Maine Lobstermen's Community Alliance Newsletter, October 2014
Kennebunk artist David Edward Allen grew up in Ohio but has lived in Maine since the late 1980’s. Trained at the Cooper Union Institute in New York City, he has drawn and painted ever since he was a child. As a young boy, he was impressed by his grandfather, a West Virginian man who worked for the railroads his entire life. “He worked hard every day and had a whiskey at night to relax. I was drawn to him,” Allen recalled.
That connection to his hard-working grandfather partially explains Allen’s recent series of paintings of local lobstermen he knows. Th e portraits show Kennebunk lobstermen posed comfortably against the backdrop of a working waterfront. “I did the one of Gary Ridlin about a year ago,” Allen said. “I wanted to do it in a simple, straightforward way.” Ridlin liked the painting, as did his fellow lobstermen. So Allen approached other lobstermen to sit for him. “I just wanted to pursue the idea and see where it went.”
What is striking in these paintings is the careful attention Allen has paid to the textures of the men’s hands, faces, and clothing. The colors and play of light in his oil aintings highlight the often worn character of the men’s bodies. “Th ere are very few professions now where you wear your work on your hands and face, and lobstering is one of them,” Allen said.
Allen completed a remarkable 110 paintings two years ago for the Lodge on the Cove, a 1970’s motor lodge undergoing renovations. He did large paintings of lobster boats, fish shacks, and the old town firehouse, as well as smaller paintings of cameras, binoculars, and phones.
“I notice things, like stones and ropes and trees,” he explained. He has begun exploring the harbors in Cape Porpoise and Cundy’s Harbor for subjects related to the waterfront. “I didn’t want to do hokey scenes of lobstermen hanging out in a diner or something. I just wanted to show them,” he said simply.