Art and technology share a symbiotic grace in the glass spacecraft, rockets, and scientific apparatus of Rik Allen. Most of his work is made primarily of glass and metal, which expresses a paradoxical symbiosis. The relationship between the rigid strength of metal with the inherent fragility of glass creates an alluring tension. While many of his pieces reference his curiosity about science, they also convey humor, simple narratives, and a lightheartedness that is embodied in much of science fiction’s antiquated vision of the future. The theme of “futuristic antiquity” reflects Allen’s interest in the literary fictional worlds of Jules Vern, H.G. Wells, Arthur C. Clark, and Isaac Asimov and their influence on the scientific community. His sculpture is also inspired by the accounts of early scientific pioneers of the 19 and 20th centuries, such as Nicola Tesla, Robert Goddard, Wernher von Braun, and other great scientific minds.
Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Allen earned a BA in Anthropology from Franklin Pierce University, New Hampshire. His earliest and formative glass studio experiences and education came as a studio assistant in Providence, working with a number of wonderful artists to include Daniel Clayman, James Watkins, and Michael Scheiner. Allen relocated to Washington in 1994, where he joined the William Morris team at the Pilchuck Glass School for 13 years, specializing in engraving, cutting, and finishing glass sculpture.
Allen has had numerous solo exhibitions of his sculptures throughout the country, including at the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, the Museum of Northwest Art, Traver Gallery, Blue Rain Gallery, Schantz Gallery, and Duncan McClellan Gallery. His sculptures have been acquired for a number of public and private collections, including Glass Museum in Tacoma, Imagine Museum, Toyoma Institute of Glass, Blue Origin, Boeing, Amazon and SpaceX. In 2016, his work appeared in a feature cover story published by American Craft magazine and in 2018, he was awarded “Grand Artist of the future” by Imagine Museum.
In 2005, Allen established a glass and sculpture studio with his wife, artist Shelley Muzylowski Allen at their property in Skagit County, Washington. In addition to being artists, the couple has taught internationally at the Toyama Institute of Glass in Toyama, Japan, and the International Glass Festival in Stourbridge, England. They have also taught nationally, including the Penland School of Craft, Pittsburgh Glass Center, and at Pilchuck Glass School.
A lifelong Star Trek devotee – whose earliest memories of creation involved making scotch tape and cardboard phasers and communicators – Allen was contacted by Eugene (Rod) Roddenberry, son of Star Trekcreator Gene Roddenberry and current spokesman for Trekkies everywhere. Intrigued by Allen’s work after seeing a piece one of his friends owned, Roddenberry commissioned a sculpture of the original series’ Starship Enterprise. The sculpture was to reflect the basic design of the original Enterprise, but also incorporate Allen’s personality into a sculpture that was of his own original design and overall interpretation.
Allen, in collaboration with wife Shelley, has created and will install two large public sculptures, Sticken (the Orchard Octopus) in September, and Heronious One in November in Bellevue, Washington. He will have an exhibition of new work in spring 2024 at Blue Rain Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and will collaborate with Dave Walters this fall.