Bold, Bright and Vibrant

Art of abstract featured at SAMA

“Jerzy Gurl,” by veteran artist Michael Allison of Altoona, features mixed media on board and is 36 inches in diameter.

“Vibrant Indefinite,” an exhibit featuring the abstract works of veteran local artist Michael Allison of Altoona and newcomer Anthony “Tony” Porter of Loretto are on display at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, 1210 11th Ave, Altoona, through July 24.

The artists use bold, unbridled use of colors, shapes, forms and patterns to create a feast for the eyes.

Both Allison and Porter use computer-generated imagery to create layers, marks and patterns.

Allison goes further. He takes those printouts into his studio where he puts paint to canvas. He describes his abstract creations as choreography of bright colors, patterns and shapes. When working on projects, he may photograph a piece of sign board or aluminum and store it on his computer for inclusion in a future project.

“For me, the shapes and the marks and their arrangement are what’s more important to me as a starting point,” Allison said. “I use printouts of that information to inspire the paintings. So, I still like to make objects by hand, I guess that makes me a little bit of a Luddite,” he said, laughing at his reference to textile industry workers who destroyed 19th century machinery. “I’ve had this discussion with other people about the act of conceiving something on a computer versus the act of painting it, and I use both techniques.”

Courtesy photo Artwork created by Tony Porter of Loretto can be seen in the “Vibrant Indefinite” exhibit at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, Altoona, through July 24.

Porter, 40, said his art is influenced by impressionism, ukiyo-e and art nouveau styles, as well as a favorite childhood activity — putting crayon to paper and unconsciously drawing.

As a grownup, he traded his crayons for an iPad to create layers of colors and shapes. His art, which he describes as abstract illustration, is digitally printed on canvas using an online service.

Porter grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, and turned to digital illustration mostly through necessity, he said, as prices of art supplies climbed and space in his apartment is scarce.

His canvas size ranges from the largest at 40 x 40, to the smallest at

36 x 36. He limits prints to three of each design.

“I’ve been doing digital art for 10 years. I’ve worked on an iPad Pro since 2019. It really upped my game because before that I was working on my phone,” he said. “I used to do traditional painting, but I don’t have the space to do it. So the iPad has helped me work with limited space and limited time.”

Completely self-taught, Porter said his interest in art came from an aunt who was a professional portrait artist.

“I spent a lot of time with her drawing,” he said. “My aunt, who was an art therapist, would call them ‘scribble drawings’; she used it as a fun project. I would let my mind wander and then we’d sit and try and make coherent drawings out of the chaos and nonsense. I’ve always enjoyed doing that.”

Today, it’s less “scribble” and more of what he calls “automatic drawing, where I open up my mind and let my pen wander on the paper. Botanical and anatomical forms show up on their own. Then I put layers and layers together and edit them to get my final drawing.”

Porter said he is always surprised at what comes out when drawing.

“I never have a goal in mind except that it be a portrait or some kind of figurative depiction. They are portraits of mythological creatures. … I look at it like creating a mythology that isn’t finished,” he said.

Porter expressed admiration for Allison’s use of color and said their pieces exhibit well together.

Allison has an extensive body of work and projects he’s done over 50 years. Allison’s work ranges from historical portraits and historical restoration work at Altoona’s Baker Mansion to Fayetteville’s signature totem pole at The Totem Pole Playhouse in Franklin County and a multi-year mural project in Johnstown. It’s his first SAMA exhibit in about 15 years, he said.

One of his pieces in this exhibition is “Si-Va,” part of the most recent Biennial Exhibition at SAMA Loretto. “Si-Va,” was selected by Stanwood Elementary school students as one of 10 works they used to inspire dance moves that were then performed by Attack Theatre of Pittsburgh.

The Hempfield School District students “got it,” Allison said, and he was honored to have his painting selected as inspiration for a dance performance.

If you go

What: Exhibit of abstract art titled “Vibrant Indefinite”

featuring works by Anthony Porter of Loretto and Michael

Allison of Altoona.

Where: Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, 1210 11th Ave., Altoona

When: Now through July 24, noon to 4:30 p.m.

Tuesday-Saturday; Closed Sundays, Mondays and holidays

For more information: 814-946-4464 or altoona@sama-art.org; suggested donation $5 per visit

Happy Hour Lecture

What: An informational talk with Michael Allison

When: 4:30 p.m. July 2

Where: Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, 1210 11th Ave., Altoona

For more information: 814-946-4464 or altoona@sama-art.org; suggested donation of $10 per person


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