The Heroine’s Journey of Alison Grace Koehler

What is the thing I love best about my work?

Making a stained glass window can be like painting, or writing a poem, or improvising a free jazz set. While this medium often appears deeply entrenched in its past, it (glass, color, light) has immense potential in diverse and experimental spaces as well. 

Stained glass exists on the threshold between interior and exterior, reacting to both, and reacting on both. It is powerfully vulnerable to its environment, while capable of  transforming it in great ways. I love its paradoxes, and the light it reflects onto our sensory and emotional universes.

What is my idea of happiness?

Having a space in which to reflect and create, with sunlight, with swirling opportunities that fuel the development of new work. Full of books, and colorful glass shards. Where artists, loved ones, and people who are curious and open, come to share ideas. And where there is space for quiet, solitary consideration too. A life in which this, a devotion to art making, rests at its center.

What is my greatest fear?

I fear losing the grip on various practical elements that make a life centered around art a livable reality.

What is the trait that I most deplore in myself?

Most qualities are double-edged, so being open means I can spin around inside a space without choosing between various possibilities. At times this feels deplorable. 

Which living persons in my profession do I most admire?

I admire the work of Brian Clarke, as well as the stained glass of Pierre Soulages. I’m interested in stained glass that has reverent, challenging, and innovative dimensions. And as far as multidisciplinary makers and writers I admire people like Miranda July.

What is my greatest extravagance?

Choosing to not have a job outside of stained glass making. Choosing this freedom, the weight of it and its risks, over that financial security.

On what occasion would I lie?

I think it’s something I’ve only done in order to ostensibly protect someone else from what might cause them pain, and myself the pain of their reaction, or guilt – though, I think I’ve never been ultimately proud of this choice.

What is the thing that I dislike the most in my work?

I tend to put experimentation, personal expression and discovery above structural clarity and soundness – but the latter is crucial for permanent installations. I wouldn’t trade my proclivities for other ones, but I need to make sure my pieces can be supported with technique that ensures their durability.

When and where was I the happiest, in my work?

I’ve been happiest when I’ve been able to have poetry and stained glass intersect in performative contexts, as in the Irruzioni Festival and at the Marche de la Poésie, and also when I’ve been able to make a permanent stained glass installation in a public space, such as Berkeley Books of Paris, and at Delaville Cafe.

If I could, what would I change about myself?

More discipline when it comes to strengthening technical skills, and focus when it comes to reaching towards goals beyond an immediately achievable scope and vision.

What is my greatest achievement in work?

Creating a window for Delaville Cafe in which the past is united with the present and future, through three new panels. It’s in a space that’s free to be seen by the public, and it’s a large scale work in which I didn’t have to make any creative compromise. 

Where would I most like to live?

I would most like to live in a space that is part home, and separately but connected, part studio. A space that belongs to me. I think staying in Paris is a good option, though I’m open to a future that could move in another direction.

What is my most treasured possession?

My French passport.

What is my most marked characteristic?

My voice.

What is my most inspirational location, in my city?

Perhaps the Passerelle Simone-de-Beauvoir, a bridge across the Seine, that takes you from the National Library into the park in front of the Cinematheque. Or, Passage Bourgoin, with its hidden houses and decadent foliage, hidden in the heart of the 13th arrondissement.

What is my favorite place to eat and drink, in my city?

La Fine Gueule, also in the 13th, is one of my favorite places to have a drink. It’s an inviting wine bar that now has a permanent stained glass installation of mine embedded in their countertop. Otherwise around la Butte aux Cailles, or at a friend’s home.

What books influenced my life and how?

I feel particularly influenced by the interior spaces explored by Clarice Lispector, in books like The Hour of the Star. In Anais Nin’s Henry and June. In Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. 

You Only Die Once. What music would I listen to on my last day?

Possibly Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.”

Who is my hero or heroine in fiction?

A cross between Lily Briscoe and Mrs Ramsay in To the Lighthouse. Or Goldmund, in Herman Hesse’s Narcissus and Goldmund.

Who are my heroes and heroines in real life?

My grandmother Pearl, who is currently 104. Artists like Aldous Harding who shine visions of deep artistic searching into us.

Which movie would I recommend to see once in a lifetime?

Me and You and Everyone We Know by Miranda July.

What role do stories play in my life and work?

I reflect on experiences by considering them as stories – both being lived and simultaneously being regarded. This influences my work in poetry and writing, which in turn resonates with my work in stained glass and other visual arenas.

What do the words ‘You are the storyteller of your own life’ mean to me?

It is up to us to both cultivate the experiences and opportunities we live, and then to reflect on them, and give them meaning to ourselves and potentially to others.

Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime?

Paris Heretics, who recently published my first book Stained Glass Poetry, and with whom I have several forthcoming projects.

Which people or companies would I like to work with in 2022?

I’d love to do something for Nuit Blanche, with the City of Paris. I would also be interested in performing with New Pathways in Improvisation, out of London, and Collective Endeavours, out of Glasgow.

What project, in 2022, am I looking forward to working on?

I’m looking forward to completing the work for an exhibition that will be taking place at Espace Canopy this coming March. I will be exhibiting an ongoing series of stained glass windows made inside of found frames.

Additionally, I’m in the final stages of making a spoken world album with both local and international musicians, including Luke Sutherland, Lisa Ducasse, Lucas Lecacheur, Benjamin Dwyer, and Lesteria. This will be be released by Paris Heretics in the coming year.

Where can you see me or my work in 2022?

You can see updates on my instagram and facebook accounts both @alisongracekoehler, or on my website: alisonkoehler.com. You can see my work on display at Espace Canopy during Printemps des Poètes from March 14th to 27th, 2022. You can also organize a studio visit with me at any point through my contact page via my website.

What do the words ‘Passion Never Retires’ mean to me?

There is no fixed age or framework for the pursuit of that inner spark, ignition, flame.

Which creative professionals should Peter invite to tell their story?

Antonia Alexandra Klimenko, Lesteria, Carrie Chappell, Fork Burke, Kristin Sanders, Erin Babbin, Rebecca Goldschmidt, Erica Schreiner, Lala Drona, Jamika Ajalon

How can you contact me?

agkoehler@gmail.com

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