Leslie Allen is an American painter from El Paso, TX, and the Rio Grande borderland is the root of her sensory and emotional connections. Allen regards the river as a symbol of two nations united by endless challenges and possibilities, and its twin identity as a metaphor for her own challenge resolutions in life. Allen experienced the effects of ranching, mining, drilling, floods, fires, and other natural and human ravages, including people toward each other. In painting, she teases out the sort of thrill and terror she felt when young, as an athlete jumping hurdles, rodeo barrel-racing, climbing trees and mountains, running as if for life, academic pressures, adolescence, and early motherhood. Memories crop up in her work as scrambled sensations of crimson sunrises, blistering heat, Chihuahuan desert flora, blackest nights, quivering energy of Ciudad Juárez across the river, brutal dust storms, heart-stopping thunder, iron-earthy Franklin Mountains, haunted canyons, intoxicating petrichor, rain-fragrant creosote, polluting refineries, jet-filled skies, land-roving military, fluid border crossings, mariachis, fire-hot food, roadrunners, spelling bees, and California beckoning.
Allen’s first California exhibit of her delicate watercolors was at the US Courthouse in San Diego, where she worked as a deputy courtroom clerk. She studied graphic design and pre-law before moving to the Bay area, and while working at George Lucas’ film company, she had the rare and pivotal chance to commune with his burgeoning art collection. Allen describes that as the kick-start to her many years of art studies. Allen credits her trifecta of most inspiring teachers as Mark Adams (master watercolorist, tapestry and stained glass designer), Thomas Marsh (classical figure sculptor), and Chester Arnold (illusionistic oil painter). It was Arnold, her decades-long mentor, who urged her to paint in oils. From then, Allen shot for the sun with full-blown expressive abstraction.
Allen’s style is improvisational, and she allows music to drive her painting action with brushes, knives, brayers, blades, and outstretched arms. Her paintings differ as her music tastes do, but she connects them in the way her borderland is a uniquely admixed culture. She draws upon all of it, and relates her geometric paintings to lyrical ones, as well as her figurative works and monotypes. Many of Allen’s paintings are inspired by years of trips in small planes, especially in the California and Mississippi Deltas. Most essential is Allen’s regard for music and painting as interdependent. After a 50-year break, Allen circled back to music studies she had swapped for sports as a child, and she plays cello in the College of Marin Symphony Orchestra. Allen hopes to explore expressive abstraction on cello in some way that rhymes with her progression as an artist.
“Leslie’s ignition was brilliant, and the subsequent years of work have continued to amaze and delight lovers of ‘high-octane’ abstraction.”
~Chester Arnold, illusionistic oil painter
“Allen’s works are sophisticated paintings with a keen sense of color, gesture and division of space. Clearly influenced by California painters Richard Diebenkorn and Frank Lobdell, Allen’s lyrical sense and gestural marks also relate her work to the New York abstractionists, especially the paintings of Joan Mitchell.”
~Donna Seager, gallerist
Leslie Allen lives and works in Sausalito CA, and is represented by Kennedy Contemporary (Newport Beach, CA) and Seager Gray Gallery (Mill Valley, CA). Her works reside in private and public collections throughout the United States, as well as in London (United Kingdom), Toulouse (France), Düsseldorf and Berlin (Germany), and Bern (Switzerland).
Allen has long maintained dual careers in art and law, and she is an amateur cellist.