Rik Allen,

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out fins and lad­ders and ship in­te­ri­ors. With re­gards to how I work in glass, which is cold work­ing — where you’re cut­ting, chop­ping-up, pol­ish­ing, grind­ing, re­shap­ing, etc. — the tran­si­tion to us­ing a lot of metal in the work has been lo­gis­ti­cally easy.”

Allen uses a tech­nique called scavo (an Ital­ian word mean­ing ex­ca­va­tion), which “chews up” the sur­face of the glass while it’s still hot, giv­ing it the ap­pear­ance of an ar­ti­fact. He uses sev­eral pro­cesses to del­i­cately frac­ture glass, in­clud­ing “quench­ing” the hot medium in plain wa­ter or wa­ter mixed with other com­pounds. He also ap­plies glass pow­ders to hot glass to “give it a rough, rusty ap­pear­ance, to make it look a lit­tle more like de­bris, to give it the ap­pear­ance of some­thing with some real his­tory,” he said. He in­cor­po­rates oil paints, metal ox­ides, and sil­ver foil to help dis­tress and shade the sur­faces of the metal and glass.

“My as­sis­tant is very metic­u­lous,” Allen said. “When I have him clean up a weld or some­thing, it looks just beau­ti­ful, and I al­ways joke that I have to drag it down the drive­way be­hind my car for a while to get it to look like it fits my aes­thetic.” Allen’s process for join­ing metal to glass makes the metal shinier, so he must re-treat the metal to achieve the “bro­ken-in” patina he de­sires. “I did a lot of model build­ing when I was younger,” Allen said, “and I al­ways wished I had the money to buy all the ex­pen­sive paints and stuff to make the piece look per­fect. But as an artist to­day, I don’t care for mak­ing dec­o­ra­tive work at all.”

In Novem­ber 2007, an ex­hibit of Allen’s rocket ships ti­tled In­ner­sphere: Sculp­tural Works by Rik Allen opened at the Frank Gehry-de­signed Ex­pe­ri­ence Mu­sic Project and Sci­ence Fic­tion Mu­seum and Hall of Fame in Seat­tle. “Folks were very sup­port­ive of my work there,” Allen said. “When you show your work in a gallery, you don’t get many chil­dren or whole fam­i­lies com­ing through to see your work. At the Ex­pe­ri­ence, I got to see a lot of chil­dren re­act to my art­work in an in­cred­i­bly pos­i­tive way. It was a deeply re­ward­ing thing to wit­ness. Of course, those kids aren’t out there buy­ing the work, so I guess I have to think about that. But I can’t com­plain. To top off the show at Ex­pe­ri­ence, my work was ex­hib­ited right next to a model of the alien queen from one of the Sigour­ney Weaver Alien movies. I mean, it doesn’t get any cooler than that, right?”

There are times when Allen is con­fronted with the un­sa­vory opin­ion that his newer work ven­tures too far from se­ri­ous art­work and into the realm of whim­si­cal ob­jects or toys, and he ad­mited that this some­times weighs heav­ily on his mind. “When a friend or fel­low artist or some­one says, ‘ So, Rik, how long are you plan­ning to keep this whole rocket-ship thing up?,’ I just re­mem­ber that I’m for­tu­nate enough to have some of this work in a num­ber of se­ri­ous col­lec­tions.” Fur­ther­more, among his artist friends, only he can name-drop the alien queen with a straight face.

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