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The Body Electric : Energy and movement leap from Patti Allen-Akesson's canvases and sculptures. The artist draws from her long association with dancing in her depictions of the human form.

October 21, 1994|NANCY KAPITANOFF | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Nancy Kapitanoff writes regularly about art for The Times

SHERMAN OAKS — Movement is at the soul of Patti Allen-Akesson's figures. A kinetic energy emanates from the drawings, paintings and larger-than-life wood sculptures on view in her solo show at the Orlando Gallery.

It's only natural for Allen-Akesson to engulf herself in motion. The 48-year-old Los Angeles artist has been a dancer almost all of her life.

"I'm obsessed with this human form," Allen-Akesson said.

Speaking about "Chorus Line," her series of acrylic paintings on paper, she said: "I work on form first with movement. Every position has to come from reality somewhere. Then, as I'm applying the paint, I'm thinking of the psychological or sensory way it would impact people. They are all very layered with tar, asphalt and texture paste from acrylic paint. I can't seem not to do a series. (The figures) are always moving in my head."

"Being an ex-dancer, I relate to her movement, her choreography," said Bob Gino, director of the Sherman Oaks gallery. "I feel her works are choreographed. Your eye just keeps undulating because she moves in and out of these forms. Because of that, the sensuality is tremendous. And color becomes an integral part of her work. It's an important factor in the way she expresses herself. She uses color that creates light, inner light. The body is always luminous. There's so much beauty in her works and it comes from within her. She has a comment to make that's very integral to herself and the art world."

Allen-Akesson begins all of her earthy figures from their center or "hara," the Japanese and Chinese word for the "center of your being," she said.

"Even before I found the word hara , I started paintings from the center. Dancers are always told to find your center. Hara relates to the center where your spirit, your being resides. It's a psychological part of your being, and you need it to be in balance everywhere. It comes from within, and it feeds the soul and the mind. It changes all the time. It's elusive to paint it."


From drawing and painting, Allen-Akesson moved into making large, three-dimensional wood figures. The intertwined figures of the sculptures "My Friends, All Graham Dancers" and "Caught in the Center" have all been carved into typical poses of Martha Graham dancers.

"I felt constricted in the flat format. I guess the energy got kind of big," she said. They "grow from the sensation of the wood."

"She makes the grain of the wood work as part of the body," Gino said. "You have to have an eye to see that. It doesn't come naturally."

Solid steel and screens made of steel wire form the haras of her most recent work.

"I like the strength of steel. It represents a solid inner core," Allen-Akesson said.


Though she continues to create full-bodied female figures, glorifying womanly life with a natural sense of well-being, Allen-Akesson said she might start doing male nudes.

"The only reason I paint female is I can feel it easier," she said. "People paint what they know most. Your background is subconsciously always there, and then you interpret it.

Among her paintings is "Response," which depicts a couple of people who refuse to look and listen. It is the artists' response to "a feeling I get that sometimes people don't want to look at my work," she said. "Some of these figures frighten people. They're a little intimidated. (The figures) are energetic, strong, powerful; they're real.

"I hope people get emotion from them. That is important, and any emotion is good. I do hope that they won't be afraid of them. I'd like people to look at the figure in a different way, or at the energy in one's self. Maybe they could bring that out."

Where and When

What: "Patti Allen-Akesson: Paintings, Sculptures, Drawings."

Location: Orlando Gallery, 14553 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Ends Oct. 28.

Call: (818) 789-6012.

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