Taking an X-acto knife to pulp-fiction paperback books from the 1940s and ’50s, he cuts, crimps, creases, and converts.
“I love the drama that was painted on these faces and the range of emotions,” says Thomas Allen. “A lot of the book covers had nothing to do with the story; they were just eye candy to get people to buy the books.”
He’ll discuss and show slides of his clever work, explain how one makes a living at this, and sign copies of his book, Uncovered (“kind of a board book for grown ups”), from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday in the Franciscan Center Theatre at Lourdes University in Sylvania. The free event is the third in the annual Sr. Jane Mary Sorosiak Lecture Series.
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view images
Allen, 50, slices and dices often-salacious characters from campy book covers, snipping them out of their original context, and putting them together with a different cast. Figures might be climbing stairs cut out of a book, or appearing to be falling off of a paperback’s cover. Presto! New juxtapositions, new story. He then photographs the witty diorama.
Allen has drawn covers for three James Ellroy crime-fiction books and the retro cover for Laura Rider’s Masterpiece by Wisconsin novelist Jane Hamilton. He’s done illustrations for Harper’s, Vanity Fair, O magazine, and the Wall Street Journal. Last year, he was commissioned to create pieces for the new Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children’s Center at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. Using copies of Stuart Little, The Phantom Toll Booth, and Hoops, he cut out characters and inspirational or humorous quotes before rearranging and photographing them in color.
A full-time artist since 2004, he works out of his home in rural Coloma, Mich., north of Benton Harbor near Lake Michigan, where he lives with his wife, an architect, and 9-year-old, home-schooled daughter.
This spring, he’s curating an intriguing exhibit featuring photographers who “make” pictures before taking them: a type of still life.
“I am only seeking work by artists who create photographic tableaux — images that display some sort of hand work (cutting, breaking, folding, painting, mowing…). While there is nothing wrong with pictures of flowers in a vase, people making funny faces, or tilt/shift landscapes that create the illusion of miniature dioramas, they don’t ‘push the envelope’ far enough,” he says on his Web site.
The show will be in the Lubeznik Center for the Arts in Michigan City, Ind., May 18 to July 28.
To see Allen’s work, check thomasallenonline.com. He’s also on Pinterest.
For information about his talk, contact 419-517-8940 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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