Artist Dan Van Allen lives in his own personal museum

There is no Van Allen interview. There is listening, absorption and pleasure. He knows so much about so many things: Chinese gods, woods, paint-by-numbers, calabashes, the baroque style, the art of the straw man, Fèt Gede (Haiti’s Day of the Dead), furniture restoration, community gardens, the Pied Piper God Kokopelli, the underground art scene and yoga.

So many of his stories begin with brilliant non-sequences: “I was on stilts” or “I used to keep turtles here in the winter” or “It was the gourd atorium because I had all my gourds here” or “We had pet rabbits – five or six of them” or “we used to plant guerrilla trees”.

Van Allen was born in Alexandria, Virginia, but spent most of his childhood in Seabrook, Maryland. “I grew up in a mid-century modern house. [My parents] belonged to the generation that wanted everything to be sleek and modern,” he says. “We were the generation that didn’t care.”

“That would be shocking, of course,” he said, looking around his house. “All the mess. The decorations.”

But later, when asked to use the word clutter, he backed off. “We keep it from being cluttered. You can see a difference between a museum – our house is more like a museum – and a real hoarder’s house,” he says.

Her connection to her collections is not monetary – most items were purchased for $5 or less at flea markets or given to her – but a connection of inspiration. “I don’t really value material things. I appreciate art.

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