Art: A Breath of Fresh Air November 18, 2015 12:18
Life can be challenging, exciting, and stressful, but when our tasks are done and our stresses pass, most of us can all breathe a little easier. Taking a deep breath centers us and focuses our energy. It can relax us and help us think better. For ArtLifting artist Allen Chamberland, though, taking a deep breath isn’t always an option.
Born with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which chronically restricts airflow in and out of one's lungs, Allen was never able to adequately exercise, play, or run as a child. Eventually, Allen’s COPD began to encroach on his mobility, and he has since become wheelchair and oxygen dependent. While COPD can often result from smoking, Allen has never smoked in his entire life.
Allen explains, “every day is a challenge. There are some days when I just can’t seem to catch my breath and other days, everything seems fine.” Allen's conditions limits his activities and his avenues for stress relief and relaxation. Sitting idle, struggling to breathe, one would wish and hope for something, anything, to pass the time and serve as a focus and center. For Allen, art has come to encompass a hobby, a pastime, and a stress-reliever all at once.
Ropes by Allen Chamberland
Allen is experienced in many forms of art: clay, ceramics, screen printing, stained glass, and, of course, paper cutting. He focuses primarily on paper cutting, thought, because it's inexpensive. Allen’s astounding papercuts often leave customer speechless, each intricate piece being cut from a single sheet of black paper. Allen has said time and again that his artwork prompts a common reaction: first, observers see him in his wheelchair, then, they see his art and they say, “YOU did THAT?!”
Allen’s work reveals an intensity in focus, an attention to detail, and a love of patience and procedure. It offers viewers a stark and dramatic view of the world without losing any of its intricacies or complications. The viewpoint of his pieces is often looking up, mirroring his viewpoint sitting in his wheelchair.
Allen, more than anyone, is familiar with how complicated life can be and his work is no different. Allen’s art in particular has a physicality and a real connection to its actual production and procedure; viewers can truly imagine the pressure of the blade, the tightness of his grip on the handle, and the give of the paper. Allen’s art pieces push the border between art and object, their texture and physicality lending themselves more weight and dimension. His art is not a static image, but rather a physical story of intense, calculated cutting and vision.
Allen speaks of his condition simply and openly, completely aware of his limitations and yet grateful for his talents and abilities: “I know I won’t be running any marathons, but I can keep working on my art. Working on my art helps me to relax and allows me to center myself.”
Quincy Market by Allen Chamberland
I urge readers to take the time to get lost in Allen’s art. Focus on its details and allow yourself to be transported to a place of focus. Try to place yourself in the shoes of its creator, a man who combines an x-acto blade, black paper, and a unique vision to create his own breath of fresh air.
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