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Gettysburg artist Wendy Allen to exhibit Lincoln paintings

(5/6) Gettysburg artist Wendy Allen is known internationally for her paintings depicting the likeness of Abraham Lincoln. She will exhibit a selection of these works at the Adams County Arts Councilís Arts Education Center throughout the month of June as part of the Arts Councilís celebration of the sesquicentennial of the Battle of Gettysburg.

The exhibition, which opens Friday, June 7, will hang in the Reception Hall at the Adams County Arts Councilís Arts Education Center, located at 125 South Washington Street in Gettysburg. The Arts Council will host an artistís reception and book signing from 5:00 to 7:30 P.M. that evening. The exhibition will run through June 30. Her work can also be seen at www.lincolnintoart.com.

Allen, who typically uses her hands to spread her paints on the canvas, has been painting images of Lincoln for close to 30 years and has completed nearly 200 paintings of the president. "I use his face to explore the concept of history and what it means to be an American," she says. "I think of each canvas as the place where I can explore Lincolnís compassion, courage, and determination using artistic tools like composition, color, and texture."

Allen has focused most of her painting career on Lincolnís face, which she admits arouses curiosity. "People always ask me what it is about Lincoln that inspires me to paint him over and over again," she says. "Itís never easy to explain, but I can say that for me, painting Lincoln reflects my love of this country. He was so quintessentially, uniquely American. Heís so recognizable, so iconic, and yet thereís such a warmth about him. His face is courageous and wise but also vulnerable. To me his face represents freedom. And even though itís very familiar to us, thereís so much yet to discover."

Allen hopes that her work will help keep Lincolnís faceóand just as importantly, his intelligence and valuesóat the forefront of the nationís consciousness. "It puts the best of America out there," she says. "The things that he said are still relevant today. I donít want him to get lost. I want people to see him as a modern figure, still powerful and relevant and with much to teach us. He never ceases to inspire me."

Although she maintains a collection of hundreds of images of Lincoln, Allen says she could paint his face from memory. "He has the most peculiar nose," she says. "And his lips are bizarre. If you donít get the lips right, nobody recognizes him. Heís such a mixture of light and shadows. When you get the light and the shadows working, and the darkness under the lip, then you know itís Lincoln."

Allen grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and studied political science at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut. Since 2010, she and her partner, Elaine Henderson, have operated a contemporary art gallery, Lincoln Into Art, at 329 Baltimore Street in Gettysburg. The gallery features prints and originals of Allenís Lincoln portraits, as well as her other work.

Allen has shown her work widely and has attracted an international following. In 2009 she was featured in a CNN special honoring the bicentennial of Lincolnís birthday. At that time she also launched a nationwide tribute, "Happy 200th Birthday, President Lincoln," in the form of an enormous public "birthday card" that garnered more than 20,000 signatures and heartfelt messages. The National Archives has acquired the card with plans to exhibit it in the future.

Allenís June exhibition at the Adams County Arts Council will include prints as well as original paintings. If she can complete them in time, she hopes to include two paintings that incorporate sections of "witness wood" taken from trees that were standing in Gettysburg at the time of the historic battle in 1863.

The exhibition also will include sales of Allenís book, Lincoln into Art: 1983-2013, featuring 100 color plates and a foreword by Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer. Allen will sign copies of her book at the exhibitionís opening on June 7.

For more information about Wendy Allenís upcoming exhibition, other upcoming Arts Council exhibitions, art classes at the Arts Councilís Arts Education Center, and other news and events from the Adams County Arts Council, visit www.adamsarts.org or call (717) 334-5006.

The Adams County Arts Councilís mission is to cultivate an arts-rich community.

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