By pressing the glowing thorax of a housebound dragonfly,
the mid-morning silence of the cul-de-sac in sunny Pasadena was lightly broken by a doubling of tones.
The lit-up doorbell’s buzzer felt like a sly, knowing nod to the beginning of a studio visit with painter Theodora Allen at her house, perched in the quiet hills of her hometown, last November.
The lithesome Allen greets me with her sweet, elderly chihuahua, Mimi, just behind her.
We descend into her studio on the lower level while her companion remains upstairs.
The space is warm and welcoming, wooden paneling and cabinetry with windows facing the back.
We settle in at a table that functions as her desk, surrounded by books and the accoutrements of artmaking.
Conversation refracts off stacked tomes featuring artists of the 19th century Arts and Crafts movement, Vienna Secession, Art Nouveau, ’60s California counterculture, the Pre-Raphaelites.
We pause to remember poet and songwriter David Berman, his recent suicide,
and his unique ability to tangle with emotional depth and sidelong introspection regarding contemporary life with both humor
and grace, a gift we both embraced and will miss.
Atop the stack lies a slim, elegant volume from 2013: Saint Laurent’s fall ready-to-wear invitation in the form of an artist’s book with 49 illustrations of paintings by Allen,
tapped for the opportunity by Hedi Slimane while she was still in her second year of the MFA program at UCLA.
The year following her graduation, her first major solo show was at LA’s powerhouse Blum & Poe, which continues to represent her.
Across the studio, some larger paintings are in process with new elements of large bolts, decorative moth screens, and blooming Datura motifs.
Her signature blue hues are met with a new steely grey of the fasteners and metal plates, the milky white of flowering side scrolls,
and a gentle rigidity amidst the tension of nature and the advancements of man.
Columns and barriers flanked by the trumpet night blooms seeking a pollinator whose form is etched into the decorative screen.
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