July 2008

Metal is medium for local sculptor

Allenà·¯rks on display at arboretum through September

By Mike Congdon - Observer Tribune

Long-time sculptor Peter Allen has never met a scrap metal yard he doesn଩ke, nor has he ever turned down a factory castoff. In fact, he thrives on them, and seeks them out. They are the tools that feed his inspiration. Allen, 48, has been a sculptor, working mostly in metal, but sometimes in wood, for most of his life. The Deer Ridge Drive resident and his mother, Elaine Allen Smith, another long-time sculptor, will be displaying 10 sculptures in the ⴠIn The Garden帨ibition at the Reeves-Reed Arboretum, located at 165 Hobart Ave., Summit. The exhibition runs through Sept. 1 and is free of charge. The show opens with a reception from 2 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, July 20.

In addition to Allen and his mother, other sculptors to display works include: David Bender, Ursula Clark, Fritz Hortsman, Anthony Krauss, Thea Lanzisero, Jenny Lynn McNutt, Basha Ruth Nelson, Shelley Parriott and Karl Saliter.

Allen grew up in the township, graduated from the Harding Township School, and later attended the Pingry School in Bernards Township. After living with his mother in Manhattan for a while, Allen moved back to Harding, while his mother splits her time between Mexico and New York City. 襠has a home and a studio in San Miguel De쬥nde, Mexico, and she also has a studio in Canada,ᬬen said on Thursday, July 3. Allen said his mother was his initial inspiration, and that as far back as he can remember, he has been a sculptor. 襠gave me the tools. I can remember working with lead and copper at the kitchen table when I was 6,襠said. ﷬ Iസ and I堢een doing it ever since.ꠠ

Allen received his masterथgree in art from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Although he does some drawings and paintings, most of his work is concentrated in the field of sculptures. 䒳 a lot of casting and bolting and some welding of sculptures. I堍 created many life size, 10 foot tall pieces right on my property,襠said. He࡬so done some small pieces. His mother, meanwhile, concentrates largely on creating life-sized musicians from steel. ෯rk with steel as well, but I also do a lot with bronze and aluminum,襠said.

He said his focus is largely on sculpting people or scenes from nature. He said he sculpts from memory, from scenes in nature or from objects he finds. Heयne about 1,000 pieces and said some are as small as one foot by one foot, while others are taller than 10 feet. In a yearഩme, he completes about a dozen or, roughly, one per month. On the side, he works on an investment property he purchased in upstate New York, and sometimes, he sculpts there too. Most of the time, however, he sculpts in his home studio. His favorite pieces, he said, are typically the one heୡking at the time. ⭠always excited to be working on something new,襠said. it࡬ways something new. I donಥpeat something I堡lready made.튠

Currently, he෯rking on a series of pieces that were inspired by drawings he made of pieces of steel at the Sept. 11 site. ୡde some drawings and paintings of the 9-11 steel, and I wanted to turn those drawings into sculptures, so that෨at I堪ust completed,襠said. He said they are abstract sculptures that are about one foot tall and one foot wide. In total, he created 10 in the series. They are made of painted and welded steel, and he said he gained the inspiration by looking at the photographs.

Allen said he sells some of his sculptures, often attending several shows per year, but he also makes them for friends and family members. ਡvenୡde a really big effort to get into New York, but I do shows in New Jersey each year,襠said, adding that he showed his works at the Pingry School recently. He also has shown his work at the Morris Museum. Pieces on display at the arboretum range in size from three feet tall to six feet tall. Although he works mostly in metal, he has done work in both stone and wood.

To find pieces of metal that will make the perfect sculpture, Allen said he shops yard sales, and is well acquainted with area scrap metal dealers. 堨ave some right here in New Vernon. My favorite places to look are at factories. I look for odd-shaped pieces of metals, and castoffs or big giant wheels or old farm tools,襠said. ⭠after the unique and interesting shaped things,襠said. ﯬs, old farm equipment and things from the recycling steel yard are perfect. They are just like goldmines for me,襠said.


March 2008

Mother and Son Display Works At Pingry

Elaine Allen Smith of Grenwich Village at age 75 and Peter Allen at age 47 from Harding Township, New Jersey are displaying two recent steel pieces at Pingryȯstetter outdoor front entry space. Peter studied at Pingry where he graduated high school in 1978. Their works may have been seen last year (as well as this summer) at the Reeves Reed Arboretum on Hobart Road in Summit or in permanent installations in the Newark Museum, Kean University, Brandeis University and New Vernon.

This mother and son choose as subjects the role of love and laughter in painted steel human scale works. Elaine෥lded steel ﵰle튠 draws lines with steel into spare depictions of family. Primary colors adorn Peterӊuggler Dancing on a Ball稩ch delights in capturing precarious fun. Both use found objects and carefully bent steel. Both artists have been sculptors since 1965. Elaine studied at Rutgers from 1978-1982 studying with George Segal and Mel Edwards as well as Chaim Gross after graduation. Peter studied for his Masters of Fine Arts in 1985 under Elizabeth Murray, Sandro Chia, Michael Singer and Janet Fish. Paul Georges was his mentor at Brandeis. Please make comments to the artist via

Art inspired by Sept. 11 attacks

Harding Township artist credits mother's influence


HARDING TWP. A simple bronze figure adorning the grass-covered ground at the Wilson Park art show on Springfield Avenue, in Summit, has a story to tell. "'Man in the Wave' speaks of the tensions of holding up the world," said Harding Township artist Peter Allen, who speaks through his work with sculpture. "The pose purposefully seems difficult yet at peace." Allen said he thinks of the figure as being "immersed in an ocean wave at the moment it crashes down, which is analogous to the making of the sculpture and to parts of my life and the ups and downs of the artist's attempts to finishing a piece." Allen said he wants his works to "maintain the freshness and innocence of inspiration in a demanding world." Allen created Harding's September 11th bronze memorial, which is located in Memorial Park. He also has works at the Morris Museum, Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, Boston, Mass., and the Reeves-Reed Arboretum in Summit. Allen said he used steel that he retrieved from the World Trade Center to make the bronze memorial and two benches in Harding. "It was a very impressioning experience and it has affected me since then," he said. Allen also created a series, entitled "World Trade Center Steel Sculptures" out of the material from ground zero. "The best ideas in my work may be about how it feels to be juggling many elements and keeping a unified result," said Allen, of Tempe Wick. Longtime Avocation

Allen, who was raised in Harding, has been working with various media since he was a young boy. "My mother began welding as an art form when I was a child," Allen said. "I have been inspired by her." Allen's mother, Elaine, would bring home various supplies and her young son would begin experimenting with his own artistic abilities. "Although it sounds cliched, it must be in my blood," Allen said. "I was always exposed and drawn to her work." Allen described his mother's work as "colorfully painted welded steel" and that she used "found objects" in many of her pieces. Allen said that in addition to his innate interest in sculpting, he also began drawing when he was a child. "I have always loved color," he said.

After attending high school at Pingry School, Allen attended Brandeis University, where, in 1982, he received a bachelor of arts degree in psychology and fine art. Allen further honed his skills while working toward a master's degree in fine arts from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. "With the use of a bronze and aluminum pouring method, carving and welding, I have refined a style for over 20 years since getting my MFA in sculpture from the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan," Allen said. Allen said that as his art matured and evolved, he saw that some of his works resembled those of his mother. He said that after he created a piece of a girl jump roping, he saw that his mother had done something similar. "I've noticed that many of my pieces look like hers," Allen said. "It's interesting because for many years I had hesitated to do work like my mother's." The artist said he has traveled and worked in bronze foundries in New York City as well as Mexico. "I have had the luck to have, for the last 45 years, known and gotten advice from craftspeople like Joyce and Edgar Anderson," said Allen, who has also studied at the Johnson Atelier Foundry. "I pride myself for daring to experiment and caring deeply about the quality and longevity of my work," Allen said. "I look back fondly on the project of creating the Memorial Park bronzes in New Vernon along with two benches of World Trade Center Steel."

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Allen's work can be found, as part of the permanent collections at the Morris Museum and Rose Art Museum.

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