Theodora Allen: Saturnine, Stephanie Cristello

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Straddling criticism and prose, this first monograph of Los Angeles-based contemporary artist Theodora Allen interweaves the artist’s emblematic use of symbols with the cultural history of Saturn and Melancholy from ancient myth to the present. Alternating between fictional texts and research-based essays, Theodora Allen: Saturnine puts forward different spheres of reading organized in four sections alongside full color plates. Each chapter adopts the format of a reader comprised of two parts: first as narrative, second as criticism.

The works discussed illuminate how elements within Allen’s symbolic lexicon—which include serpents, moons, moths, hourglasses, wildfire, hallucinogenic plants, and windows into other realms—have remained generative. Weaving histories that span centuries, Saturnine delves into the iconographic representations of melancholy since the origin of the four humors. Connecting specific moments within ancient Greek history and mythology, medieval psychology, Fin de Siècle Europe, and the Zeitgeist of 1960s California, Saturnine offers meditations on the kaleidoscope of references that find their footing in Allen’s paintings.

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