Artist Interview: Alyce Carrier

I realize that nothing is ever how you imagine. A hand on your shoulder from someone you love is different than a stranger’s, but it’s not worth explaining because what we are really after is the feeling, not a story.
-Alyce Carrier

Alyce Carrier is a Salt Lake City–based artist with a background in sculpture and ceramics. In her time spent at the University of Utah, Carrier began experimenting with printmaking and stop-motion animation. Her collection at UMOCA, properly titled Old Work, is a collection of three years’ worth of her intricate creations. Her work is a sparse and delicate treatment of the mundanity of routine, reading like an intimate social encounter and lending insight to a sense of self without abusing sincerity. Her exhibition at UMOCA is available to view until Jan. 14 in the Projects Gallery.

Carrier’s love for ceramics began in college. “I went to school for sculpture, but then I took a ceramics class and fell in love with the medium,” she says. “I spent the rest of my career focusing on ceramics, basically making sculptures out of clay.” Once she graduated from the University, however, ceramics revealed itself to be a difficult medium for an artist without a kiln. “I didn’t have any immediate recourse to continue doing ceramic work,” says Carrier. “All of those other art forms I do—printmaking, animation, murals—all came from not being able to do ceramics, but still wanting to develop the imagery and language of the characters.” Determined to create her art, she set out to experiment with many mediums. But in every art form she’s tried, the characters stay similar and cohesive. The characters depicted in her work come from a long line of artists in Carrier’s family. “My family draws cartoons and my aunt is an animator,” says Carrier. “So I draw similarly to them. I think it’s because that’s what I saw when I was a kid. They’re kind of cartoonish, surreal characters that have turned into how I see myself in my head. These characters–they’re not gender specific, but they represent me interacting with all these different things.”

In many ways, Carrier’s work truly is an accurate representation of who she is and what surrounds her. For instance, she created the hair of her stop-motion puppets with the hair of her dogs. “I have some bits of other dogs, too, and some human hair,” she says. Carrier is nothing short of an innovator, even in her decision to create puppets as opposed to drawings for her stop-motion animation film. “My final piece for my sculpture [in school] was 20 seconds of somebody walking and they bent down—and that was it,” she says. “I was frustrated with how long it took, so wanting to experiment with animation again, I realized I could just make puppets with hinges and move them.” Her art is also inspired by her day to day routines, depicting small, intimate gestures with others—intentional or not. “These day to day activities,” she says, “when you’re at the library or checking out at the grocery store, and all of a sudden there’s this imagery of someone touching you, your eye, these weird interactions that come from routine life—I get a lot of ideas from these interactions. And also by imagining how people care about each other.”

Carrier says of the UMOCA show that it drove her to take responsibility of her work and what ideas she was giving to her viewers. “I knew I needed to stand by those ideas and feel confident about what I was putting out there,” she says. “The UMOCA show forced me to hone in on the ideas and intentions of what I wanted to say. Of all the shows I’ve done, this one is the most cohesive. It has a calm energy to it. You walk in and it feels complete.” One viewer favorite of Carrier’s collection is the fact that the screen prints on the wall were available to rip off and take home, an idea she discovered when visiting an Ann Hamilton exhibition in Seattle. “During the show, you were able to take things off of the wall,” says Carrier. “There was one room covered in beautifully photographed animals: monkeys, birds, etc. They were printed with such care and intimate moments.” The security guard told Carrier and other viewers they were allowed to take one home—any photo they like. “I looked through everything because I wanted to pick the ‘right one’ and have it for myself,” she says. “How special that, is, to be able to go up and tear it. That was a total gamechanger for me. I continually think about that—how tangible it was.” Carrier incorporated this idea into her own work, and its popularity was striking—she printed over 2,300 prints throughout the entire show, and people are still taking some home. “To have that many people have my work is super cool and really amazing,” she says. “This, overall, has been a great experience for my practice and my career.”

Carrier’s hope is to change the way people interact with artwork, especially in museums. “I feel really turned off by the atmosphere of galleries, or at least galleries in museums,” she says. “They shut off so many people and the general public just because they have a door and call it a ‘gallery.’ I lot of people won’t go in. And when you walk into a museum or gallery, for a good reason, you’re not supposed to touch the work. But having that mindset, you immediately build a wall between the viewer and the artwork.” Carrier wants to eliminate the idea that viewers must understand the artwork in order to view it or enter a gallery space. “I think it’s so important that people experience things.” She often thinks about interactions with musicians—artists in a different medium—and how she wishes artists in ceramics and painting and so on would be seen in the same light. “Obviously, you’re not going to touch the musicians,” she says, “but you can still experience the music. If you don’t know the lyrics, you can still enjoy the music or beat. You can dance or not. There’s not a curated way to enjoy that experience. I constantly try to keep that in mind when I work and try to let people experience the work I’m making in a similar way.”

For future or up-and-coming artists, Carrier has some great advice. “I’m a firm believer that you need to show up every single day,” she says. “If you have a studio space, or even if your studio space is in your apartment in a tiny corner, you have to mentally and physically show up to that space every day, even if you’re not having creative thoughts.” Carrier also feels lucky that as a kid, she grew up in an artistic-empowered family—but she realizes that not everyone has this experience. “It can be difficult for young people who want to be artists, because there’s not that outlet or immediate acceptance that being an artist is a normal and great thing to do,” she says. She mentions that you must figure out a way to encourage yourself to move forward and understand how you work without a constant support system. “The biggest thing for me is believing in the drive and the ideas that I have,” she says. “So often people think they need approval from someone else. You don’t need approval from anybody—just do it. Don’t as permission.”

Carrier hopes to take her art “on tour,” much like her musician friends, and she’s determined to figure out what that will look like. “I think that the most tangible thing would be murals,” she says, “so I’d go on a mural tour across the country.” She also hopes to work on small zines and other illustrated publications, all the while improving the way how people interact with artwork. “I think the greatest part about art is that it’s not limited,” she says. “It’s about constantly problem solving. If you can’t do one thing, try something else. Be flexible and fluid.”

You can view Alyce Carrier’s work at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art until Jan. 14 in the Projects Gallery, or visit alycecarrier.com.