Steven Allen serves as the Ceramic Director for the Richmond Art Center and teaches classes there, as well as Ruby’s Clay Studio and the Walnut Creek Civic Arts.
Childhood memories are at the heart of Golden Spike and the Art Train series. I hear the train in the distance. The noise it makes chugging along its rails. The whistle sound fills me with a sense of peace as it approaches the crossing above my childhood home. Sent to my room in tears for doing something wrong, I lay in my bed, pacified by its sound. I imagine where it came from and where it is heading. Is it a cargo train filled with items to deliver to a distant town or empty cars in search of cargo? What is it like to be the conductor of a train? Many questions and diversions fill my head. All are a pleasant distraction to help alleviate the tears. Trains have held a special place in my heart from an early age. I knew I was getting a toy train for Christmas when I saw my dad painting a sheet of plywood green with a white figure eight shape. What else would you do with a large sheet of wood with a big “8” painted in the center. It WAS for a train to share. My brothers and I played with and fought over that train for many years.
History also plays a prominent role in Golden Spike. In this piece, a Union Pacific train No. 119 roles through the pages, up to Promontory Summit where it reaches the golden spike. This is the place where the final spike was driven to mark the completion of the transcontinental railroad line. On a personal level, this train linked my childhood home in Utah to my adulthood home in San Francisco, where the Golden Spike was manufactured.
In the Art Train series, my admiration for artists that have gone before me takes center stage. I was initially impressed by the work of Jun Kaneko and seeing his large-scale pieces loaded on the back of big semi-trucks. I began to imagine works by other inspirational artist loaded up on flatbed cargo trains being hauled to their ultimate destination. In this series I pay homage to artists like Jun Kaneko, Peter Voulkos and Viola Frey.