Theodora Allen: Saturnine

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Catalogue of Theodora Allen’s solo exhibition Saturnine in a beautiful hardcover book.

Drawing from music, literature, myth and nature, Allen’s meditative compositions investigate themes of temporality and eternity, exploring a space between the physical world and an interior mindscape. Interweaving the artist’s emblematic use of symbols, the exhibition and accompanying catalogue engage with a history of Saturn, the celestial body said to have been the cause of a melancholic disposition—from ancient myth and the Middle Ages through to the present.


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.

Often referred to as the curse of artists, the melancholic temperament has particular resonance in our contemporary moment. In Saturnine, author and curator Stephanie Cristello considers the implications of the inner world achieved in Allen’s paintings in relation to the cultural allusions and artistic manifestations of Saturn’s influence throughout art and culture: under a magnifying glass, instead of through a telescope.