Stone is plentiful along the coast of Maine, perfect for a sculptor who likes to be inspired in his work by nature. In the summers, Frederick Allen sculpted for his own pleasure, using for materials the granite and greenstone of North Haven found on the beach of Bartlett’s Harbor on North Haven Island, his summer home, and the pink granite of the sister island Vinalhaven.
He carved by hand at first with a hammer and chisel when there was no electricity, then with power tools in later years to make his work easier. His son Frederick remembers those creative projects, He “bought a compressed-air stone cutting outfit and made several stone sculptures.” Just for fun and to satisfy his creative urges, he “played” in this way with the stones he found on the beach.
Shapes suggested internal forms to him. By chipping away the surface, polished and darkened by the ocean waves, he revealed what he saw in his imagination and helped the images emerge from inside the stone where they were encased in a discolored shell. Peeling that away, the crystalline structure of the stone was exposed and its untouched fresh surface brought into the sparkling Maine light. Here it created form by the way it bounced off the crystals to highlight details or was absorbed into the center to create shadows. The sculptor’s color is texture and light. The juxtaposition of rough and smooth surfaces suggests alternating open space and solid form while variations in light and shadow play with the idea of “color.”
Native North Haven stone is a schist material called North Haven Greenstone. However, much of the stone found on the beaches was granite, brought by the glaciers. The granite stones “vary in size from ‘pebbles’ (eight inches) to boulders. The little [gray granite] horse’s head is merely a sketch in stone. It is ‘pebble’ in size and many things are only suggested. It is included to show that any stone may become a piece of sculpture.” (Betty Smith) However, a sketch format doesn’t mean that the art is unfinished. At times the lack of detail emphasizes the importance of the internal form to a sculptor, a subject that was hotly debated at the turn of the century. Thayer Tolles, in his essay on “Refined Picturesqueness” states that “By the late 1880’s, most critics understood the concept of finish as the successful projection of effect as much as a reference to the state of an object’s polish.”
The shell of the stone is seen along the top of the head where the horse’s mane is suggested by the vertical cuts into the surface. The ears follow the mass of the skull. The face is smooth in texture and the light reflects off the flat plane formed by the line of the forehead and nose, all of which invites touching. Here, this little pony waits in alertness, looking down with its chin drawn in against its upright neck. The detail in the big soft eye draws you in to see how alive it is. The mere suggestion of the tender relaxed skin around the wrinkled nostril lets you know there is no danger or effort, but rather a sense of curious attention. Rough chiseling colors the thick neck as it fades into the base that sits on a square stone block. It is simple and charming.