We had the good fortune of connecting with Alicia Link and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Alicia, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I think about risk all the time. To me what separates good art from great art is when I can see that there is something at stake for the artist.
As a child, I never thought I would be an artist professionally. I did not grow up going to contemporary art museums or recognizing that people did this as a career. In my limited exposure, I formed some ridiculous notion that career artists ended with Impressionism. Nevertheless, I was always compulsively making things, taking art classes, and performing for friends and family.
Fast forward to my time at Boston University and I began to enroll in art courses and considered taking on an art minor. That minor quickly became a major. I learned that many of the art faculty at BU had studios on campus. They would teach for a few hours and then saunter off to their studios to work. I was enamored by that lifestyle and completely absorbed by my studio and art history courses.
Making the decision to switch from a career path in the sciences to art was a huge risk. I had to abandon a lot of feelings of guilt to move forward with this plan. My mother immigrated to the US from Poland and never landed on a solid career path. Her professional disappointment was palpable. I knew she wanted me to succeed and have financial security. I internalized this narrative for a while, but knew it was not what I was meant to do.
Now, it’s been over a decade since I took that risk. I have been in exhibitions, attended residencies, and earned my MFA in Studio Art from the University of Texas at Austin. I currently am an adjunct professor at Tyler School of Art and Architecture and sustain a studio practice.
Unfortunately, my mother passed away in 2017 after battling Leukemia for nearly two years right after my thesis exhibition and graduation from UT Austin. Her legacy and story have been a source of inspiration in my life and my work. I continue to question, “what’s at stake?” I make work that interrogates my history in relationship to the matriarchs on my mother’s side. I let the work lead my material choices and sometimes that means having to learn new skills and being slightly uncomfortable with the process, the product, or both.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My career path, much like the content of my work, has been nonlinear. It is a constant investigation. I am most proud of the work that includes my mother. I love the idea of her taking up space in a gallery in Columbus, OH, Austin, TX, or Philadelphia, PA. Because she is the only family member that immigrated to the United States from Poland, all my maternal family lives abroad. Physical distance and a language barrier provides room for invention in my work. I piece together what I can through translating emails between myself and my 91-year-old grandmother, and the rest I must create. This work is not easy. It’s often heavy and sometimes heartbreaking. I know that lingering in this space is worth it and I trust that intuition.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Philadelphia has so much to offer and despite growing up 15 minutes away, I still feel like I am getting to know the city! However, I would take them on a morning hike in the Wissahickon Valley Park, followed by lunch at Reading Terminal Market, a chaotic, yet iconic lunch spot. Next, we would go to the Fabric Workshop Museum. I have done some contract work there and have grown close to some of the production staff. It is a unique place because a lot of the work shown is a collaboration between the artist-in-residence and the studio staff. Hopefully my friends who are on the studio staff could give us a tour of what they are working on! Depending on our energy levels, we could go to another show at the Philadelphia Museum of Art or the Institute of Contemporary Art. For dinner, we would have Kalaya, the best Thai food I have ever had. Finally, we would wrap up the day with whiskey sours and dancing at the Trestle Inn, a wonderful bar with go-go dancers and funk music!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would like to shout out my late mother, Małgorzata Borowska Link, and grandmother (Babcia), Halina Borowska, for their legacy of strength and resilience. I also want to shout out some other incredible artists that I feel lucky enough to also call close friends: Stephanie Concepcion Ramirez, Ali Shrago-Spechler, Anika Steppe, and Deborah Moss Marris. And finally, I want to recognize all survivors of intergenerational trauma and sexual assault who persevere silently among the masses.
Melanie Bernier Anika Steppe Stephanie Concepcion Ramirez Constance Mensh