b. 1985, United States

Theodora Allen Biography

American artist Theodora Allen's ethereal paintings point towards the intersections of the metaphysical and personal, using symbols such as planets, moths, and hallucinogenic plants.

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Early Life

Allen was born in Los Angeles. She received her BFA from the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena in 2009, and her MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2014. In 2011, she completed a residency at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Madison, Maine.

Theodora Allen Artworks

Theodora Allen's paintings are marked by an intense process-driven practice. Her delicate and illusory canvases are created by layering thin coats of watercolour and oil paint onto linen. Then, using a soft cloth, Allen erases the recently added paint, emphasising the texture of the fabric and its deterioration.

Allen's process both creates definitions and erases. Often using blue pigments, the images she creates feel airy, as if they fade into their own presence. This specific and meticulous process of addition and erasure emphasises the material as an archive, containing each specific decision made by the artist.

Myth, Nature, and the Metaphysical

Central to Allen's work are the themes of the metaphysical and the temporal. Through her meditative canvases, she explores themes of temporality and eternity, taking cues from literature, myths, nature, and music. Allen's work resonates with the poetry of William Blake, Pre-Raphaelite painting, and the cultural climate of California in the 1960s. The artist's work has variously depicted celestial bodies, insects, and hallucinogenic plants.

In her exploration into psychotropic plants, Allen painted her 'Shield' series (2019), a set of images of morning glory, opium poppy, and other plants framed by a shield. These still lifes explore the history of the plants' hallucinogenic effects, which range from having been used to poison women to being employed as remedies and aphrodisiacs.

Allen's first institutional solo exhibition, Saturnine, held at the Kunsthal Aarhus in 2021, explored the history of the planet Saturn. The artworks in the show focused on the mystical qualities associated with the planet, which are said to have influenced melancholic dispositions. Saturnine continues the artist's interest in exploring the intersections between the physical world and emotional landscapes, addressing the cyclical nature of humanity.


Theodora Allen has held solo exhibitions at the Kunsthal Aarhus, Denmark and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles. Her work has been included in group exhibitions at the Bruce High Quality Foundation, New York; Sprüth Magers, Berlin; and Almine Rech Gallery, New York.


The artist's Instagram account can be found here.

Arianna Mercado | Ocula | 2021

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