Seager Gray Gallery presents “Minding Paint,” a one-person exhibition of paintings by Leslie Allen. The exhibition will run from April 1 through April 30, 2023 with a reception for the artist on Sunday, April 16 from 4 to 6 pm.
Leslie Allen’s paintings are a testament to a life immersed in culture. The paintings contain deft references to art history, literature and an abiding love of music. A cello player, Allen’s most lyrical paintings surely take their cue from music. She paints with an ear for rhythm, tone and a love of subtle crescendos of movement and form. She shares Kandinsky’s belief in hearing as well as seeing as a way to make art. “Form itself,” said Kandinsky, “even if completely abstract … has its own inner sound.”
Allen approaches the canvas without preconceived notions and allows the process to guide her through the painting. She immerses herself in the development of the painting as it occurs, responding to every mark with a keenly developed improvisational style. Allen relishes the pure color and movement of oil paint on the surface. She has worked out her own visual language through years of experimentation and exploration. These paintings are sophisticated, with a keen sense of color, gesture and division of space.
“I set out to make art and simply do it by moving through it. I tell stories by way of quirky cartoons, moody landscapes, gestural figures, and large juicy abstract oil paintings, each revealing something about relationships, weather, attitudes, or just textures and the nature of paint,” says Allen, “Making art is the way I gather in the world around me, draw on my own history, use the language of the materials, and concoct fiction that might just happen to resonate with others.”
Her works Ainadamar I and II(Fountain of Tears) reference the first opera by composer Osvaldo Golijov, with the title referring to The Fountain of Tears, a natural spring in Granada, where poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca was executed in 1936.
Born in Alamogordo, New Mexico, and raised in El Paso, Texas along the Rio Grande, Allen places the river at the core of her early sensory and emotional connections. The Rio Grande unites two nations as a troubled symbol of endless challenges and possibilities, and she regards this twin identity as a metaphor for much of what she has encountered and generated in her life and art. “Long intrigued by the effects of farming, mining, fires, floods and other natural and human ravages, I am concerned about nature,” she says, “including the nature of people toward each other.” These concerns run deep and fuel her passions, as reflected in her paintings, styles and processes.
Allen’s visual memories derive from her early environment. “From the raging Rio del Norte, the grand and mysterious Franklin Mountains, the renowned brilliance of the southwestern sun on the high desert, blackest nights with whitest stars, quivering sea of colorful lights in Mexico across the river, relentless windstorms lasting entire seasons, flash floods, scorched earth, intoxicating petrichor, rain-fragrant creosote, military machinery overhead and all around and desert vastness for endless miles – all of these things are part of my visual vocabulary,” she explains –“ Throw in some spicy food and music, boldly painted houses, cotton fields turned stucco communities, wild-westerners, legendary hats and handmade boots, handed-down traditions, liberal freedoms, fluid borders, scenic ridge luminarias, and California calling.”
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