From the sea to the brilliant solar system

January 13 – Details

— Rick Allen: Rockets

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—Blue Rain Gallery, 544 Guadalupe Street.

-505-954-9902, blueraingallery.com

Rick Allen’s work seems to have been captured, in motion, from the seas or skies of a distant planet in a vertical dimension.

On the Kuiper Run glass sculpture, metal tentacles rise to meet a bulbous crest that could be a creature’s head or a marine craft’s control surface, with portals on all sides resembling large eyes and fortified windows. The glass-and-silver Zonitoidia Freerider is similarly mysterious, with a large opening near the front that could be an animal’s mouth or a window to new worlds for amazed explorers.

“There’s a little Jules Verne mixed in with a little Buck Rogers and that kind of thing, which I really loved when I was younger,” says Allen, 55, of his sci-fi roots. Buck Rogers began as a comic strip in 1929, with the story set 500 years in the future appearing in two television series, a movie, and a video game. Allen says he appreciates the sometimes humorous nostalgia for past visions of the future, including visions of space travel decades before they become reality.

In recent years, the sea has joined space as a border for Allen’s inspiration. Most of the pieces at Blue Rain Gallery, where his Rockets exhibition continues, look as if they are right at home in either.

“I think it reflects more of my connection to the environment and my love of being in the water,” says the avid gardener and kayaker.

Allen and his wife, Shelly Mozilowski-Allen, live and work in rural Skagit County, Washington. The many smaller islands between the US mainland and Canada’s picturesque Vancouver Island offer plenty of sea views and inspiring boatloads. (You can find both Allens’ work at Blue Rain.)

“We live a long way from the San Juan Islands, and it’s beautiful,” he says. “So I feel more and more [environmentally] Connected – and more and more anxiety. “

This concern is reflected in Jupiter Juniper, which stands out from the rest of his Santa Fe work. It consists of two legs supporting a glass globe containing a tree, presumably for preservation purposes, which Allen hopes will be the first in a series of similar pieces with more serious messages.

He got the idea from the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, a non-profit organization that aims to reforest the planet with the descendants of ancient trees and archive the genes of ancient trees.

“It’s in Northern California, and they actually go up to the tops of these trees and make cuttings, then root them, propagate them and … move them up north so they have a chance to survive as things get hotter and drier in California,” says Allen.

Jupiter Juniper might remind some of the 1972 sci-fi movie Silent Run, which features a spaceship carrying large geodesic domes full of plant life from a dying Earth. This movie was a warning about environmental irresponsibility, with its main character prioritizing the preservation of nature over the lives of his fellow crew members.

Allen laughs happily at the reference to the connection, saying the film points exactly in the direction he wants to take his art.

He grew up near a different sea, in Rhode Island, and graduated from Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire. Allen moved to Washington state in 1995, where he accepted a job as a teaching assistant at the Pilchuck Glass School, co-founded by glass-art innovator Dale Chihuly. The school was in the middle of a 6,000-acre wooded plantation, Allen says, and the landscaping quickly made an impression.

In 2018, Allen was named the Imagine Museum’s Artist of the Future—a recognition of the quality and nature of his work, not an anticipation of his longevity.

As for his relationship with Blue Rain, he says the gallery was primarily focused on contemporary indigenous art when it began showing there 15 years ago. He enjoyed the juxtaposition of those pieces and his own, saying that they “really work in a way”.

Allen describes himself as a pack rat who often finds things to carry home while exploring. Between art and found objects, the Allens’ home can quickly get cluttered. But there is a hidden benefit.

“Sometimes, later on, you can really look at something differently,” he says. “It opens up something completely separate from the original thought process. Something completely new emerges, and I really like that.”

Allen was born in 1967 and notes that this happened during the height of the “space race” between the United States and the Soviet Union. He says he has far more ideas than he could possibly complete in a lifetime, and notes that a lifetime has brought a healthy dose of practicality to his passions.

“I think as I get older, I don’t have that kind of flow of ideas all the time, but I still have a really creative mind,” he says.

Allen doesn’t expect that to change.

“I like being very physical and doing things, but I know that at some point my body is going to be limited,” he says of the aging process. “And I can see that there are still a lot of options, because I still love to draw. At a minimum, this is something I should be able to do until the last days.”

Allen and his wife work with glass, toiling in adjoining studios in the same house. Allen says they make sure to keep workplaces separate — and to avoid working constantly.

One can see Jupiter Juniper – the preserved tree in the glass – as a possible vestige of a dystopian future. Allen no.

“This piece is very hopeful to me,” he says. “We’re always talking about how we’re going to go to Mars and create this world for ourselves so we can survive.” “It’s like, what about all these other things that we’re destroying? So maybe there’s technology that drives it or adapts it in some weird technical way.”

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