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"Controlled Burn" Mixed Media Series Promotes Thought About Control vs. Chaos in Nature

Alison Balcanoff used a wood-burning tool to initially draw on the imagery of botanical images that are later enhanced with colorful embroidery floss. Scroll down for more images from this new series...

When St. Charles, IL artist, Alison Balcanoff, says she likes playing with fire, she’s not kidding. Her new series, the “Controlled Burn” is a multi-media approach to some very deep thinking about life, nature, what we can control and what we can’t. She embraces the idea of using fire to control or restore nature, considering it to be the ultimate contradiction.

“Fire is simultaneously both rejuvenating and destructive,” Alison observes. “I’ve used the burning process to create a composition of botanical forms that reference controlled or prescribed burns used in prairie or forest restoration.”

Working in a somewhat smaller scale than she’s done before, her nine pieces measure 8” x 10” or less combining acrylic painting with burned-on imagery and enhanced by embroidery.

Each work begins with a grid to create an underlying order or structure on heavy watercolor paper. Using a pyrography tool, she burns the imagery into the paper. And because she has always wanted to use embroidery in her work, she chose adding texture with stitches using embroidery floss.

“I love the idea of sewing as metaphor,” Alison explains. “It brings up images of mending things or stitching up a wound.”

“Controlled Burn” also offers commentary on the age-old dichotomy of order vs. chaos.

When asked what she’d like her viewers to carry away from this series, she commented on both the process and the finished result.

“My materials won’t always behave the way I’d like them to,” she says. “No matter how precise I’d like my work to look, there are always imperfections. They come from the human hand and how the tools operate. It’s not going to be perfect. In life, there’s the day-to-day chaos. Things happen that you can’t control. Our choices are to accept those imperfections, tame them, let them go, or simply embrace them. This applies as much to making art as in the broader sense with the world around us and our personal lives.”

She adds that because of the smaller scale of her work, it invites intimacy with the viewer, drawing others in to look more closely at the detail, and think about the bigger picture.

Stay tuned for updates where this series will soon be on display.

NATURE ERADICATED; mixed media by Alison Balcanoff

NATURE CONTROLLED; mixed media by Alison Balcanoff

NATURE RESTORED; mixed media by Alison Balcanoff

Alison's project as she puts the pieces together.


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