Eyes rolling, the young woman at the center of Candace Allen’s “We Go High” piece is six feet tall. Her neatly woven box braids in dark navy and periwinkle are windswept. She laughs at a sky buzzing with paper airplanes flying through technicolor clouds.
“It’s hyperbolic in the best sense of the word,” Allen notes.
Her digital portrait is a centerpiece of her exhibition “CandiiKismet: A Dream in Color” at Anderson Brickler Gallery, on display until May 14. Allen is the first and youngest female artist to have a solo exhibition at the gallery.
Things to do:Dumpstaphunk plays ArtiGras, Blue Tavern cuts the king cake
Theater:Young Actors Theater of Tallahassee offers new adaptation of beloved ‘Little Women’
Field day:Field Day Music Festival helps fund pancreatic cancer research
“We Go High” is surrounded by paper airplane mobiles, which Allen hopes will immerse viewers in these colorful landscapes. His illustrations have been called magical realism, but Allen bases his images on both fantastical and tangible worlds.
“It’s real because you know this girl, it’s your best friend’s older sister who you always thought was cool or your substitute teacher or someone who works at your dentist,” Allen explains. “She is tall and feels good about herself. She is important and has her own agency and her own voice. She is on top of the world. These paper planes fly past and pierce these clouds around her, and in doing so, they color themselves. It’s a feeling. It’s a moment.
FAMU graduate from Quincy
Allen received his Fine Arts degree with a major in Illustration and Printmaking from Florida A&M University.
During her studies, she appreciated the boost she received from teachers like Dr. Pamela Kabuya Bowens-Saffo. A lifelong lover of literature, Allen was energized by the connections she made between printmaking and books. The pop art movement was another source of inspiration, with its repetitive colors and patterns.
Originally from Quincy, Allen grew up constantly drawing characters. Her favorite subject is black women. Allen constructs fusions that borrow pieces from the faces, bodies, and positions she sees in her community to create completely original works. Allen strives to capture the everyday through his single lens.
She appreciates artists like Norman Rockwell whose artistic approach has elevated people’s daily lives in his paintings. The topics Allen creates come from his own daily encounters.
“The most beautiful people”
“I always look at black women and black people because I think we’re the most diverse group of people in the world given the nature of our diaspora,” Allen says. “When I create, I take from every person I have seen. These are the barista’s eyes and the nurse’s lips and the postwoman’s hair. I look at the shape of their nostrils, the way they have that beauty gap that probably comes from West Africa. I think African Americans are the most beautiful people in the world.
When Allen sits down to capture a person, he’s not only considering what they’re doing, but also how they feel about what they’re doing. While digital art can be daunting given the multitude of computer programs available, Allen confesses that she only uses four of the brush tools on her computer to create her work, emphasizing the importance of simplicity and finding creative approaches that match the artist.
Drawing ideas come from fleeting thoughts or moments of his day. Allen recently completed a drawing that came to him after watching a nature documentary about flamingos.
Imagination and “childlike nature”
The show reminded her that flamingos are pink because of the food they eat, leading her to wonder what would happen if they were fed something different. A few hours later, she had drawn a little girl feeding a flock of Rubik’s cubes of pink flamingos whose feathers were turning into multicolored checkerboards.
“It’s the childish nature of what I do,” laughs Allen.
Beyond fantasy, Allen’s artistic contributions focus on and celebrate black women in hopes of promoting wider representation in media. The show includes some of Allen’s medical illustrations that she creates for Beloved Birth Black Centering, a birth justice center in California. The organization is run by all black midwives, doctors and nurses, and the facility commissioned Allen to create artwork for their programming.
Allen has created art for instructions on everything from swaddling a baby to mixing formula to best labor practices. These illustrations live side by side in Allen’s exhibition, which she hopes will not only inspire, but emotionally touch gallery patrons who view the work in person.
“I think the most rewarding thing is people seeing themselves in my work,” Allen says. “The closer you get to my work, the more you realize it’s you. I think it’s exciting, not just for young people, but it’s important and empowering for me too.
If you are going to
What: CandiiKismet: A Colored Dream by Candace Allen
When: The gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday and from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday or by appointment until May 14
Or: Anderson Brickler Gallery, 1747 S Adams St
Contact: For more information, visit andersonbricklergallery.com
Amanda Sieradzki is a feature writer for the Council for Culture and the Arts. COCA is the Capital Region’s umbrella agency for arts and culture (www.tallahasseearts.org).
Never miss a story: Subscribe to the Tallahassee Democrat using the link at the top of the page.