ROCKLAND — Richard Allen is a wanderer. Having grown up in Thomaston and served in the army, he spent his youth traveling through Europe, and working as a painter and sculptor all over the country, including a stint in San Francisco, before heading back to his home state.
His six-foot-tall driftwood horses and moose sculptures embody so much of his free-range aesthetic. Their “muscles” are made from bleached bits of knobby driftwood he collects on beaches. Currently, a “herd” of them stand on the lawn of Michael Good Gallery in Rockport.
Allen doesn’t have a studio, representation or a website and prefers to use his Rockland backyard as a scrap pile for his latest creations.
“I’ve been doing this for 40 years,” he said, unveiling another piece under a tarp in his yard. “I’ve done hundreds of these horses all over the country. I love the serenity of working on it as the piece grows.”
One day while playing accordian on the street in Camden, he happened to see one of his driftwood moose riding in the back of someone’s pick up truck. A woman standing next to him saw it as well and remarked, “‘Wow, I’d love to know who the artist of that thing is, I’d love to buy one.” And Allen turned to her and said, “Hello, Madam. You’re talking to him.’”
The horses and moose take several months to create. He spends several days a week combing beaches and inland areas for driftwood, which is getting harder to come by he admits.
“Everybody is taking it off the beaches,” he said. “But, it’s not easy, you’ve got to be determined.”
Once assembled, he covers every inch of the pieces with sealant so that they can withstand the elements year after year.
Allen used to work in oil paintings, but found the competition to be too much.
“Every artist has a certain style and I wouldn’t say these sculptures are for everybody but I don’t really have the competition for these,” he laughs.
Allen does other animal sculpture work as well including wood-carved pigs and he was commissioned to make the giant iconic lobster that sits in front of Claws, the Rockland lobster shack on Route 1.
While Allen heads down to Florida for the winter to work on some more pieces his herd of moose and horses will remain all winter on the lawn at Michael Good Gallery.
Kay Stephens can be reached at email@example.com