Linda Mieko Allen was born in Osaka, Japan. She received her B.F.A. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and attended Rhode Island School of Design, Providence. She has received painting residencies from Bogliasco Foundation, Italy; Demis Center for Contemporary Arts, Omaha, Nebraska; Djerassi Resident Artists Grant, Woodside, California; MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, New Hampshire; Roswell Foundation, New Mexico; The Ucross Foundation, Clearmont, Wyoming; and Weir Farm Trust, Wilton, Connecticut. She also received a Pollock-Krasner Award, New York.
Each of Allen’s exhibitions focuses around a theme or conceptual framework. “Territories,” the work of the past two years, examines states of transition, transformation and boundaries. After moving to Western Massachusetts from California, the artist’s work was bound to shift and change. Leaving behind her “Fractional” series which addressed the concept of building a system of small elements that make a whole, Allen jumped into a new life, a new studio, a new geographic environment, a new weather system. With this dramatic shift in her life, comes a dramatic shift in her work.
For the first time, Allen resides in a more rugged landscape; she also has easy access to marble quarries. The presence of this new material—marble dust—provoked a new approach to the painting surface, always a key part of any Allen painting. Allen writes of her work: “I have been intrigued with the marble quarries since I moved to North Adams, Massachusetts; I longed to use marble dust in my work, an ideal vehicle for my experimentation and execution. I enjoy that it is mined in the area. Using local marble dust, graphite bound with polymer, encaustic and photo/drawings in an inlaid technique, the work emerges with a rich physicality of surface and organic/geometric qualities, and a presence that comes from layering in a delicate and force balance, simplicity and complexity coexisting.”
Allen builds her paintings on wood panels with many layers of glazes and varnish, creating an organic lacquer-like surface, seductive and mysterious in appearance. While primarily abstract in nature, Allen often incorporates imagery, which she alters and inlays into the painting’s surface. She covers her dream-like images with wax encaustic, revealing and concealing transparent passages in the painting’s opaque shining surface.
The juxtaposition of transparent and opaque give the viewer a sense of what lies beneath the surface skin, a sense of discovery. In her new work, Allen imbeds images of houses, abstract masses of land, shifting planes, whirls of smoke, tiny morphing figures, referencing themes of some of her earlier work.