Artist Wendy Allen had trouble pinpointing exactly what it was about Abraham Lincoln's face that inspired her to spend her career painting nearly 200 portraits of him.
Still, she spent 30 years recreating the 16th president's image, often using just her hands to spread the paints on the canvas.
“He has the most peculiar nose,” Allen said in an Arts Council press release. “And his lips are bizarre. If you don't get the lips right, nobody recognizes him. He's such a mixture of light and shadows. When you get the light and the shadows working, and the darkness under the lip, then you know it's Lincoln.”
Since 2010, Lincoln's face has graced the walls of the Allen's contemporary art gallery in Gettysburg, Lincoln Into Art.
But through the end of June, a selection of Allen's paintings will be displayed at the Adams County Arts Council's Art Education Center as part of the show, “Light Remains: Abraham Lincoln at 150.”
The exhibit, part of the Arts Council's tribute to the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg this summer, will kick off with a reception and book signing June 7.
Allen, who originated from Pittsburgh, didn't always know she wanted to paint the president. She studied political science at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut before she became involved in the California art scene in the early ‘80s.
After honing her skills, she began to focus on the stories behind the paintings.
“At the time, my problem with modern and contemporary art really was that it just lacked any history,” Allen said. “It was almost disturbing, coming from the east coast. I mean having a history is what makes us human.”
In 2009, Allen took her love of history to the next level with her completion of a large-scale public project that garnered her national attention.
She was spotlighted on a CNN special honoring the bicentennial of Lincoln's birthday for creating a giant public birthday card filled with over 20,000 signatures and messages for the president. According to the press release, the National Archives later aquired it and has plans to exhibit the “Happy 200th Birthday, President Lincoln” card in the future.
After the exhibition finishes on June 30, Allen hopes to pursue a new project of creating a painting using “witness wood” from a tree that was standing during the battle of Gettysburg. If all goes as planned, the painting will depict the final moments of the Gettysburg address, delivered by – who else – Lincoln.
If you go
What: Adams County Arts Council's exhibit “Light Remains: Abraham Lincoln at 150,” featuring Gettysburg artist Wendy Allen.
When: Exhibit starts Friday with a public reception at 5 p.m. and runs through June 30.
Where: 125 S. Washington St., Gettysburg.
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