From childhood, Alice Aycock aspired to an artistic life. Inspired by stories told by her grandmother, which she later learned had their source in Gulliver's Travels, Aycock thought at first she would like to be a writer, but her interests shifted to the visual arts before she was twenty. Her sculptural-architectural sensibility was undoubtedly encouraged by her father, a construction engineer. As a child she watched him design and construct a scale model of a house he then built. Aycock's mother was especially supportive of her daughter's career; and one of the artist's first site pieces, Low Building with Dirt Roof (for Mary) (1973), was built with her mother's help on family property near New Kingston, Pennsylvania.
Aycock went to Douglass College in New Brunswick, New Jersey (B.A. 1968), then moved to New York and attended Hunter College (M.A. 1971), where Robert Morris was her teacher and adviser. She traveled intermittently, visiting sites in the American Southwest (Great Kivas), Greece and Turkey (Knossos, Epidaurus, Mycenaea), England and Mexico (Aztec temple at Malinaleo). Her Master's thesis, "An Incomplete Examination of the Highway Network/User/Perceiver Systems," was inspired in part by the underground passageways of the Mycenaean tholos tombs and the labyrinthine corridors of the ancient ruins at Knossos.
Aycock's early works were site-specific structures, constructed of wood, stone, and earth, that drew heavily on childhood memories but were also rich with allusions to ancient history and architecture. In the late 1970s her sources expanded to include literary references, often accompanied by cryptic, elusive texts. During the 1980s the work incorporated steel and other components evoking industry, which reflected her investigations into the power and poetry of the machine and the mystery of metaphysical forces.
In addition to her work at Graphicstudio, Aycock has also worked at Tandem Press at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has produced screenprints in Chicago with John W. Roberts, and at Ohio University. A sculpture edition, Celestial Alphabet (1983), was published by Multiples, Inc., New York. She has been visiting artist at various institutions, including the University of South Florida, Hunter College, Williams Colleges, Rhode Island School of Design, Princeton University, and the San Francisco Art Institute.
Aycock has created installations throughout the world, including Israel, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, and Japan, and at numerous locations in the United States, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1977), the San Francisco Art Institute (1979), Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1983), Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, Lincoln, Nebraska (1985), State University of New York, Buffalo (1988), Altantic Arts Center, New Smyrna Beach, Florida (1989), and the Storm King Art Center, Mountainville, New York (1990). In 1983 a retrospective exhibition was organized by the Württembergischer Kunstverein and traveled in Germany, The Netherlands, and Switzerland. (Fine/Corlett 1991, 145)