LitCouture recently highlighed the work of “Lint Lady” Slater Barron, who makes portraits and sculptures out of dryer lint. Allison Cortson is in a similar line of work, but her medium is an even less-desired household product: dust. Los Angeles-based Cortson was inspired by her realization that “matter is mostly empty space and is held together by an observer experiencing it” and decided to create portraits of people in their home environments using dust, an ephemeral and untapped artistic material that “arrives in our homes as a remnant of our own existence and degeneration from decaying particles from our bodies and objects.”
The first step of her process is to photograph the subject in his or her home. Then, over the course of several months, Cortson collects the dust from that home through the subject’s vacuum bags; laborious work considering that these dust paintings can be up to 70″ x 100″ in size! The human subjects are painted realistically using oils – to emphasize that it is their presence that renders meaning to the space and matter that surround them – and their background environments are made from the collected dust, which is sprinkled onto the canvas and positioned by Cortson using a brush. Upon completion, the dust is coated with an acrylic sealer, creating a unique portrait of a life, such as “Eric Descending the Staircase” (2011, sampled above).
See on www.allisoncortson.com
These paintings remind us of one of our favorite pieces by fiction writer, Richard Brautigan. This piece, entitled “Lint” appeared in his memorable story collection, Revenge of the Lawn:
“I’ve haunted a little this evening by feelings that have no vocabulary and events that should be explained in dimensions of lint rather than words. I’ve been examining half-scraps of my childhood. They are pieces of distant life that have no form or meaning. They are things that just happened like lint.”