Helen Louise Allen Altar Project

Featuring an iconic image of Professor Helen Louise Allen, a large collaborative art installation by is on display in the main entry of Nancy Nicholas Hall. Measuring 4-1/2’ x 8’, In Honor of Helen is composed of 12 individual works by artists with a connection to the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection. The Collection is winding up its year-long 50th anniversary celebration.

 Though each piece is beautiful in itself, it is only when all of the pieces are put together that the image is complete.


Artist Details

1. Jody Clowes, Former Director, Ruth Davis Design Gallery
Layered fabrics, stitching (quilting)
Clowes was thinking of her mother and the hats she always work, that often had raw, worn edges because she wore them so much

2. Erastro (Tito) Mendoza, Master Tapestry Weaver, Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico
Woven tapestry
Tapestry weaving is built up thread by thread on the loom as it is being woven. Mendoza wanted to do this particular piece because it had the grecas, which is a Zapotec symbol of the balance of opposites. The greca symbol shows up often in Zapotec tapestry weaving.

3. Lynn Mecklenburg, Alumna, generous and enthusiastic supporter of the School of Human Ecology and the Helen Allen Textile Collection
Quilting piecework
Lynn broke down her portion of the image to be like pixels on a computer and then chose quilting fabrics that would show the subtle changes of color. 

4. Luis Alonso, Street Artist, Oaxaca de Juarez, Oaxaca
Embroidery (Painting with thread)
Luis created the piece Helen in Thread that was unveiled at the opening of the Lynn Mecklenburg Textile Gallery in early 2019. He stretches the fabric on a frame, like a canvas and then uses curved needles to “paint”. https://vimeo.com/manage/299350557/general

5. Alejandro Jimenez Molina, Master Puppet-maker, Oaxaca de Juarez, Mexico
Carolyn Kallenborn Jane Thiele Professor of Human Ecology
Carved wood with paint, sequins, fosshape and paperclay, paint, fabric.
Known for his exquisitely carved puppets, Molina is a puppet maker who has studied the craft in Mexico and Italy and is. He carved Helen’s face while Kallenborn added paint and sequin embellishment, the fossshape and paperclay hat, paint, fabric collage and stitching with hand-painted fabrics .
Kallenborn was meeting with the textile artists in Oaxaca about this project. Jimenez Monlina happened to stop in and asked  if he could do the face.  It turned out amazing.

6. Liese Pfeifer, Former Director Ruth Davis Design Gallery, Manager for Center for Design and Material Culture
Collage of cut paper and found objects

7. Judy Caruso, Friend of the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection
Applique and hand-made lace embroidery

8. Carolyn Jenkinson, Collections Manager Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection
Hand-painted paper and buttons
Carolyn asked the Fox Classroom of the Child Development lab to save finger paintings so she could use it in the collage. So they painted that day using colors that would go with the design including metallic colors so it really shines.

9. Carolyn Benforado, Alumna, HLATC Volunteer, Design Studies Assistant Lecturer
Layered fabrics, lace, hand-painted silks, netting, embroidery
Carolyn was one of the first to jump in and say “yes” to do the project.  The piece with its layering and multiple materials is stunning and would be a beautiful art piece all on its own.

10. Addison Nace, PhD Student in Design Studies Collections Assistant, HLATC
Fabric and paper collage

11. Marina Moskowitz, Lynn and Gary Macklenburg Chair in Textiles, Material Culture and Design Professor
Carolyn Kallenborn  Jane Thiele Professor of Human Ecology
Knitting, applique, collage, hand-painted fabrics
Marina provided beautiful hand knitting while keeping up with her busy work load as faculty director of the CDMC

12. Miriam Campos, Master Embroiderer, San Antonino, Oaxaca, Mexico
3D embroidery on fabric
Campos was in Madison this summer where she met Judy Caruso and learned to do lace embroidery. Campos incorporated the technique (which was new to her) in her contribution to the mural.

Helen altar assembly 2019

Assembling individual boxes

Helen alter assembly 2019

Mural coming together

Design Studies Professor Carolyn Kallenborn drove the project, designing the overall composition and recruiting artists from Madison to Mexico. The artists did not have reference to each other’s artwork while creating their piece. The final mural was unveiled for November’s Community Altar Project and Day of the Dead Fiesta.



Helen Louise Allen mural back side altersOn the reverse side of the mural are altars  inspired by Mexico’s Day of the Dead traditions. Contributors include the following:
Jody Clowes
Carolyn Kallenborn
Carolyn Benforado
Lynne Mecklenburg
Liese Pfeifer
Dakota Mace
Marina Moskowitz
Carolyn Jenkinson


HLATC 50th anniversary logo