Interview With Alyce Haliday McQueen

    So Fresh and So Clean   Light jet print 24" x 30"

So Fresh and So Clean
Light jet print
24" x 30"

Could you give us a brief introduction to who you are and what kind of work you make?
I am an artist and photography teacher based in Chicago. I primarily make photographs, but on occasion I work with installation, performance based video art, and sculptural objects. In the past few years, I have built installations in my studio that I document with a large format camera. In addition to art, I also really like cats and chocolate cake. 

Where do you gather most of the inspiration for your works?
I read various types of books on the multiple waves of feminism or books by feminist comedians. I watch my female friends and family members, reference my mom's own activities from my childhood and examine the expectations by which I feel pressured. There are a number of places that I go to get ideas for props. I often frequent the Dollar Store, wandering through the aisles. My favorite store, Uncle Fun, closed a year ago. I took home boxes of vintage items from their closing sale: pony tail holders, calendar pin-ups, ceramic porcelain doll parts, plaster wedding figurines, and so much more I can't even remember. I will be working with these materials for a while. 

What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
I think my studio lights are the most important. I could use any camera, but I always use my strobes. Lighting is the most important factor in photography. 

What types of obstacles have you run into in your artistic practice and how do you go about navigating around them?
There are days when I don't know what to do in the studio. Often projects are in limbo and the work needs time to breathe. When this happens, I still try to keep busy. I create images with random objects on colored backdrops and use them as studies. I photograph props that have not yet been used in a still life. I pin the photos to the wall as reference for future work.

    Breakin' Dishes, Killin' Time   Light jet print 24" x 30"

Breakin' Dishes, Killin' Time
Light jet print
24" x 30"

What do you feel are the recurring themes in your visual work?
My concepts focus on issues of femininity. I work with the stereotypes of beauty, sexuality, and domesticity. I often explore the relationship of painting to photography and reference historical concepts and techniques with a contemporary edge.

Is there a particular artist you feel you relate to? Who are your role models (artists or non-artists)?
I have always been partial to Cindy Sherman. She developed an artistic empire in a male dominated profession by using herself as a photographic subject. It couldn't have been easy. Her photographs are among the most expensive at auction and the highest selling images by any female photographer. Of course the photos are amazing too. 

What is the best piece of artistic advice you’ve been given?
The best advice I was ever given was by a committee member in graduate school. I was told to "make a bad picture". What freedom that was. It helped me get through lots of moments of uncertainty. We all have to make bad pictures before we can make good ones. To quote John Baldessari, “Art comes out of failure. You can’t sit around terrified of being incorrect.”


See more of Alyce's work at