Published in the booklet Antfarm Decade to commemorate our first 10 years. Only the statements are shared here. Taking a photo with my phone from the small photos of the work in the catalogue wouldn’t have done it justice. Check out the Roster to see former antfarmers and any available links to their work.
ALLISON BENNER FELTON
33, Richmond, Virginia
July 1993-August 1994
It was in high school that I first fell in love with photography. I found solace in a class with a bubbly teacher and a dark-room. It was my escape. It was how I could hide on a bad hair day (it was 1984 there were many!). I could hide behind a camera but still be part of the world around me. I could cope with the stress of being the new kid in a huge school. I could create without having to display my work on an easel in the middle of the classroom. I was in love.
Years later, I ignored my first love. I fancied myself a painter and found that as one of the few female founders of Antfarm, I was easily intimidated by my male colleagues. My small, simple, colorful paintings seemed to pale in comparison to the sparks of steel, buzzing of saws, and gigantic paintings that surrounded me. I put painting aside and returned to my faithful friend, the camera.
Because of my experiences at Antfarm I learned to critique my work more objectively, to demand more of myself as an artist, and to be more selective of what I produce.
Antfarm remains one of the most memorable chapters of my life.
32, Raleigh, North Carolina
July 1993-December 1994
I graduated from NCSU School of Design in May of 1993 and went on with the original “farmers” to start Ant Farm that following sum. mer. My Ant Farm time, as for most, was a transitional period. It was the first time without school as a priority and many bills to pay. I struggled to make art for the sake of making art. There is still a drawer full of unfinished work in my flat file.
I now admire (not that I didn’t then) the many artists and craftspeople who have wandered in and out of Ant Farm–those folks who have given up a steady paycheck and taken risks to do what their souls deem vital and necessary.
After leaving Ant Farm at the end of 1994, I moved to New York for a couple of years. Then went to the opposite extreme of driving across the US only to end up in a podunk town in Washington state. It was there that I had a connection and started pursuing commercial art. I had no idea that people actually bought “art” because of decorating trends. It was something I swore I would never do, but working with art directors provided me with the structure and deadlines I had been missing since graduation. A few more detours and I ended up back in Raleigh. I now work at the North Carolina Museum of Art in the exhibition design department, a job that finally combines my design education and all the other random jobs I have had.
Ant Farm and its creation was energetic and spirited. I still crave that energy of its conception, the feeling that nothing could stop us.
Life really is about making things and creating spaces. A garden, a room, a dress, a piece of art, a piece of art to match your sofa.
32, Roanoke, Virginia
July 1993-May 1994
I joined the antfarm in the beginning with the intention of doing freelance graphic work and creating a body of work as a painter. I did manage to do a few jobs, but being straight out of college I was mostly just working other part-time jobs to make ends meet. The original $100 rent we paid for our part of the space seemed like an exorbitant amount.
Since leaving the antfarm, I have developed as an artist and teacher, and now run a pottery business in a space that reminds me of the Boylan Heights building in many ways-old hardwood floors, brick and masonry walls, tall ceilings, and more. I have even come back to the idea of an artistic community like we were creating at the antfarm. Over sixty students use my pottery center to create artwork, make friends, and share ideas.
32, Wilmington, North Carolina
July 93-July 94
While at Antfarm in 1993, I struggled to understand and define “art.” What I inevitably found art to be was
“the creative interplay between artist and Spirit within a tangible medium and the resulting evidence, or work, of this interaction.”
From the moment I begin to paint, for example, I am not only initiating and directing the painting process toward a set goal, but I am spontaneously responding to inspiration and to what I see before me. This inspiration, which I can only say comes from the Creative Spirit of God, leads me toward an uncertain goal.
I find this definition of art is one which still feeds me. In the past ten years, however, I have come to see how it applies to the medium of life. For in a creative life, everyday becomes interplay between person and Spirit. We respond to the inspiration of God, and we are led toward an unseen goal. Our very lives become works of art.
My time at Antfarm played a key role in the decision to pursue painting and the general discipline of art-making. I am grateful for the conversations, debates, and friendship I shared with my fellow “farmers.”
The seeds planted a decade ago have born much fruit in my life.