McKenzie Fine Art is pleased to commence the new year with an exhibition of recent drawings and sculptures by Julie Allen. This will be the artist’s fourth solo showing with the gallery. The exhibition opens Friday, January 4th with a reception for the artist from 6 to 8 p.m. and concludes on Sunday, February 3, 2013.
Allen has long delved into her intimate childhood and family memories for inspiration and source material in her work. In her last exhibition, she created hand-sewn robotic toys made from vinyl and plastic which drew on her recollections of being raised in a southern California community dominated by the aerospace industry. In earlier exhibitions she examined the role of food, both in everyday and celebratory settings: elaborate cakes fashioned entirely from sewn-together balloons, or desserts and salads constructed of hand-sewn silk organza ingredients. Drawings in colored pencil have always played a role in her work as well, ranging from graceful depictions of sushi and sashimi dinners to memory drawings of every object she could recall from her grandmother’s home.
For the current exhibition, Allen shifted focus to her clothing and its role in her own life experiences, ranging in time from adolescence to the present. The exhibition primarily is comprised of drawings. These include three near-life-size colored pencil on vellum depictions of clothing items from her teen years. For the artist, these recall the childhood experience of receiving new matching play outfits with a beloved sibling, or seminal shopping excursions with her mother as symbols of the transformation into maturity. They also evoke burgeoning moments of independence: purchasing clothing as a teenager from the Esprit store after careful research through back issues of the magazine Seventeen, checked out from the local library.
Also included in the exhibition are over 100 miniature versions of items from Allen’s closet, as small as 2 or 3 inches and none larger than 6 or 7 inches. Allen made detailed rubber-stamps from her own pen and ink drawings of specific types of clothing, to use as templates for these works. After stamping the outline, each drawing was colored in with different patterns or tones, including pinstripes, florals, plaids, polka dots and solids, then cut out and encased in wax paper with tape, “for safe keeping.” Allen commenced this series shortly after her marriage, when her husband moved into her apartment and she offered him the front of her closet. Allen resolved the disorientation she felt at seeing the stripes and solids of a man’s clothing displacing her own items, which were arranged by color, effectively re-creating her original closet with these labor-intensive but lovingly executed works.
Allen also made life-size portraits of her underwear for the exhibition, “in response to having my husband to appreciate them.” She began this series with colored pencil on paper or vellum, but moved on to making more vivid full-scale replicas fashioned from Saran Wrap and Magnatag chart tape, replete with lacy embellishments and moveable straps. These pieces continue Allen’s longstanding practice of using commonplace and household materials to meticulously fashion her sewn sculptures, but she notes, “I have traded in the longing of innocence for the deliciousness of love.”