Award Winners / Artist Profile

About the Artist

James Allen (Seattle) finds inspiration in the ephemera of the common objects we encounter everyday altering objects such as books, magazines, photos, and postcards to create new experiences through existing media. He earned a BFA in 2000 from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and is represented in Seattle by Winston Wachter Fine Art. In 2013 he was featured in the new book, Art Made from Books: Altered, Sculpted, Carved, Transformed.

Information included above was provided by artist at the time of application.
From the Artist

I find inspiration in altering everyday objects. A majority of my artwork is reductive: I take a common place objects and alter them by removing parts or fragmenting and reconstructing them. What interests me is how common objects can lend their inherent meaning to a work of art when they are altered. Some questions I like to ask are: When does an object lose its mundane value and become something else? How can I reinterpret an object to lend it a sense of mystery?

In my explorations I have altered photographs, magazines, gloves, postcards, and many other common ephemera. Most recently I am altering old books to create Book Excavations.

Each Excavation begins by cutting a rectangular hole in the cover of a book. Then, one page at a time, I cut my way through the pages. By selectively keeping fragments of images and words I create a composition using the content of the book as it emerges. I leave the book bound and I don’t move any of the pages of the book. Instead I reveal the contents only by cutting away and removing sections of pages. In this way, chance and random associations are embraced to reinterpret the intended message and purpose of each book. Both narrative and compositional dynamics are considered to create a condensed reinterpretation of the book’s content. The original intent of the book is destroyed, but in the process an exquisite Excavation is created.

I especially enjoy how these Excavations turn the linear format of a book into a flat “window” through which to observe many pages at once. Instead of reading from cover to cover and gaining knowledge, the meaning of the book is obscured and becomes a visual meditation on its subject.

Of course the work also comments on the current value of books in our high tech society. Why read paper bound literature when one can just as easily read on Kindle or find the same information online.

Old found objects intrigue me. I like to think about the people who may have used them in the past. Each object has its own hidden story and history. By altering found objects I am adding to that history another layer at the same time that I obscure the layers of its past. 

James Allen