Danny Allen’s art always challenges the viewer. Sometimes it was lyrical, comforting and lovely—sometimes it was almost confrontational and disturbing. But that was the nature of the range of his art. Dan could abstract the face or figure, or he could faithfully adhere to standard views of the figure. But when he chose to abstract figures, he was able to breathe more mystery and personality into the art. Will all his watercolor and India ink work, there was almost never an under-sketch in pencil. Dan had kind of an Asian arts confidence when he lifted a brush full of color or ink. This is a rendering of a middle aged suburban couple. I don’t see a physical resemblance to either of his parents, but the piece was recently discovered in his late mother’s home.
A watercolor by my late partner, Danny Allen, surfaced while Dan’s sisters were going through their late mother’s home. It had fallen behind a dresser, and appears to never have been touched by light in forty years. Dan’s sister Jacquelyn Davis just texted it to me. It’s done in watercolor and India ink on Manila paper. 11″x14″. It’s beautiful!!! And I just love it!
That said, last year I was contacted by an old friend from my college days telling me he had two of Danny Allen’s figure sketches that he wanted me to have. It’s nearly a year later, but my old friend, Ken Knovac was passing though Philadelphia, and at long last delivered these two wonderful figure croquies.
I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do with them—but most likely I’ll give them to Danny Allen’s family.
Before anyone jumps all over me, Diana Wilber herself claimed to be a witch. This is not a value judgement or slur on our beloved hippie earth mother. That was how Diana defined herself.
My dear friend (and superb photographer) Eva Weiss came across these photos of Danny and Diana while shuffling through old negatives looking for a whole different set of images. Eva sent these to me this morning with an apology for not having discovered them prior to publication of the book. No apologies are necessary. We’re talking about people and incidents that took place four decades ago. And as I’ve maintained all along, artwork and images of Danny will continue to surface now that the book has been published.
The photo captures the way I recall Danny as looking from day to day. So often when Dan got in front of the camera he put something odd on his head–but this series of photographs captures both he and Diana as I remember them in my mind’s eye. Eva pointed out in her email, for me to me to take note of the adoring expression Diana has while glancing down and Danny. Like everyone else, Diana was smitten with our enigmatic Dan.
It’s an odd sensation to see old photos of loved ones who were our contemporaries and finding that they really do look like old photos. Some of that is Eva’s retro-esthetic in how she approaches photography–but some of it is the bleary eyed distance of time.
Danny Allen’s sister, Chris reminded me the other day that it’s been one year since the launch of An Early Work Late in Life. Today is St. Patrick’s Day–and one year ago today Chris, along with a great number of Dan’s and my friends from our Rochester days were on our way to a reception to honor the book and remember Danny (as if any of us who knew him could ever forget).
The book has been a personal milestone for me in that it recalls other early milestones of my youth shared with Danny. In honor of Dan (and St. Patrick’s day) I’m posting these two photos that weren’t used in the book, but are worth sharing. We won’t go into what Dan appears to be doing in these pictures–but I think we all know. He will always be loved and missed. But at the same time, many of us feel more of a sense of resolution now that a portion of Dan’s life has been documented. I still love you, Dan–even after all these years.
A limited number of books have surfaced. And while I’d like to hang on to a good number of them, I now have more than plenty to keep on file. I’d been under the impression that all the books were gone–but four cartons were discovered and delivered to me this past week. I haven’t opened the cartons yet to inventory them–but I believe there are approximately 24 books to a carton. Once those books are gone, that will be all.
I will not be reprinting An Early Work Late in Life but I’m still planning on digitizing it in the near future (when I get my act together). It has been a hectic and scattered year. Meanwhile, If anyone would like a printed copy, please contact me through this blog–or send a check for $34 payable to: William Whiting at 223 South Delhi Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107. (Note: The books are $29.95 plus $4.05 for shipping and handling.)
Two 1973 croquis sketches by Danny Allen have just surfaced. For anyone unfamiliar with the term “croquis” it’s an arts term that means “quick figure drawing.” Sometimes in art classes a model will be hired to hold a series of short poses and the students will try and capture the attitude of the figure within a limited, set time period. Dan was particularly good at producing drawings of this sort. I’ve returned a sketchbook to the Allen family containing similar drawings–and I’m reasonably sure these are from that same sketch pad. I don’t believe these were done in a classroom setting, but probably at home. Friends posed for Dan. I certainly did–and I was sometimes startled to discover that Dan was merely referencing the figure and would change the gender to suit his purposes.
I was going through my junk-email today, and was about to dump all the spam messages when a name from the past jumped out at me from the subject line. I decided to open the message out of curiosity to see if by any chance it was the same person I’d lost touch with decades ago–and indeed it was. The most surprising part of the message were two attachment photos of the drawings featured in this post. The drawings had surfaced among my friend’s stored belongings while he was in the process of moving, and he was writing to tell me he was sending them back to me.
Apparently his new fiancee’s family take a dim view of any kind of nudity, so he was never going to be able to display the art. He’d heard through mutual friends that I’d written a book about Danny Allen, so he decided to send the drawings to me rather than burying them over again in storage. I don’t see anything shocking or erotic about either piece, but if nothing else, art is subjective. I’m just glad to have them sent my way. I want to check out their condition and then send them along to the Allen family for their collection. You never know what will turn up–especially with someone who’d been as prolific and creative as Danny Allen.