Allen’s art brings beauty to Catholic spaces
COLUMBIA—A large mosaic of the Holy Family stands in a school passageway while a colorful sculpture of children enhances a playground.
The artist’s work, permanently on display at St. Joseph Church and School, illuminates a deep and abiding faith.
Angel Allen’s latest contribution is one of her most beautiful and spiritual creations. She created mosaics of the Stations of the Cross, displayed around the border of the new prayer garden at her parish.
The stations took about four months to complete, she said. To prepare, Allen studied “The Way of the Cross” booklet, versions of the stations online and the passion narratives in the Gospels.
She gained new insight into the mystery, beauty and sorrow of Christ’s passion, and the triumph of His resurrection.
“As a cradle Catholic, I know sometimes we go to Stations of the Cross or any of our other rituals because you’re supposed to go,” Allen said. “After I started work on the stations, I started thinking differently and now I can’t wait for Lent to come so I can experience them. I approach my faith a lot differently now.”
The artist said she sometimes felt overwhelmed by the challenge of depicting the drama of the crucifixion using only pieces of colored tile and glass.
“After I worked on the stations for several hours, I would be wiped out physically and emotionally,” she said. “Looking back, I realize it was the Holy Spirit that inspired me.”
In the backyard studio at her Columbia home, she uses found-objects in many of her mosaics: broken wineglasses, shards of antique glass and tile, and plastic and wooden beads. People often give her items, and she loves to use driftwood, pebbles, shells and sea glass found during walks on her favorite beaches at Edisto or Bulls Island.
Mosaic is not her only medium. She also creates ceramic and oil paintings, watercolors and porcelain sculptures, which can be viewed at www.angelallenstudios.com.
She shares her love of art by teaching at Cardinal Newman School, where her youngest son Patrick, 15, is a ninth-grader. Allen and her husband Bryan also have three other sons in their 20s.
The youngest of nine children, she and grew up in Charleston and attended Catholic schools and Blessed Sacrament Church.
She first studied nursing at Wofford College in Spartanburg, but found a talent and passion for art after taking a painting class. She transferred to the University of South Carolina in Columbia to major in graphic arts, and met her husband there.
After graduation, Allen worked for a company and then as a freelance graphic artist so she could be at home with her children.
One of her mentors was the late watercolorist Guy Lipscomb. His success in the art world and willingness to experiment with new things inspired Allen to focus on her original work. She started painting ceramic tiles, but her talent and enthusiasm soon led to larger projects.
The artist created a palmetto tree sculpture and a custom-decorated door for public art projects in Columbia, and used tiles decorated by children for a wall at the Edventure Children’s Museum.
Her mosaics have graced everything from mirrors to fireplaces. Allen said she loves the freedom and challenge of creating them.
“When you paint you have to commit to a brushstroke,” she said. “With a mosaic, if you don’t like where a piece is, you can move it. I can create a gesture or a mood or an expression with just the right piece of tile.”
When Allen was working on the Holy Family, she said she drew on her experience as a member of a family, as a child, a sister, a wife and mother.
“When I worked on the stations, I was especially moved by the fourth one, where Jesus meets his mother,” she said. “As a mother of sons, I could relate to that.”