STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen famously lost his left arm after a car accident on New Year’s Eve 1984.
Flash forward a few decades and Allen is getting noticed for other things besides music. Over the past 13 years, he’s reached out to teen cancer patients, children with special needs, at-risk youth in crisis, families of domestic violence and veterans who have served in Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan. He was awarded the Humanitarian Award by Maria Shriver’s Best Buddies of CA in 2002 and in 2012, and was also awarded the Wounded Warrior Project’s “Carry It Forward” Award. Allen continues his work helping wounded warriors through Project Resiliency’s Warrior Resiliency Program, sponsored by his charity foundation, the Raven Drum Foundation.
“In 2006, when I went to Walter Reed (National Military Medical Center), I saw a ton of suffering, but I also saw hope. I realized I also have PTSD. Although it wasn’t from combat, trauma is trauma,” Allen said in a phone interview.
Also, after encouragement from his wife to share some of his several thousand photographs with his fans, Allen branched out into creating other forms of art beyond photography. His third, and latest art show collection, “Rick Allen: Angels and Icons,” is making its way around the country as Allen tours with Def Leppard, Styx and Tesla. “Angels and Icons,” which includes originals, limited editions, mixed media originals, sculpture and “Art to Wear” jewelry, will make a one-day visit Feb. 19 to Wentworth Gallery in the King of Prussia Mall, 690 W. Dekalb Pike, Upper Merion. Allen will make a personal appearance 6 to 9 p.m. and the artwork will be for sale. A portion of the proceeds from each sale will be donated to Project Resiliency Warrior Resiliency Program, and each buyer will receive a limited edition, hand-signed, commemorative “Purple Heart” piece.
“I wasn’t sure how it would be received. Y’know, a rock star trying to be an artist. But being creative, whatever the content, is interchangeable. I go to the same place in my heart — the same place I go with the music,” Allen said.
Register free for an RSVP to meet Allen by calling (610) 337-8988.
The angels and hearts — two of the show’s recurring themes — were inspired by Allen’s father, who passed away four years ago, and his family, including his 5-year-old and 18-year-old daughters. Buddha also shows up in his paintings.
English telephone boxes are another favorite image of Allen’s. “When it’s (expletive) down rain, or freezing cold with snow, the telephone box was a refuge,” he said of experiences growing up. “Ultimately it represents communication — being able to push out a message to the world.”
Union Jacks or American flags with Allen’s handprint are another memorable motif.
There will also be pieces from his 2012 collection of abstract representations of rhythm, using drumsticks, light and paint on canvas.
“Thank God for all the people that follow Def Leppard. That’s what gave (the artistic endeavors) its initial push. Every time I visit the galleries, there’s always a good showing of Def Leppard fans that come out. It’s difficult to get into the art world. I’m hoping it moves beyond being a novelty into a collectors piece,” he said.
The nice thing is talking to people about what they see (in the abstracts). It’s unique to everyone. It’s like listening to a song — ‘Oh, I thought it was about so-and-so’.”
When asked if he ever thinks about how different his art would be if he had his left arm, Allen replied: “I do that all the time with playing drums or anything I do.”
But instead of looking back with regret, Allen focuses on self-expression through resiliency. Learning to be vulnerable and brave through interacting with wounded warriors has taught him to stop comparing himself to past versions of himself and to celebrate his uniqueness. “I can’t do what I did before, but what I do is really unique,” he said.
“I’m really proud of it,” Allen said of “Angels and Icons.” “It brings in all the different facets (of artistry).”
Allen’s artist statement: “Music, art and photography have been passions of mine since I was a boy, and now I am bringing these artistic expressions to life with paint and canvas. My life has been a journey of transformation and my art is a reflection of the many facets of dreams and perceptions that have shaped me to be the person I am today. Each piece has a story and a connection to my life from my roots in England, my life changing car accident, journey to America, travels around the globe and to my deep connection to Wounded Warriors and their struggle to heal.”
Wentworth Gallery principal Christian O’Mahony said in a press release: “We are honored to present this extraordinary collection in our galleries throughout the country, and to continue our efforts and our tradition of giving back to the men and women who serve our nation so selflessly. Our goal is to bring exposure to Project Resiliency through artistry.”
Learn more at www.rickallen.com and www.wentworth-art.com.