Weird aesthetics [PRETTY & ODD] – multimedia artist Shanna Allyn

— Chinese VOGUE

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The road less traveled.

I did some commissioned film/photography work for author Anthea Paul.  Her books emphasize being true to oneself and modern visuals from around the world. The philosophy of authenticity. She interviewed the Dali Lama.



Featured on National Geographic.com  In our Long Lens feature, we ask our members about a long-term project or photo essay they are working on.  We want to encourage and discover the passion behind a portrait series.

The girl with an egg in her mouth is the first image by Shanna Allyn that I remember taking note of. This is truly a series that I feel should be viewed as a series, however. First I saw the egg, then the penny mask, the wigs, on their own each image left me confused. Once viewed as a group, I am left curious- an important distinction. I don’t think Allyn could have picked two better words to describe this series: “Strange Beautiful.”  …. article.



“Allyn’s photographs are not the kind we typically see here at National Geographic, but they certainly stopped us in our tracks by daring to be different. We love the quirk and the way these made us furrow our brows.  They are truly strange, and truly beautiful.” —National Geographic  

Photographer Shanna Allyn’s work examines women’s personas through portraits that are awkwardly edgy and surreally provocative. -Gamut Gallery



Frankie prides itself on not complying with the norms of the fashion industry, but rather sets its own style. Frankie’s design ethos embraces the beauty of the natural, awkward, geeky and nostalgic.

Allyn’s series can be seen in Frankie’s Feb/March 2012 issue in a double page feature and text that graces the cover.

The magazine is distributed globally: Australia, United Kingdom, Canada, Indonesia, Singapore, Japan, Philippines, Malaysia, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Thailand, Hong Kong, Fiji, France, Cyprus, Turkey, Korea, USA & South Africa.

Purchase a copy of Frankie magazine Issue 46



woman as phographer article

View published book: Woman as Photographer



 Modern Mona Lisas: the strange, beautiful work of

Shanna Allyn

Photographer Shanna Allyn’s deadpan work showcases natural women amongst jarring, postmodern props.

Link to article.

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The second sex

As part of Guerrilla Girls Twin Cities Takeover, Gamut Gallery hosts The Second Sex, an invitational group exhibition curated by Genie Castro, Juleana Enright and Jade Patrick that explores the imbalance imposed by the secondary designation that patriarchy places on women. Through paintings, photography, printmaking, video, performance and more, artists will examine the injustices brought on by patriarchy and visualize how to manifest balance in society.

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 Click for images and interview.

”Shanna Allyn’s photos are sometimes strange, but always beautiful.”

She has a way of bringing you into her world of strangeness all while having a chuckle with her photography that speaks for itself.”  — Twin Cities Metro



The Photomag-Photography Magazine

 Shanna Allyn captures the absurd and the disturbing in her award-winning deadpan photographs depicting women disguised with egg-covered eyes, adorned with bunches of grapes as earrings, or donning a banana nose.

— Erica Rivera   Citi Pages

2013 I was invited to the Minnesota State Fair to be part of an exhibition called StudioHERE. I chose and planned three women to be photographed in the morning, afternoon and evening—giving onlookers a glimpse into the reality of my raw studio space. 

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Click link for article.







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Betty Danger’s Northeast Minneapolis






Oddly Faceless Photography

Strange Beautiful by Shanna Allyn is Eerily Thought-Provoking

Published Dec 20, 2013

“Strange Beautiful by Shanna Allyn is Eerily Thought-Provoking”

                                                 — LOST AT E MINOR MAGAZINE

— Bird portrait published by National Geographic

I love how photographer Shanna Allyn controverts the sexualization of women by transforming ingenues into modern day gargoyles.  It would require less than the fingers of two hands to count the number of artists who provide such intelligent visual commentary on women.  Her merger of beauty and the beast is stimulating and in the same vein as Jean Michael Basquiat’s Mona Lisa.   

— Living Arrows Blog


— Penny portrait published by National Geographic

Picture 14

RAW ARTISTS: http://www.rawartists.org/shannagrape

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it would be interesting to see what the beholder makes of the photo series titled Strange Beautiful by Shanna Allyn, a published and award-winning photographer born in Wisconsin and based in Minneapolis. As though in complete opposition of the images found within fabricated fashion magazine, this series explores the idea of beauty in an oddball sort of way.

First of all, each model captured in Strange Beautiful by Shanna Allyn has her face obscured in some manner, whether that’s with a big green melon or childishly illustrated cutouts. Although slightly disturbing, the images force audiences to focus on aspects other than the perceived beauty of the individual being shot.Comprised of seven parts, Strange Beautiful by Shanna Allyn is a fantastic photo series.



Click for article


When Shanna Allyn packed up her life in New York City a year ago, she left behind a life as an editor in television to pursue photographic arts in Minneapolis.

“I knew I wanted to do a series of portraits of women,” Allyn tells us of Strange Beautiful, the series she has since produced that is taking images of femininity and turning them on their beautiful heads, “I wanted the series to reflect metamorphosis, an evolution in society, in women, in men and how things shift and change.  When I started I had intentions of creating women that looked partially like dolls.  As the series continues, the clothes come off and the eyes are exposed.  The photographs progress into something different and a transition begins between man and woman.  Woman begins to evolve into man and man into woman.”

This gendered transition she speaks of occurs in Strange Beautiful’s fifth installment, which the images of doll-like girls covered in mud, bruises and tattoos-often with parts of their bodies disguised significantly or “missing”-morph into ones of an androgynous man mirroring the gestures and expressions of a heavily made-up woman whose image alternates with his.

“It could be seen that way. I like to capture an understanding of being a woman and conveying that through a photograph or series of photographs that possibly other women can connect with. Men as well.”



By Jay Gabler, Front Row Seat

December 06, 2011

The walls of Cause Spirits & Soundbar serve as a crowded gallery for a diverse array of work by local artists, and last night I spotted this eerie print by Shanna Allyn staring across the room at National Bird. I was taken enough to send an e-mail of inquiry to Allyn, but when I woke up this morning I realized that this piece is probably a little intense for a studio apartment where it can’t really be escaped.

So I won’t be buying the piece, but it’s a remarkable print, from Allyn’s Strange Beautiful series. Its impact is heightened by a tray-like white frame that aptly recalls Matthew Barney’s Vaseline-infused custom frames for his own surreal photographs. See it, and two other pieces by Allyn, now on display at Cause. If you have a home spacious enough that Allyn’s haunting work won’t be the first thing you see in the morning, consider making a purchase.

The Set Designer

We could all see the room that Shanna Allyn’s photograph “Caterpillar” would hang in:  a modern lounge with white furniture, sleek and clean.  Most of the finishes would be a sort of 50’s artificial; new linoleum, acrylic chairs, few windows.  Shanna achieved this effect inadvertently and with only a cigarette, red wig, white glove, and a blanket for backdrop.  She created space by taping a blanket to a wall and taking a picture of someone in front of it, and the picture in turn created the space around itself, it finished the story that Shanna had just begun.

Shanna’s work represents another interesting aspect of two-dimensional artwork, its long-honed mastery of the fourth-dimension.  When Shanna’s subject is caught in this millisecond, completely concealed in the smoke pouring from her hidden mouth, the viewer anticipates and understands both the moments just before and after the one that was captured.  When the subject disappears, cocooning herself in smoke, the viewer can see the caterpillar within, and awaits the butterfly.

— Andrew Blaisdell, Expanding 2D into Eco-Architecture

Vesper College


Ideas may well be the greatest motivational force. The urge to express them arises at an early age, and it rarely ever subsides. Constructs of language and science rely on the expansion of ideas as they march eternally toward the truth. Enter: The Creative Mind. Artists have a unique infinite quest for truth. Theirs congeals from abstraction, is transcribed into reality by sheer will and is presented for all of humanity.

It’s an odd bravery they command, for their search is riddled with enigmas. “Are questions our answers? Our questions are answers!” they shout. The journey to find a voice within their diverse chorus is not for the faint of heart. Famed poet/essayist Kahlil Gibran spoke of the human soul as a clay pot. The higher you raise the temperature while firing it, the stronger the pot you’ve got in the end. Trials and tribulations are the sufferings that increase the heat of the human soul’s kiln. Take the art away from the artist, and you’ve successfully warmed things up in his/her life.

Such was the fate for Shanna Allyn. Working as a television editor in New York, work left little time to create. Her instincts began to well up until they exploded in a dramatic move to the tundra city of Minneapolis, MN. Staging calculated yet emotional tableaus became her method, and the photograph, by extension, became her medium. She began to peel away different layers of reality with her own method, forming a full series of photographs along the way.

“Strange/Beautiful” arose from Shanna’s carefully applied process. With it, Ms. Allyn used her kiln-fired spirit to explore the Psyche in a series of portraitures. Simplicity reigns supreme in her composed world, where little is used besides basic props and straight forward portraits. Sometimes funny, sometimes downright strange, her photographs always resonate with strong emotional frequencies. The use of quirky objects combined with the locations and postures of her models creates a sense of surrealism. Out of place props in a variety of lateral interpretations have a strong effect.

In recent days, Shanna has been applying her sharp eye for the odd toward a collaborative project with her East Coast allies entitled “Pins & Needles”. It’s an extension of her established midwestern sensibilities, tastefully influenced and polished by her time out east. This is the emergence of an important artist with socially relevant themes and ideals. Normative beauty culture is a bizarre phenomenon that deserves bizarre commentary. Ms. Allyn’s work is up to the challenge, and in doing so, she delves much deeper into the human condition, blurring the border between fantasy and reality.  How much of a woman’s beauty is in how she sees herself? How much of it in how others see her?

It all goes to show that chaos is integral to our daily lives, that our world is not the cut-and-dry, black-and-white system we all envision. The strangeness is all around us, but the beauty’s in the details.

T. Martin Crouse, SSS Co-Founder


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The Courage to Create is not easy to bolster, but it lies dormant within every human. With some encouragement, it can blossom into full-bodied voice, perspective, and style. Don’t fear to share a piece of the creative creature that lives inside you. The world will call it beautiful. Or. The world will call it ugly. Either way, you’ll evoke passion. Burst your own personal bubble of comfort, then go out and make something.


The heroic artists contained in this magazine were brave enough to do just that. Their work is here for you to love or hate. But please, don’t show them the disrespect of indifference. Give them a chance to show you the beauty that lives right under your nose.

Stay classy,

T. Martin Crouse


Sic Semper Serpent

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