It takes a truly creative mind to conjure up a new technique on an age-old art like painting. Artist Allison Cortson doesn’t simply paint with acrylics and oils. This innovative painter produces works made with dust. Her ongoing series of aptly titled Dust Paintings began several years ago, only now beginning to gain recognition for their unique contents.
The Los Angeles-based artist’s large-scale paintings blend several materials, requiring a few meticulous steps to retain its composition. Firstly, Cortson collects dust from the living space of her portraiture’s subjects through their vacuum. This dust accumulation process spans over the course of several months, being that her paintings are so massive in size, some reaching nearly 70 inches in length. After the precise collection, Cortson paints the subject with oil paints while reserving the accrued dust for the rest of the image. She explains, “I sprinkle [the dust] on the canvas and manipulate with a brush. When finished the dust is coated with an acrylic sealer."
The idea behind the series is that “matter is mostly empty space.” It’s an interesting concept that Cortson tackles in a highly creative way. Like dust, “things” just take up space. They are not organic entities that enrich or alter a life on their own. It is through interactivity, initiated by the living, that a “thing” provides value. That all being said, I keep thinking in the back of my mind about a random trivia fact I have acquired and can’t seem to shake: a large percentage of dust is comprised of dead, discarded skin. In an ironic way, the background is part of each of the subjects.