Art, Art History and Design, School of


First Advisor

Matthew Sontheimer

Date of this Version


Document Type



A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Fine Arts, Major: Art, Under the Supervision of Professor Matthew Sontheimer. Lincoln, Nebraska: April, 2021

Copyright © 2021 Chance Lure Allen


It is often said that the truth should never get in the way of a good story. I use painting and drawing to override truth, open a door to imagined lives, reflect on the past from a new perspective, and look to the future from my current perspective. Thedrawings and paintings in this exhibitioncombine elements of personal history, historical art references, popular culture, and music, drawing heavily from American iconography. I use the format of the still life to create idiosyncratic parings of objects and images documenting memories of growing up in Missouri. Some of the images are short stories. Others are tall tales.

I come from a hundred-year line of gravestone makers, and for eight years I worked in cemeteries setting gravestones. What has stuck with me from that period of my life—aside from a fear of my own death—is the realization that I can use my experiences of growing-up in small-town Maryville, Missouri— to discuss more universal themes such as love, death, family, and the mystery of the unknown. The approach and technique of short story telling that all gravestones implement has also stuck with me.

You can’t fit a life story on the face of a headstone. The challenge one faces is to focus only on a few elements: quotes and anecdotes, pictures and symbols, all of which exist in shallow space. The way I compose objects in my drawings and paintings are executed in a similar manner. I create a narrative within each piece by limiting the number of objects in each composition. This creates a standoff within the picture, focusing the viewer to find relationships between the object and image, and allowing the elements in the painting to supersede their literal presence for a symbolic one.

I use multiple images—such as family photographs, copies of famous paintings, and album cover art, to open greater possibilities of how the viewer reads the work’s narrative. The paintings in this exhibition each contain a kind of stage—represented by either a shelf, tabletop, or counter space. Distilling the number of objects within this shallow space allows me to create a set of forms in the painting that carry symbolic, aesthetic, and compositional relationships.

The combinations and comparisons of images and objects in my works at first glance may strike one as funny, absurd, or seemingly unrelated. For example, the painting Life Cycle contains a magazine cut out of Gustave Courbet’s image, Origin of the World, and is set next to an image of a man grabbing the antlers of a freshly killed deer, and blank check signed by myself. The painting is a memento mori: which means “remember you must die”, a subject that many still life painters have touched on throughout history. In Life Cycle, Courbet’s image becomes a stand in for birth, the deer’s corpse represents death, and the signed blank check is a reminder to spend your life wisely.

Short Stories, Tall Tales presents narratives with universal themes of life, love, and death. I hope to give the viewer a way into my world through instances and emotions that echo their own experience.

Advisor: Matthew Sontheimer

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Painting Commons