I was super excited for a chance to read the book, Shaping Destiny and review it for all of you. The personal memoir follows Destiny Allison, a sculpture artist, on the path of self discovery, from her first attempts at clay sculpture to finished pieces cast in bronze. Along the way, Destiny Allison shares lessons for art and life, about looking at the volume, shape, and mass of both sculptures and relationships. While this isn’t usually a genre I read, I was thrilled for the chance to peek at the process of a woman defying gender stereotypes to succeed in the male dominated metal sculpture field.
Her bio describes her as, “an artist, a business woman and a writer. Her work is collected by public institutions and private individuals internationally. In addition to her numerous awards for excellence in art, she was also recently named Santa Fe Business Woman of the year for 2011. . . She is also a managing partner in La Tienda at Eldorado — a commercial complex, community center, and arts center in Santa Fe, NM. She is represented in prominent galleries across the country and owns her own gallery, Destiny Allison Fine Art, located at La Tienda” (Allison Bio) But her writing reveals her as so much more than a list of accomplishments. Allison is an engaging and passionate writer whose words pull you into and through the story.
In truth though, Shaping Destiny is more than one woman’s journey to become an artist, it is a peek into the process that all artists take. Allison’s struggles to balance the demands of personal life and the demands of her art reveal the ways in which we all struggle for balance. Her unique sculptures serve as reflections on those issues–husbands who want June Cleaver wives, kids in need of constant attention, memories and experiences that haunt and terrify long after they’ve passed, and above all, the drive to create that keeps you from sleep in the middle of the night. Her experiences might be personal, but Allison’s lessons are universal. “Stages of Revulsion,” the places when a particular piece reaches a block, are something all crafters and artists experience. Allison says, “When I first started working with sculpture, I couldn’t get beyond them. each time I experienced a block I abandoned the piece, put it on a shelf, and started a new one. Then, as the pieces got more complex, I learned how to work through the first, second, and up to the eleventh stages of revulsion until I worked a piece to death and then some. “Killing” a piece is some times the only way to make it come to life. I had to work through whatever idea I was struggling with until it took on a form and life of its own” (Allison 38). The advice, continuing to work even when it is a struggle, echoes in the lives of all successful artists. It only through perseverance over those moment that art comes to life.
Allison doesn’t have all of the answers, but her process and methods that she uses to reach conclusions about the balance of life and art give a starting place for artists struggling on their own and a sense of community within a solitary field. Allison’s words and messages are simple, but the personal wrestling that comes with experiencing them through her eyes is where the value lies.
The only thing I wished for while reading the book was more pictures. Allison describes all of her statues in detail, the mass, the form, the ideas that shape them, but I constantly wanted to see and compare the ideas and the sculptures for myself. Luckily there are several images on her website, Shaping Destiny, that allow the reader to fully grasp the beauty of her sculptures and her struggles.
I fully recommend this book for all artists, male and female, who are fighting through their own path and destiny. Allison’s work may not have the answers, but she’ll teach you how to ask the right questions. You can learn more about Destiny Allison and find out where to pick up a copy of the book at her website Shaping Destiny.
(Ed. note: I was not paid to write this review, only offered a chance to read the book. All opinions expressed therein are my own.)
By Rosie Bromberg