Allen Vandever

STUDIO VISIT, WITH MELODY BILBO (BFA 2017)

As I stepped into Allen Vandever’s Pilsen studio, I immediately felt at home.  He quickly poured a cup of coffee and explained that he was about to do a radio interview with writer Derek Hopkins, to discuss their collaboration on his most recent body of work, 'Childhood Fractured.' As he set up for the interview, I could hear his son playing upstairs accompanied by the low voice of the television. The stairs boasted large stacks of inventory from his line of painted jackets, while another wall supported rows of large mixed media covered panels; past and current works.

     Listening into his radio interview I learned a great deal about his work.  I started thinking about his experience as an artist within a larger network and exactly how this influenced his development.  Quickly it became apparent that his flexibility in improvisation was something which allowed him the capacity to continue to grow and expand his practice throughout his career.  As we caught up after the interview Allen spoke greatly of how competitive the artist’s market currently is, explaining, 'One moment you could be the top Chicago artist—two years later nobody could know who you are.'  Likewise, he also advised that being represented by a gallery isn’t always a sure-bet as so many galleries pop up and then quickly close.  Personally his most successful remedy has been a combination of marketing himself by building a strong web presence, public speaking/performance, and taking part in art fairs.

     Invested in creating community, he started his own group of artists, 'Team Art,' with whom he collaborated on a number of successful projects which included a show at Basel in Miami. Allen is also currently in the process of beginning a foundation which has resulted from his latest collaboration with Derek Hopkins, with plans to speak at colleges about sexual abuse—a reoccurring exploration within his work and a topic he is driven to educate others about. He hopes to change the outlook of survivors to inspire them to become warriors in sharing their stories to help others.

Photo 1: Inventory of jackets, work by Allen Vandever
Photo 2: Detail of current work en progress, work by Allen Vandever