From the beginning Allen-Efstathiou was the most
unusual fusion of things; her mother was from an old Maine family and
her father from East Kentucky's Appalachian Mountains. By the age of five
she had already lived in such diverse locations as Orono, Maine; Athens,
Georgia; Bronx, New York and Larchmont, New York. In
this nomadic approach, Allen-Efstathiou compresses several lives into
The dislocations in my life and cultural history
(growing up in Maine and New York and then living in Greece for many
years) have influenced my work, which frequently includes unusual juxtapositions
of cultural motifs. I am interested in how small, seemingly random details
can speak as incidental markers of an individual, a culture, an era.
I examine that which lies on the margins of these cultural narratives
- the contents of an old trunk, a jewelry box or a handbag - focusing
on the tangential and the overlooked.
The Botanical Series was inspired
by family stories of Allen's great-grandmother, Eliza Neeley, a healer
in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky, who was said to have had knowledge
of herbal remedies and the power of healing hands:
"In the Botanical Series, I
isolate, enlarge and repeat images of wildflowers and medicinal plants
linking them to domestic rituals with titles like house dress and prom
dress. The healing and edible plants of Spring, such as chamomile, nettles
and mallows become the patterns on faded housedresses and sun-dresses.
The dried thistle and thorns of summer on the more formal behave-yourself
clothes like prom dresses and wedding dresses. I describe historical
and sacred sites with the vernacular of random graffiti left by past
visitors, and the chance wildflowers growing from walls.
The Stitched Together Series honors
five generations of artists in Allen-Efstathiou's family from her great-grandparents
to her daughter:
In the Stitched Together Series I create composites
of personal and cultural identification by appropriating images from
artwork created over a span of a century by members of my family. For
example I might combine a Victorian era drawing of my great-grandfather
and figure studies from the '30s by my mother with the stitching of
an Appalachian quilt made by my grandmother.
In the Contents of her Handbag Series,
I present the random contents of a handbag as a portrait of the owner,
her culture and her era. "
In this way, shifting the scale and context of
these images blurs the lines between public and private, personal and
historical to reveal an articulation of place that more closely mirrors
our own experience, fleeting, migratory, absurd at times but always populated
by these markers.
Contents of her Handbag Series