing [pointing] has a sweet personality. Some of the others are here because they’ve been used, or I’m trying to figure out if I can use them. The typewriters I choose not to collect are machines that have a language other than the one I speak. I’ve never been comfortable taking on a typewriter that’s Hindi or Braille or Greek or any other language that is one that I don’t know intimately. I think, also, this is a way for me to further define what my language is, by actually building it and making it and owning it in that way.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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Suzanne Snider’s work has appeared in several magazines and artists’ catalogs. She is the founder/director of Oral History Summer School, and is writing a book about rival communes in Middle America.

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