Nest, 2008, ceramic, 18 x 28 x 28”
Float, 2008, ceramic, 18 x 28 28”
Career Ladder, 2007, glazed ceramic, 11 x 24 x 10”
Out of Hand, 2007, glazed ceramic, 9 x 23 x 19”
Pair, 2008, ceramic, 10 x 5 x 6” each piece
Meaning, in the sense of the probing for inner significance and value within one’s self and also within the greater context of the world, plays a predominant role of the work of Von Allen. In fact, it may be said that it is its raison d’être. It has been said that great art is borne of great pain - or at least of great struggle. This if a fair approximation of the life experiences that have served as a brooding pond for Allen’s work. An avid reader, lecturer, and student of philosophy and psychology, she is well versed in many prevalent ideas in contemporary and traditional thought. She has found particular relevance in the writings of C.G. Jung, Ernest Becker and Otto Rank. Allen explains, “ As human beings we must feel that we have primary value as individuals. We reach and extend ourselves in a grasp at cosmic significance and unshakable meaning. It doesn’t matter whether our cultural hero system is magical, religious, primitive, scientific, civilized or secular. It is only necessary that it serves us and enables us to earn a sense of ultimate usefulness to creation. It must offer us a way to transcend our vulnerabilities and human limitations.”
“In this sense, everything humankind does is religious and heroic. But tell anyone that they are striving for the heroic life and they will blush and shudder. They may simply want to buy a little bigger house, a nicer car, or have brighter children. But underneath it all is the throbbing ache for cosmic specialness.”
“Living as a warm human body on a planet in space in a galaxy we can only vaguely understand, our world extends from the gnat buzzing in our ears to the whir of the cosmos. In this spectrum of Global existence and possibility, rich with bodily experiences and the hummings of our inner lives, humankind searches for the warm sense of inner value and basic security.”
The figures and images that Allen creates are loosely figurative, though not necessarily narrative. They do not, for example, illustrate certain colloquial events, though these are certainly a piece of the fabric of experience - but are more or less containers or symbols of archetypal understanding. Access to these works rely more upon tapping into, as Jung would say, the collective unconscious - that inner universal connectedness that all humankind is proposed to share as a common unifying primal linkage.
Allen relates that over the past year or so, five of her close friends have died. These un-looked for events coming so much earlier in life than anticipated press forcefully the tentative nature of life upon those who remain. This mid-life questioning of the meaning and purpose of existence have become a focal point of investigation in her work. “The black figural series of a few years ago was about personal growth, the role of the Jungian shadow, or denied self, and the importance of dreams,” says Allen. “The new work sparkles with passion and renewed commitment. It is more optimistic and yet still dreamy and introspective. It recognizes the importance of humor and the need to detach. While the shadow series was about understanding the past and facing death, my current work hints at a desire to believe in magic and the need to live in the now.”
When asked what she thinks she is most proud of in her career, Von immediately responds - “my students.” For over 23 years, Von Allen has been the backbone of the ceramics program at Brigham Young University. When she was hired she was charged to build a credible program, and set to work building just that. Her students have gone on to win many awards and position among which include: full time faculty appointments at universities and community colleges, graduate fellowships at Washington University (MO), Tyler School of Art (PA), Ohio State University (OH), School of the Art Institute of Chicago (IL), Assistantship to Southern Illinois University (IL), Some of her students are now represented in museum collections in the eastern US, and a regular winners of national ceramic competition awards. Allen created a unique and highly energized studio program at the university that was and is a seed-bed of creativity and synergy.
For her own part, Von Allen has been an active participant in national exhibitions as well as presenting papers and lectures in many venues. She has exhibited extensively across the United States. Among her exhibitions are: Craft Art Western New York 2006, The Museum for Western new York Arts, Burchfield-Penny Center, Buffalo State College, Buffalo, NY; Convergence, 2004, South Carolina State Museum, Columbia, SC.; The Southeastern College Art Conference Group Award for Outstanding Exhibition and Catalogue of Contemporary Materials for the Convergence exhibition; National Council on education in Ceramic art (NCECA) Clay National, 1997, Juried, Marjorie Barrick Museum of Natural History, Las Vegas NV.; Ceramics USA, 1996, National Juried, North Texas University, Denton, TX - among many other exhibitions.
Her constant vigilance in matters of philosophical relevance to artistic concerns has gained her a broad reputation as a significant contributor in the national discourse of contemporary arts.
A native of Union City, Pennsylvania, she attended Edinboro University of Pennsylvania receiving a Bachelors and Masters of Science in art education (1976). In 1970, she spent a year studying philosophy at the University of Liverpool in England. In 1983 Allen completed a Master of Fine Arts degree at Syracuse University (NY), and subsequently started teaching at BYU. Allen was a guest artist at Glasgow College of Art in Scotland (1991), and received a 6 month residency grant at the Banff Center for the Arts in Alberta, Canada.