Syntax Issue 10
Denver Syntax

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If you spell “sexy” backwards you will find a version of the affirmative, “yes” (or “yxes” if you’re a stickler for spelling). This is not said in jest. Really: somewhere in-between this odd play on words you will discover the foundation of meaning in Allie Pohl’s creative flood.

How many times have you wondered what goes-on behind that door adorned with that abstract shape of woman? If you’re a man, then you say, many times? Luckily for you, Allie Pohl has been working to open that door and to undo that bra clasp, to get us all a little bit closer to the inner world of woman.

In all, Pohl’s work is a giant mirror for the world that she sees around her. And while her words begin by playing with the surface tension of the watery world’s struggle with femininity – what is truly important is her ability to delve down below that surface toward the deeper portrayal of femininity. This is where Pohl’s work really swims, in these mysterious waters.

In one of her newer bodies of works, Pohl took photos of her knees and dress and underwear as she sat on toilets at trendy Los Angeles (where she currently lives) places. (For this boy) The tension on the surface is something to do with sexuality – but in the blue, neon water below so many more fish swim. In this wonderful series of photographs Pohl comments on that place, wholly mysterious to men, where women disappear to, for minutes on-end: the women’s bathroom. In these photos, Pohl has captured one of the most private, personal acts that a woman goes through. Men urinate in front of one another. Women, on the other hand, go inside a cubicle. Here is a place and space where the water thickens: in this precise moment where women are sitting on the porcelain to wait they have something men don’t – an explicit moment for self-reflection. A moment of pause. Of reset.

Her imagery is feminine. Clean. It’s a bit cheeky and playful but confounding. It is full of commentary on contemporary culture – on what it means to be a woman, for you and for the rest of the material world. Her work reaches deep into the armpit of Barbie’s sexuality in a playful and idiosyncratic manner, sprouting Chia Pets of hairy meaning through medium.

Sometimes, an artist’s education is not relative to their work. However, Pohl’s formal education speaks to the lengthening and diversification of her artistic brush. It explains a bit about why she uses so many mediums. At DU she gained her MFA in Electronic Media Arts and Design. At Parsons the New School for Design she received an AAS in Graphic Design. At Hamilton College she majored in Communications while minoring in Studio Art.

Through her experience, Pohl has amassed a vast library of commentary on pop culture and American society at-large. Created in porcelain, video, mirrors, photography and even jewelry, Pohl’s work sometimes looks more like a store’s catalog: vast. But her work remains cohesive and really even simple in its central aim and concept.

Fundamentally, Pohl is a product of her world, our world. And she’s not bashful about using these commonalities to launch her missiles of meaning. As a culture in contemporary times we are exposed to so many mediums. Pohl’s work reflects this. Pohl believes that ours is an ADD world. She recognizes that people learn in many ways. They see and feel the world in even more. As a known and real ideal, it follows that there are multitudes of different avenues to express one’s self.

We have Twitter, Facebook, the Internet, an ever-quickening pace of television. Wherever we go, we are flooded with images. We are drowned in pools of implicit and explicit ideologies. Today, we are exposed to evermore than we ever were. And while Pohl finds benefit in these technologies – in essence, all of these mediums have affected and aided her work – these new tools are also bullies. They push standards upon us: about what a woman should look like and what she should act like. Here is the intersection where Pohl’s work resonates.

A couple of years ago, her porcelain began this dialogue. She started with the midsection of Barbie. She called that blank canvas “Virginal”. She then commented on the female shape by creating a series of porcelain legs. She pushed that into a conversation of the ideal woman and body hair. Here, her porcelain Barbie pieces sprouted like Chia Pets: organic, plant material under the arms, on the legs, in the pubic region. Pohl extended this narrative by using Astroturf on her now-staple porcelain midsection.

Pohl has placed keywords from online dating onto mirrors. She has put her viewers in rooms to face the ideal woman’s measurements: 36-24-36. She has reflected this perfected imagery of woman in the ubiquitous ideology of the white picket fence. She created jewelry with the logo of woman on it. Like a kind of graffiti artist, Pohl has plastered her form of femininity in every corner of her work. She has illuminated it in neon and grew it out to six-feet tall. She has looped it in video.

The point here is in the repetition. In the ubiquity of the standard of what it means to be a woman. The standard that lives in the Times Square of every city, every television ad and internet banner.

We are all meaning making machines, processing, computing, arranging. Unfortunately, much of what we’re repeatedly shown in our shared popular culture, in standard and form – doesn’t elevate these skills to virtue. But if you look somewhere between Allie Pohl’s tease on the shiny, mirror world and you’ll find the kind of affirmation and conversation that you’ll need, right between “sexy” and “yes”.