J. Todd Allison's "Conversations from the Satellites" Exhibit at G Gallery is Otherworldly

Harnessing the Lure
Harnessing the Lure
Photo courtesy of G Gallery

There is an argument that the qualities attributed to schizophrenia - the inability to filter out irrelevant information - may be beneficial for creativity, allowing the individual to see connections others may not notice.

J. Todd Allison, drawing inspiration from his father's struggle with this disease, has unleashed a futuristic, scientific and fantastic world in his "Conversations from the Satellites" exhibit on display at G Gallery. His drive to channel his father's visions into otherworldly depictions drove him to produce these works in just 2.5 months.

A common theme of planked wood, bent and twisted as if easily pliable, repeats itself throughout, in the form of clown collars, skirts, dreadlocks and weaponry. Harking back to his mother's belongings, the artist also incorporates dressmaking, stitches and patterns, adding a feminine element to the hard, masculine wood.

They were once great Dancers features a being, looking very much like the Michelin Man, wrapped in bandages formed of bent and twisted lumber, with the faint hint of pink polka dots suggesting a wound or injury. He bears the number 50, a remnant of dance competitions from days past; he is missing a hand but wields a pole or stick. His dancing partner twirls in a beautifully tiered skirt of pliant lumber, with a stack of glass bell insulators serving as her head, a la the colloquial "Ma Bell." Her semi-circle arms of bent wood reach out, ready for the next dance. Closer inspection of the background reveals a moose here, a crow there, maybe antlers and branches.

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Darkness descends with Brotherly Love, as our heroine appears in a scene with two truncated tree stumps. Floating above are not-so-innocent dartboards, poised like circular saw blades; one can almost smell the sawdust in the air. A cacophonic background of orange and tan reveals stitched shapes of falling creatures.

Equally riveting is Once a Harvester, which reveals a murderous ogre in butcher's apron, board in one hand and mop-handle stick in the other - all fashioned with Allison's patterned planks. Our protagonist surfs a winding pink road against a background of exploding wood.

Somewhat different in tone, A Lord, some day outlines an indigenous creature with a tree stump replacing the lower legs and feet, and delicate curved planks for hair and loincloth. Pale blue laurel leaves weave throughout and serve as nice contrast against the asymmetrical background shapes of deer, rabbits, dragons and fanged monster.

Outer space images are invoked in The Great Insulator, as our intergalactic explorer sports a title-belt in one hand; a glass diving bell held high. A rocket ship is poised to take off, with molded boards protuberating against a topographical backdrop of black and blue lakes, maps, monsters and creatures.

Perhaps my favorite was Harnessing the Lure, featuring a serpentine creature with shark fin and the number 6 for an eyeball. His wood-lined mouth offers up a knitting hook tongue, holding a hanger of seven polka-dotted chrysalis sacs. The background is a hazy, mysterious blue, obscuring hidden objects, flowers, ancient civilizations and faces.

In addition to the 12 large oil and acrylic paintings, Allison delivers a series of small, intimate drawings and collages, some of which evoke magazine covers for domestic living. Only upon further inspection does one see that things are not as they should be, as the publications try to tell us what we "must have" to obtain the perfect home.

Conversations from the Satellites continues through January 30 at G Gallery, 301 East 11th Street, open Wednesday through Sunday, 12:00 to 5:00 p.m., 713-869-4770, ggalleryhouston.com.

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