Fear is present in at least some small way in all of Allegra Rose Brown’s works of art.
In her upcoming Friday, Oct. 23 installment and one-night show, “Underneath the Doghouse,” Rose Brown’s paintings, sketches and kinetic sculptures depict the 38-year-old woman’s recollections of life on Whidbey Island. There are scenes of the Island County Fair rides like the Scrambler, the discontinued barnyard scramble — derided as the source of Langley’s rabbit population problem.
In them, the people spin and twirl and the animals flee with terror in their expressions.
“Fear is something that has definitely been a big part of my life,” she said.
Looking up above her rustic Maxwelton Valley cabin and pointing to the tall timber rustling in the wind on a recent sunny afternoon, she said being raised on South Whidbey on the very same property she and her husband now call home was a large source of her fright. She remembered the dread during the winter wind storms, hearing the trees groan, creak and crash. Or the time in third grade after a Halloween of trick-or-treating being dropped off by a friend’s mom at the bottom of the steep, windy, forest-lined driveway at night.
Even recently, a large tree fell down across the acreage, less than 100 feet from the cabin. No one was injured and none of their property was damaged. Reflecting on her recent calm reaction to something that used to terrify her as a child, she said she has learned to not worry about her environment as much.
“Now, I love it,” she said, sitting at a small wood table outside of her cabin, underneath the same trees of her youth. “I’m very comfortable here. I go walking at night all the time.”
Rose Brown’s oil-on-canvas paintings show distorted people, heads a bit rounder and eyes a bit larger than in real life. The kinetic sculptures, still being worked on, are made from reused materials such as old wires, a washing machine basket, a cardboard box top and paper towels. Twisted together, the paper towels become people sitting in champagne muselets (the twisted wire cage over the cork) made to be the swings of the Yo-Yo ride at the fair.
They are the visions of someone’s — Rose Brown’s — memories. Everything is intentionally unrealistic because they are fantastical, sometimes chaotic depictions of real moments.
“All of my characters look kind of crazy,” she laughed.
As a working artist, she also fears rejection. There’s a line, a balance, she has found between inspired creation and expression, and “selling out.” She learned from a past experience of being a young, recent art school graduate who was commissioned to do a tile art project, for which she said she undervalued her own work. On the other end of that, she remembered someone liking one of her past clown on a ferry paintings that had already sold that she was essentially commissioned to make another.
“I’m still in the gamble, crap shoot mode, looking for my next big score,” she said.
With the “Underneath the Doghouse” works, she is depicting “universal” images of Whidbey Island. That’s why she painted scenes from the fair and of the titular Dog House Tavern in Langley. Some of her larger paintings are akin to a “Where’s Waldo” page. There are characters all over the place, making the work vibrant and alive. Scanning panel by panel, corner by corner reveals a series of hidden additions.
Rose Brown elaborated on one such secret. At the bottom of the tavern’s red walls, in an exposed area, is a mattress. That was a vivid memory she still clings to, one that unnerved her as a girl walking around Seawall Park, and one she said was corroborated by others who had seen it decades ago.
“The Dog House, the bunnies are more universal,” she said. “It’s been in the news so people visiting can understand, but also shows life for people who have been here a while and remember how it used to be.”
She added: “I remember as a kid, it was a weird memory I dismissed; seeing this old mattress down there. I was kind of terrified.”
Unlike what the exhibit’s title suggests, the show will not be at the Dog House Tavern, which has been closed for several years. Instead, Rose Brown is holding it at another historic venue of South Whidbey: Bayview Hall. The event will be in the basement from 6-9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23.