Feature

Delaney Allen | a personal (interview)

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Jodie Cavalier, MFA VS '12 interviews Delaney Allen, MFA VS '10 about his recent show at Nationale.

As part of an ongoing concern with the inconstant reality of the photographic image, the works on view in Delaney Allen’s (MFA VS ’10) third solo exhibition at Nationale, A Personal Nature, abstract the present moment into poetic evocations of the past. By juxtaposing staged tableaux with tactile documentations of landscapes, the seemingly autobiographical nature of these collective images rejects a linear narrative and, instead, shifts freely according to the subjective desires of his, and our, memory. Moreover, hanging these vibrantly colored digital prints alongside typographic elucidations on the slippage between dreams and waking life, Allen, like his Surrealist progenitors, upends the veracity of both language and sight as unreliable constructs. What we remember and what actually occurred never remains consistent. It is through questioning these discrepancies that Allen seeks to discover what is ultimately real.

- Nationale

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“How I Envision the Earlier Self-portrait”, 2013, C-print, 24 × 18”. Photo via Nationale.

DELANEY ALLEN | a personal (interview)


Jodie Cavalier I wanted to start with the basics like, what is your background? What brought you to art? Where was your area of focus and does that connect to how you are making work now?

Delaney Allen Most of my background started in film and photography. As an undergrad in Texas, I spent time studying film theory before switching last minute to photography. I was hoping to become a cinematographer but found the collaboration within film to be too much for me. After undergrad I stepped away from art for a while and worked in graphic design and later as a display coordinator for Anthropologie. I feel that with a varying past, including my understanding of cinematography, storytelling, and design, has allowed me to explore photography in a different way – and I say “different way” in that I come to it from not being fully aware and influenced by a lot of photography before moving full time into it.


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[top] “West of Indio, California,” 2013, C-print, 24 × 18” and [bottom] “Remembering the UFO Appearing Over Lost Lake,” 2013, C-print, 24 × 18”. Photos via Nationale.


JC What artists influenced you? Who do you like?

DA One of my biggest influences for years has been Terrence Malick. The cinematography and poetry within his films always moves me. And to see his progression over the years moving more towards non-linear storytelling has changed the way I view work. I’m also a big fan of the early works of William Wegman and Duane Michals. I get pleasure from the humor in their work as well as their almost “one-off” jokes either through the scene they set, the text they include or the titles of the work.

JC In this body of work and your other work there is this hint of humor, like a sad kind of humor. Where did this interest come from?

DA As mentioned before with interests in Wegman and Michals, I’ve always been drawn to a subtle humor. I like to try to walk a line of comedy and sadness in a lot of the work. I lean towards being a self-deprecating person in life and that tends to bleed into the work. I’m not afraid to make fun of myself and I think at times my photography can show that.

JC You mentioned the way Wegman and Michals use titles to point back to humor in their work. Where do your titles come from?

DA A lot of my titles are just for the series that I’ve completed. I come up with the theme that I wish to explore and then work down from a couple of series titles that I will have jotted own along the way. The individual photos, at least in the past, have been very specific in their titling (such as Self Portrait No. 5 or Nevada No. 2). More recently I’ve been titling work that individually tells a story with that photograph.


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[left] “Somewhere in California”, 2011, C-print, 24 × 18” and [right] “Somewhere in California (Memory Fading)”, 2011, C-print, 24 × 18”. Photos via Nationale.


JC It seems like you are always traveling. In fact, part of this interview was done while you were in Texas. How does traveling inform your work?

DA To me, it is basically about discovery. Every time I go out I have a few set things that I intend to visit/explore. And while being able to do that in various parts of the US I feel that I don’t become stagnant in my making.

I look at editing as half of the work I do when putting together a series. I challenge myself to come up with edits that are different than what I typically see daily. And I believe part of that comes from the traveling – to be able to sequence these dramatically different landscapes into a story and make them fit side by side.

Lastly, time spent alone and on the road allows for my work to begin to move forward. Although I think about the work daily, time spent in the car is beneficial. That’s when I begin to pair down ideas and work on what I want the series to say. Just recently, when attending the Awkward Storyteller Camp in Minneapolis, I was able to narrow down an idea for a series I wanted to create there and focus on that during my thirty-hour drive I made. I was almost watching the body of work unfold in my mind as I was driving to Minnesota.

JC What else do you do with your spare time?

DA A lot of my spare time seems to be spent just researching whatever I come across on a day to day basis. I feel I have a good balance between my art and personal life but I’m interested in always learning. I spend a lot of time online everyday and will constantly fall down that rabbit hole. Oh, and basketball. I’m obsessed with basketball.


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“Un-captured Memory No. 2,” 2013, C-print, 24 × 18”. Image via Nationale.


A Personal Nature, by Delaney Allen, MFA VS ’10, is on view at Nationale in Portland, OR, through October 27, 2013. Closing reception and book release Saturday, October 26, from 6-8pm.




Born in Fort Worth, TX, Delaney Allen received his MFA in Visual Studies sfrom the Pacific Northwest College of Art in 2010. His photographs have been shown nationally and internationally, most notably at Foam Museum in Amsterdam, NL. He was listed in Magenta’s Flash Forward emerging photographers list of 2013, as well as recently attended photographer Alec Soth’s Camp For Socially Awkward Storytellers. Additionally, his first publication, Between Here And There (Photo-Eye Magazine’s “Best Of” list for 2010), will be featured in the 10×10 American Photobook display at the Tokyo Institute of Photography this fall. Allen currently lives and works out of Portland, OR, where he is represented by Nationale.

— Posted on 10/07 at 05:56 AM

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