Walking into artist Francie Allen's studio at Bay Street Village on Holly Street is a bit like running into swimmers underwater.
Or bumping into dancers on the dance floor.
Allen says she enjoys creating figures - life-size, mind you, created out of chicken wire and paper pulp - that embody motion. Her background in improvisational dance inspires her, she says.
That startling first impression of her works is one of her goals; she wants viewers to "feel a shift in their ordinary bodily sense of self," she says.
"When I look at certain works of art, or catch a view of the natural world, the act of looking sometimes triggers a sense of being that seems to throw me off my usual inner state," she says.
Allen has collaborated with dance troupes and theater companies designing sets and installations. She would like to create larger groupings of lightweight figures for the ceilings of public places in Bellingham, working with Allied Arts of Whatcom County, Bellingham Arts Commission and student interns from Western Washington University.
She also hopes to work with Pam Kuntz and her dance company in a multidisciplinary arts festival next winter using the Commercial Street Theatre Project. The festival, she says, would be built around a sculptural installation to form a concert setting for dancers, as well as a setting for poetry readings, storytelling and musical events.
Allen, who moved to Bellingham about four years ago, has a bachelor's degree in fine arts and art history from Smith College in Massachusetts, a bachelor's degree in sculpture from Rhode Island School of Design and a master's degree in sculpture from University of Washington.
Modeling in paper pulp pleases her, she says, but she uses chicken wire for its open, airy quality and for the speed and flexibility of construction it gives her. She often changes the sculptures as they develop.
Allen has shown her works in San Francisco, Philadelphia and Seattle, and won numerous awards. Growing up in the '60s, she worked on art projects with political action groups and governmental organizations to encourage environmental awareness.
For more about her work, go to francieallen.com.
Francie Allen discusses her life-size sculptures in this video: