Alisa Banks is a full time visual artist whose work confronts memory, tradition, and notions of home, place and self. Growing up as a black woman in the 60’s and 70’s, Banks work often incorporates fibers materials and found objects that reflect on personal experiences, and cross-cultural tones of intolerance during that time period. Banks received her BS from Oklahoma State University and later her MFA from Texas Woman’s University. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, and is in several private and public collections. Currently Banks resides in Dallas, Texas.
Cotton, doilies, wood, silk and synthetic hair are all materials Alisa Banks interlaces within and throughout books, transforming them into meticulously crafted, intimate sculptural objects. Underlying themes of identity and cultural memories are commonly explored through Banks’ repurposed books. In a series of work titled “Edges”, the artist elaborately crochets synthetic hair to the edges of each page of the book. Presented open faced the transformed book resembles a half circle, embodying a gravity defying, frizz prone, African hairstyle. The series of four books presents four different hairstyles of traditional African braiding techniques. The hair fibers create textures against the pages while simultaneously embellishing the edges of the pages symbolizing “ the marginal, the end, the between, and duality.” Banks states, “the hair treatment symbolizes how much activity, creativity, and life happens at the ‘edges’ of mainstream society, regardless of whether or not it is recognized…” Growing up during a time period of racial integration, Banks edge series captures the tones of intolerance faced during the 60’s and 70’s and even today when regarding immigration status.
Continuing on her research about the manner in which black hair has been politicized throughout history, Banks creates an altered book entitled “Bad Hair”. She uses an old Texas Law book but alters the interior creating a flag book. Conceptually, the flags mimic locs or braids and their unruly aesthetic as perceived by white dominated workplaces. For many women in the 60’s and 70’s natural African hairstyles were unacceptable for work environments and even regarded as unprofessional. The text within the book was taken from news articles found from research on early struggles black women’s hair.
Banks southern Louisiana upbringing influences many of her decisions to use certain materials. One of her sculptural books- “Our Lady of the Lawn”- takes on the form of a homemade shrine and garden that were typical in homes throughout southern Louisiana where Madonna statues adorned many lawns. Banks uses crocheted lace, beaded rosary and medallions throughout the shrine to reference the histories of the shrines and the objects found along them. Inside the shrine is a fragment of a story written by the artist.
Similar in style is Banks’s book entitled “Armoire”. Here she crafts a small scale Armoire closet using a wooden box containing intimate items like photographs, fragments of texts, and partial clothing materials. Reflecting on her childhood memories Banks recalls the exhilarating feeling of exploring her grandmother’s armoire and learning the stories of the personal objects found inside. Closets in most cases are intimate spaces, commonly off limits, but full of memories while revealing something about its owner. To Banks, the armoire “remains a repository of memory, culture, history, and tradition.”
“A Bee Press- Alisa Banks.” Primrose Press, www.vampandtramp.com/finepress/b/A-Bee-Press.html.
“VCU News.” VCU Forensic Toxicologist's Work in Helping Solve Bizarre Death to Be Featured on National Forensics Television Show, news.vcu.edu/article/More_than_words.
“About Alisa Banks.” Alisa Banks, www.alisabanks.com/about-the-artist/.
"Alisa Banks- The Edge Series." Abecedarian Gallery, abecedariangallery.com/store/reviews/2012/12/14/alisa-banks-the-edge-series/.
ManagedArtwork.com. “Alisa Banks.” Http://Www.seagergray.com/ - Richard Shaw - Artists Detail, www.seagergray.com/Artist-Info.cfm?ArtistsID=521.