Painting A Portrait (2012)
by Sydney S. Kim
“We often overcome ... painful states by reassimilating ourselves to the natural world via the sensual pleasures of making.” -- Susan Stewart
I am on a train as I write this. I take note of the unusual sights that flit in and out of sight throughout the day -- in 7 hours, you can catch the sun at nearly all of its phases. Losing myself in open fields, gnarled and naked trees, and blackened bluffs, I forget that I am traveling between two cities, save for the occasional trace of human life: an overturned chair, broken palette, an abandoned factory
Self-portraiture, the act of traveling, and loneliness are not new subjects for Delaney Allen, but in Painting a Portrait, he unites all three to new evocative heights. The work is truly about landscape and the questions raised when it is both witnessed and fabricated by a singular and single point-of-view. As a viewer, we are transplanted outdoors into wide array of rich and dense settings: shadowy deserts, ominous tropics, and foggy tangles of flora. Then, we are brought back to an internal and domestic setting through the artist’s self-portraits. We witness him attempt to manufacture and lose himself in makeshift backdrops of toile wallpaper while donning floral-patterned apparel: these are reconstructions of sights formerly seen.
There is longing and confusion in this introspective work. The ease with which landscapes gorgeously unfold is often tempered by subtle and literal obscuration, whether it appears in the form of water droplets on a glass barrier or through further underexposure in an already dark setting. Purposefully half-hearted attempts at self-concealment point towards a startling self-awareness. Not entirely in search of answers, Allen’s lens looks out into the world and, ultimately, turns inward towards himself.