Danny Allen, 1972. A detail of a newly surfaced watercolor from the collection of Eva Weiss. The full image is inset as the subject material might not otherwise get past the “thought police.”
Previously undocumented artwork by Danny Allen keeps surfacing. Much of it is very psychological in nature, more often than not, focusing on gender identity. This particular watercolor is of a hydrocephalic drag queen with one club foot. It’s a troubling image to say the least.
Back when I was living with Dan, there was a limited theatrical release of the 1932 horror film classic, Freaks. Dan was influenced by that film. Most of the characters in the movie were real-life individuals with birth defects and various abnormalities that made the more physically fortunate among us extremely uncomfortable–which to some degree was the point. For some reason that film resonated with Dan and his fascination with all that is outside of our collective comfort zone.
One “freak” image already in the book depicts a pregnant man with an erection, and a bearded man/woman in a bikini. They appear to be playing ‘doctor’ as the figure to the viewer’s right is handing two pomegranates to the pregnant male/female figure to the left. Strawberries are floating on the wallpaper above the wainscoting behind the couple. There was green wainscoting in our first apartment with strawberries on fabric covering the walls in our the bathroom. To call the pieces in this post “unusual” is to employ understatement to the extreme.
Danny Allen, watercolor, ca. 1972. Collection of Adele F. McCarthy.
Another example of the “freak” series was located after the book went to press. This example shows a pair of Siamese twins in a polka dot bikini for two. The sisters are attached at the hip and the hairstyle.
I can only speculate about how the invention of these unusual figures resonated with Dan and his feelings of disenfranchisement. I believe Danny had very low self-esteem and identified with the outsiders he chose to conjure-up from his imagination. It’s only my opinion, as we’ll never know for sure, but I believe Dan felt profoundly out of place and misunderstood–bouncing back and forth from the bizarre to the beautiful and expressing it through his art.
This is the newly located piec in its entirety. I won’t be publishing it on the Kickstarter blog or on Facebook. I think it would generate too much controversy.
Pencil drawing attributed to Danny Allen. Unsigned and undated–probably from the late 1960s.
Work continues to surface, and I’m awaiting a scan of a watercolor from a collection in New York. Shortly before Danny Allen’s sister and brother in law came down to Philadelphia to collect up Dan’s portfolios, I went through them one last time to look at everything and make sure it was all in order. There was a small section of drawings that weren’t Dan’s. There were only a couple drawings in the folio that weren’t Danny’s work–but rather were things done by college friends of mine that had just somehow found their way into Dan’s portfolio. As I went to remove the pieces by other artists I took a closer look at a particualr piece I’d never before considered to be by Danny, but I’ve since changed my mind.
The piece is heavily influenced by another Rochester artist (also deceased) by the name of Ramon Santiago. Santiago had quite a following in the late 1960s and early 1970s. To the best of my knowledge Dan didn’t know Santiago personally–but it was difficult to escape his work, tt was literally everywhere. Ramon Santiago’s art had a “harlequin” quality with a dash of “Yellow Submarine.” This unfinished drawing also has that feeling, but very much in Danny’s hand. However, it was the poem off to the right that makes me think this is one of Dan’s pieces. The poem is written in the abstract jabberwocky style he favored, so I included it with the art being returned to the Allen family. To the best of my ability, this is what I believe the handwriting says:
Digitally darkened detail of the face and animal.
If she rises from
a half shell
she rises with
glow and forth luck
and some time.
He falls from the
Other half shell.
Note: Other poems by Danny Allen reference Botticelli’s ‘Venus” but I don’t see the relationship to the drawing itself. The drawing looks to me like a man wearing a helmet and the start of a pony or unicorn off to the viewer’s lower right.
Danny Allen, watercolor of Bill Whiting, unsigned and undated, ca. 1972.
I had a wonderful visit with Dan’s sister, Christine and her husband, Art. We had a very specific agenda–to return almost all of Danny work to the Allen family. I’ve asked to keep three pieces that have a particular sentimental value for me, but I now consider those pieces to be on loan from the Allen family. The piece shown above is currently at the framer. Chris and I discussed trying to put together a retrospective of Dan’s work, but no particular location has been selected. Christine likes to cut mats, so she certainly has her work cut out for her–there are a lot of pieces of art to be matted and framed.
I greatly enjoyed my time with Chris and Art, and I loved getting to walk them from pillar to post showing them the historic sites here in Philadelphia. I only live a couple blocks away from some of the most famous places in early American history.
Danny Allen, India ink on newsprint, 1973.
But back to Dan’s art… One of Dan’s pieces that I’m particularly fond of is a drawing of an Egyptian done in India ink on newsprint. That piece has a hairline tear down the middle, and I’d like to keep it at least until I’ve found a proper paper conservator to repair the damage. It doesn’t show while in the frame, but the tear was discovered when I unframed it to have it photographed for the book. I’m not sure what a conservator will do, but I’m thinking they would most likely add a fine linen backing or something similar to strengthen the brittle old paper. This piece took a very circuitous route to find it’s way back into my hands after a series of different owners. That story is covered in the book.
Danny Allen, unsigned and undated, ca. 1974.
The final piece I’m keeping for the time-being is an unfinished acrylic of a young man kissing a orchid. I’ve always loved this painting, and have it framed in a lined shadowbox so the painting itself floats as if hovering in midair.
Handing over Dan’s art back to his family is another giant step in healing and moving forward–and long overdue. I believe the final puzzle piece for my own personal bucket list of accomplishments would be a retrospective of Dan’s art. we’ll find a way to make it happen.
Danny Allen, non-objective, acrylic on canvas – 23 1/4″ x 31″”. Further information about this piece will be posted as it becomes available.
I knew the book would become a conduit for locating other artworks by Danny Allen.
I’m very excited to announce that another of Danny’s paintings has surfaced. This piece, a rather large non-objective color-field painting with graphic lines is part of a private collection in Woodstock, New York. It was originally purchased by a Rochester designer who later gifted it to his sister. When the sister became aware of the book, she came forward with the piece she owns so that our records of Dan’s art might be that much more complete. This piece is particularly special, as it’s one of Dan’s larger works. (I’m waiting for a return reply as to the exact measurements, but it’s an acrylic and about 30″ x 40″.) This will most certainly be included in a second printing of the book. I’m not going to further “tumble” the book design as art by Danny Allen surfaces–but rather add to the addendum at the back of the book.
If anyone reading this blog knows of the whereabouts of any other pieces by Danny Allen, please contact me here at the blog–or on Facebook under the page for An Early Work Late in Life.
My life long friend, Susan Moliken (seated left) and me, looking dazed while waiting to give my reading and PowerPoint presentation in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Photo courtesy of Cade Gibson.
This past weekend I had a reading and book signing at PROUD Bookstore in Rehoboth, Delaware. PROUD is a small venue, but a few loyal readers and friends stopped by for wine, cheese and a reading. I’m continuing to look for other venues for readings and have a couple irons in the fire.
Books are available through PixelPreserve at: http://www.pixelpreserve.net/bookstore/