Mongo Allen

“Playing in the Dark,” a painting by Mongo Allen, illustrates that people who suffer from addiction and mental illness are constantly trying to “win” at stability and sobriety.

NORMAN — An exhibit by Edmond artist and educator Mongo Allen will open Oct. 25 at the Whispering Willows Gallery in Norman. 

Allen’s collection of acrylic black and white paintings is called “Stepping into the Light.”

“It was motivated by my years of working with families who are dealing with mental illness and substance abuse,” said Allen, who is founder and president of the nonprofit Five Smooth Stones Foundation, which provides educational and life skills resources to struggling families.

“In many cases, the caregivers who are providing help to the family members become traumatized by their experiences. It has the potential to take them to a place that is dark and without light. It’s an experience that you have to live to understand.  You never forget how it makes you feel.”

People who suffer from such trauma “must have faith to move forward,” Allen said. “This show is about leaving our fears behind and stepping into the light. For me that light is my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

All the portraits are modeled after people he has known, said Allen, who is the former principal of an at-risk charter school. 

Allen holds a bachelor’s degree in graphic art from Southwestern Oklahoma State University and master’s degrees in education and education administration. He has also worked as a mental healthcare professional.

“I was impressed with his art, because it’s dynamic and it’s eye-catching,” said Peggy D. Farris, an artist and owner of the Whispering Willows Gallery.

She said the paintings in the exhibit “are really emotional, with his black and white effect.”

Allen has also written and illustrated a children’s book about bullying and created colorful stuffed toys based on characters in the book, which will be for sale at the gallery along with his art exhibit.

Exhibits by Connie Seabourn of Oklahoma City and Kevin Stark of Pauls Valley will also open on Oct. 25 at the gallery at 226 E. Main Street. Farris said Stark tends to work in bright colors, and Seabourn has more of a loose style of painting, so the three exhibits will provide an interesting variety.

“I expect this to be one great show,” Farris said.

The show will officially open with a reception from 7 to 9 p.m. Oct. 25 and will be up until Nov. 29. For more information about gallery hours, call 405-928-5077.