WNUR Radio Interview with Sally Alatalo, 2005

Q: What is the major theme or idea of this exhibit?

A: I'm interested in what's been lost to historical account. The record of our lives is in a large part random, depending on the priorities of the moment in which it was recorded, the interpretation of those who record it, or to the resources that were available to them. I'm interested in digging around for and imagining what's been excluded, in presenting an alternative--one that's not necessarily better or truer, but that looks at something we might not have considered before, even if it's a foible. There's an innate poetry in what's been lost.

Q: What is your methodology?

A: Typically, when I am asked to do an exhibit, I try to address the situation or the site; it's a way, for me, of connecting to something that's outside of my routine. I was interested in exploring the marvelous Columbian Exposition which took place in nearby Jackson Park and on the Midway because of the richness of the documentation, and also because of the representation, despite it's spectacular vision, of so much of the domestic and ordinary, from kitchen tools to the importation of an entire Laplander family, complete with home and sled.

Q: Tell us a little bit about the anachronisms you work into your pieces. How do they alter the stories you are telling, and how do they alter the history you portray?

A: I think that my attraction to historically misplaced objects has to do with my relationship to the historical document as fallible. It seems truer, somehow, to represent history from my present position than to try to reconstruct artifacts I have never seen or used. So I think that the work positions the viewer to consider not only the verity of MY representation, but also of ANY representation of history. I also hope to allow the viewer to enter a space in which to imagine his or her own alternative.

Q: What is the fascination for you of objects? How are the objects you find related to the objects you create?

A: I'm interested in the integration of art into everyday experience, so mostly I utilize or make the kinds of things that you might encounter in an ordinary environment. Of course, these are vast--books, clothes, food, photographs. I count on one's familiarity with the everyday object to initiate an encounter, and once I've established that encounter, I might suggest an alternative consideration of or use for the object, or sometimes even a subversion of it.

My technical training as an artist has spanned media such as print, photography, and sculpture, but I also count the domestic skills that I accrued as a child, including cooking and all manner of handicrafts, to be primary to my interest in making things and to the kinds of things that I make. I like to make things, and I'm really interested in how researching and knowing via the experience of material fabrication parallels a more conventional, academically sanctioned process.