Lunch & Learn: Elmer Lucille Allen, Fiber Artist
March 19, 2019
Free and open to the public, but registration is appreciated. Register here. Bring your own lunch, beverages will be provided.
Presenting the Carnegie Center’s March edition of the Lunch and Learn program is a Kentuckiana treasure and artist, Elmer Lucille Allen. Allen is also participating in a three person art exhibition that will be shown in the Carnegie Center for Art and History galleries. The Art of Elmer Lucille Allen, Sandra Charles, and Barbara Tyson Mosley will be on view from February 22 through April 20, 2019 and is also free to the public. Ms. Allen’s Lunch and Learn presentation will take place within this exhibition’s context on the museum’s first floor galleries. The Carnegie Center’s Lunch and Learn program is free to the public, however, registration is requested.
Elmer Lucille Allen, now in her 80’s, has led an impressive life prior to becoming a full-time artist. Growing up in a segregated society, Ms. Allen graduated from the then Nazareth College, (now Spalding University) in 1953 where she was among the first African American students to study in that school. Ms. Allen majored in general education with an emphasis in chemistry and mathematics. In 1966, she became the first African American chemist to be hired at Brown-Forman and stayed with the company until she retired thirty-one years later in 1997. She was later honored by both her former university and employer with major life-time achievement awards. In 2011, Elmer Lucille Allen received Spalding University’s Caritas Medal (the highest award given to an alumnus) and in 2018 was honored by Brown-Forman as the first recipient of their Strategic Progressive Leaders and Achievers with a Shared Heritage (SPLASH) Advocacy Award. In her honor, future recipients of this Brown-Forman award will bear Elmer Lucille Allen’s name.
In addition to the above honors, Elmer Lucille Allen also has a long list of important recognitions and service that speak to her importance and influence on our community. She received the Louisville Defender’s Lifetime Community Service Recognition Award in 2016. She was also honored in 2016 by Louisville’s Metro Council as an Outstanding Community Leader. And since 2005, she has been a guiding light at Wayside Christian Mission’s Wayside Expressions Gallery.
Always interested in art, Elmer Lucille Allen became immersed in the medium of ceramics upon her retirement as a chemist. At Louisville’s Metro Arts Center she met clay well known clay artists Melvin Rowe and later Laura Ross which then led her to her pursuing a Master’s Degree at the University of Louisville under the instruction of the late Tom Marsh. Ms. Allen has a fondness for teapot forms. While at the University of Louisville, she also became interested in fibers and textiles and her thesis show was an installation of ceramic boxes and textile wall hangings.
Elmer Lucille Allen will have her wall hangings on display at the Carnegie Center which were created using various shibori techniques. Shibori is an English word for the Japanese art form of shape resist-dyed textiles. Specifically, it refers to the binding and knotting of fabric prior to dying usually in indigo. Other shibori techniques include sewing and stitching as well as folding wooden forms into the cloth prior to dying. The blurry, or soft-edged patterns created using shibori resist are a characteristic of this art form. Like wood-fired ceramics, the general conditions for success can be anticipated, however, what happens in the kiln or this case the shibori dye vat can appear accidental and incorporate some elements of chance. It is this moment of not having complete control over the process that creates a sense of the unexpected in this art form that keeps it fresh and compelling. Allowing an element of chance within a fairly rigorous process links Elmer Lucille Allen’s interests in both clay and textiles.