2015 Studio Visit: Cecilia Allen and Roger Blakley

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Continuing with studio visits of Contemporary Sculptors of Chicago..

October 24, 2015:  A road trip to Urbana, to visit  the studio of  a team of husband-&-wife sculptors Cecilia Allen and Roger Blakley, who create individual as well as collaborative work.  The trip was with another artist couple Debbie and Steve Mueller of Vector Custom Fabricating. All of them have known each other for a long time, since their college days.

ROGER F. BLAKLEY: was born in Cleveland, Ohio and his formal study of sculpture was at the Cleveland Institute of Art. He is currently Professor Emeritus of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. His teaching experience a played a significant role in his sculptural aesthetics. Rhythm and movement are the hallmarks of his sculptural expression, and his favored medium is cast bronze. Although many of his works have been on a large scale, his recent works have been on a smaller scale, which gives him a greater opportunity to experiment with different ideas and idioms.

CECILIA ALLEN: was born in Tuscola, Illinois. She received her BFA in sculpture and MA in art education from the University of Illinois. She then went to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale to recieved an MFA in sculpture. She has taught art at both Parkland College and University of Illinois. Her earlier works were mostly in fabricated steel, but later she worked exclusively in cast bronze. Her sculptures are highly textured and take simple, elegant forms with “the objective to create the complex simplicity of a visual haiku”. Her current work are exclusively mixed media work on paper.

Cecial Allen and Roger Blakley live with their doberman in the northeast of Urbana, where they maintain a wonderful studio.

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Cecilia & Roger Blakley studio

Row of cast bronze sculptures / Cecilia Allen & Roger Blakley studio

 

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On a beautiful autumn day in October, we [Debbie and Steve Mueller and me] took a road trip to visit studio of the cool artist couple Cecilia Allen and Roger Blakley. There are many husband-&-wife artist team; but very few instances where both are sculptors. I knew this was going to be interesting to meet a sculptor-couple; and more so, because all of them – Roger, Cecilia, Debbie and Steve – have been old friends from college days. I was the only outsider, but they never make me feel left alone. As usual, Debbie drove, and we reached to their home-studio by 11 am. Outside was the row of beautiful cast-bronze sculptures, harmoniously arranged, making a profound first impression [as shown in the image above]. Some of these are individual and some collaborative work of the artists.

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Cecilia & Roger Blakley studio

Studio Visit: Cecilia Allen & Roger Blakley

 

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Inside the studio, were many small-scale sculptures and maquettes for large-scale sculptures . Evidently both Cecilia Allen and Roger Blakley have moved from large scale sculptures to smaller, more intimate options.

“Over my career as an artist, I have come to expect the unexpected from creativity. My recent work has taken a turn that i did not anticipate. After decades of working at mid-to-large scale, I have turned to a much smaller scale that allows me to explore both a greater number of ideas and an increasing variety of forms and textural contrasts. It has been liberating and exhilarating to do so, the pace at which new ideas flow to me is invigorating. The new work includes more organic elements than ever before. My approach to the composition of these elements remain formalist, as that is what I am; and more visceral, but with the patina of long experience.”
– Roger F. Blakley, July 2011.

“At fairly regular intervals, I have destroyed most of forms and unfinished work in my studio and have begun again. These events often accompany or initiate changes in attitude or circumstances. it is akin to the natural periodic burn-off characteristic of plains ecosystem. As in nature, it serves to renew my thinking and growth. The last major burn-off consumed the entire third dimension. I have turned from sculpture to drawing as my primary form of expression… I felt the urge to simplify. Dramatically. Drawing, how simple can it get? I chose graphite as it is so direct and ubiquitous. I chose vellum for its marvelous sensuality and pristine transparency. The next addition was silver leaf and it has expanded rather exponentially from there.”
– Cecilia Allen, July 2011.

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Studio Visit: Cecilia Allen & Roger Blakley  with Debbie and Steve Mueller

From left: Steve Mueller, Roger Blakley, Cecilia Allen and Debbie Mueller

 

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For the past five years, since year 2010, the artist couple have been working on a collaborative drawing project, which they call “The Exquisite Square”. The creative inspiration comes from the Surrealist parlor game Exquisite Corpse. It is like half-&-half drawing by both artists, but the interesting element is that the other half of drawing is hidden from the better half, till complete. Cecilia explains.. “I do half of a small (@5 x 5″) image and cover it, then Roger-without seeing it; draws the other half. It has been great fun and oddly almost always yields and interesting image.”

 

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Exquisive Square -  Cecilia Allen and Roger Blakley

Exquisite Square 9 – by Roger Blakley and Cecilia Allen / Image courtesy Cecilia Allen

 

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The  Exquisite Square series -  by Roger Blakley and Cecilia Allen

The Exquisite Square series – by Roger Blakley and Cecilia Allen / Image courtesy Cecilia Allen

 

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After spending quite sometime at the studio, we headed out for lunch.  It was an interesting place named “Black Dog Smoke and Ale House” in Urbana – described as a “modern pub with a creative Latin-meets-New-American menu & an extensive beer list”.  The pub was conceived and started by two friends in 2009, and it boasts of serving the finest barbecue in town . The artwork there could not be missed.  It is a line of framed drawings  from the collaborative drawing series by Cecilia Allen and Roger Blakley. Cecilia informs that they have recently opened at a second location, which is in an old train depot at the corner of Chestnut and Main St in downtown Champaign.

After lunch, we wanted to see some large-scale installations by both Cecilia and Roger. So we made a trip to
the University if Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and then to nearby,
Wandell Sculpture Garden at Meadowbrook Park.

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Dancer - C Movement - by Roger Blakley / Chemical and Life Sciences Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Dancer – C Movement – by Roger Blakley / Chemical and Life Sciences Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

 

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Dancer – C Movement – by Roger Blakley / Chemical and Life Sciences Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

 

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Khmer Deity [1988] - by Roger Blakley

Khmer Deity [1988] – by Roger Blakley / University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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 Khmer Deity – by Roger F. Blakely

Description: 1988/ Cast Bronze
Location: Beckman Institute Patio -West
This piece was purchased through the Beckman Institute Art Enhancement Fund.

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Southern Passage - by Cecilia Allen and Roger Blakley

Southern Passage – by Cecilia Allen and Roger Blakley / Wandell Sculpture Garden at Meadowbrook Park

 

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Southern Passage – by Cecilia Allen and Roger Blakley
Description: 1998 / Cast bronze
Location: Wandell Sculpture Garden in Meadowbrook Park

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Prairie Buoy [2001] - by Cecilia Allen..

Prairie Buoy [2001] – by Cecilia Allen / Wandell Sculpture Garden at Meadowbrook Park

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 Prairie Buoy – by Cecilia Allen
Description: 2001 / Cast Bronze
Location: Wandell Sculpture Garden in Meadowbrook Park

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From left: Roger Blakley, Steve Mueller, Debbie Mueller and Cecilia Allen at Meadowbrook Park

From left: Roger Blakley, Steve Mueller, Debbie Mueller and Cecilia Allen at Meadowbrook Park

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It was great to see old friends enjoying a stroll in park on a beautiful fall day!

Thank You all for a lovely day!

Especially thanks Cecilia Allen and Roger Blakley for the hospitality!

 

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From left: Debbie Mueller, Cecilia Allen, Steve Mueller and Roger Blakley

From left: Debbie Mueller, Cecilia Allen, Steve Mueller and Roger Blakley

 

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 SOME MORE IMAGES FROM THE DAY

 

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2015 Studio Visit: Roger Blakley and Cecilia Allen

2015 Studio Visit: Roger Blakley and Cecilia Allen

 

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2015 Studio Visit: Roger Blakley and Cecilia Allen

2015 Studio Visit: Roger Blakley and Cecilia Allen

 

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2015 Studio Visit: Roger Blakley and Cecilia Allen

2015 Studio Visit: Roger Blakley and Cecilia Allen

 

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RELATED LINKS:
Studio Visits: click here..
Know the Artists series.. click here..

 


 

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2 Comments to “2015 Studio Visit: Cecilia Allen and Roger Blakley”

  1. Very good my old friend.

  2. Rodger,I was a student of you 90 years ago. I have since retired fro public education. In 2015 my sculpture of: CAPTAIN LINCOLN-BLACK HAWK WAR-Burial Detail, was presented to the Lincoln Pesidential Library in Springfield. I have had 15″ copies of the sculpture cast at: IN BRONZE-Mt. Morris Ill. He was also slated to cast the 7 foot bronze Lincoln. Recently his shop has undergone personnel changes, he is short handed in wax layup amd welding,(job ops if you know who needs work) and is no longer able to cast our 15″ editions ( we have cast 15), nor the final 7 foot lincoln, at the Nationally Registered Historical, Kellogg’s Grove, BLACK HAWK WAR MONUMENT June 1832 battle site. Where young Lincoln marched from Ft Dixon to Kellogg’s Grove to bury the killed Illinois militia.
    The 7 foot Captain lincoln is to be located at this site. A second sculpture of “Black Hawk” will eventually be released to complete the history of our NW Illinois history with Lincoln.
    Can you cast, or recommend a foundry to complete this task.
    In the long run: Lincoln history, sculpted by an Illinois alum, cast in a prof foundry. Historical Your wisdom,guidence,and direction, is greatly appreciated.
    Respectfully,
    Ramon “jaybaby frogman” Castro
    (815) 821-1426
    class of 1975

    PS
    Thanks to your input my son and his wife (U of I graduaes) are now successful and living/working in Madison as Industrial Designers.

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