Direct Carving, North Haven beach “pebble”
One can only imagine that this primitive style carving was done just for the fun of it. It’s a quirky departure for him. Allen’s assistant, Elizabeth MacLean Smith remembers that, “It was only when most of his children had grown up that he had time to spend carving granite boulders for his own pleasure and satisfaction.” The boulders on the shore of Bartlett’s Harbor on North Haven Island in Maine were plentiful and they offered the artist the freedom to be imaginative, creative, and fun.
Allen would say to his students at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, “Use all the stone; let the stone itself contribute to the design.” The basic principles apply no matter what the medium. He encouraged them to express their individual style whether traditional or modern, and didn’t disparage the use of unusual materials or shapes or judge the choice of subject matter. He was extremely interested in abstract sculpture although he did little with it, again teaching that the same basic tests for all good sculpture should be applied to that genre as to any other.
And so here is this peculiar character, this Don Quixote warrior in his helmet charging at windmills. The style doesn’t matter. The shape of the head is what the wave-washed stone suggested and Allen’s internal artist created a great character in the face he found there. The heaviness of the stone suggested the heavy jaw and neck, full lips, flattened nose, large mustache and beard. It is reminiscent of the primitive Easter Island heads and has that same Gauguin island appeal. The discolored shell still shows although he has scratched it evenly all over giving it a little texture. Only in certain lights can the fine lines of the beard, mustache, and eyebrows be seen. At the base of the skull the stone suggested thick hair pocking out from under the right helmet. It came from his imagination; fun!
In the Museum School records, there is a photo of Peter Abate, one of Allen’s favorite students with a carved stone head in a similar style. Perhaps this was an assignment in class, an exercise in creativity to make something from an unusual shape using all the stone and letting it suggest the best way for man and nature to collaborate. He said, “There is a basic alliance between sculptor and nature. Sculptors should be sensitive to natural forms, not torture and fight with their materials, and thereby destroy both the integrity of the material and of the concept.” Here the natural form translated into this wonderfully unconventional personality portrayal.
Carving takes time, patience, and concentration. Creativity requires peace of mind and solitude. It was when he was at peace in North Haven away from the stresses of his city life, that he was able to follow his heart and his imagination. This chivalrous Head of a Man remains there in spirit, an ancient knight gazing out over the water, heeding the call of his destiny.
Size: 12 1/16″ H x 4 3/16″ W x 6 1/4″ d (31 cm H x 10.7 W x 16 cm D)
Mounted on a base 3 5/8″ H x 3 5/8″ W x 5 1/8″ D, cut from a beam of painted chamfered driftwood