Left in Andover: Treasures in the stones

By Susan Leader
©2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

According to The Local History of Andover, Vt, written by H.H. Gutterson and published in 1886, the earliest settlers of this area “could have had any part of the Connecticut valley they came through, at the same price they paid for their farms here; but the early settlers then regarded river lands as almost worthless … (Moses) Warner selected his farm in Andover because, as he said, it was free from stones; but he soon found that there were plenty underneath the leaves, and the farm is to this day the most stony one in town.”

In deference to Warner, my town’s founding father, I am not challenging his claim to fame. However, If rocks were money, Andover would be a town of millionaires. My own husband is convinced the chunks of white quartz scattered among our stonewalls are worth megabucks.

But the Andover rock that, if not exactly native, I find most interesting is a perfectly executed rhombus at Simonsville Cemetery. The base upon which it sits reads: Robinson Fredenthal, Sculptor, July 5, 1940- August 31, 2009.

Robin was the grandson of Lt. Colonel Arthur Albert B. Kellogg, who served as Andover town clerk from 1949 to 1951. Kellogg’s signature graces my birth certificate.

For a couple of years, Robin and his artistically gifted older sister Ruth Ann lived just south of us in Jamaica with their mother Miriam Kellogg Fredenthal. And they spent summers and holidays with Miriam’s parents, Arthur Albert and Imogene Kellogg, on Pettengill Road in Andover.

In a recent letter to me, Ruth Ann described her hardscrabble childhood in Jamaica: “Mom sent Robin and me out to forage for dandelions, milkweed, chickweed, etc to extend our meager fare since we were living on about $5 a week at the time. She taught in the one room schoolhouse for awhile and did odd jobs. We had a well across Rte 100 where we carried water. Light was kerosene lamps and heat was a wood burning stove in the winter. Robin and I could walk out the door off our bedroom and be in the forest.”

Miriam, known locally as a weaver, was in fact a classically trained artist, academic and noted textile designer, toast of the 1966 Hartford Atheneum. The children’s father was David Fredenthal, a nationally prominent painter and New Deal era muralist who hobnobbed with Diego Rivera.

The young Fredenthals’ childhood included a stint with their mother at Alfred Jacob’s Hill Top Farm in Jamaica. Actually, this hornets’ nest of radicals cradled three young creative minds. The siblings‘ playmate, Piers Anthony, premier 20th century fantasy fiction author of the kingdom of Xanth, also filled his creative well with imaginary play in the pristine fields and streams.

Robinson Fredenthal’s gravesite.

Ruth Ann Fredenthal would follow in her dad’s footsteps as a painter, graduating from Bennington College and going to Italy on a Fulbright. Robin, youngest of the three, embarked on a career in architecture.

However, as a rising modernist architect in 1960s Philadelphia, Robin was struck with early onset Parkinson’s disease. He transitioned to designing architectural scale geometric public art that would be installed throughout the city over the ensuing decades. The installations were as high as 48 feet and weighed up to 9 tons.

Due to his physical limitations, Robin designed his cubic sculptures in miniature with the help of assistants. A press release states:  “Although he works with steel, with cardboard, with plywood, Fredenthal’s true medium is the wholly immaterial.”

Fredenthal’s museum quality Rhombus gravestone at Simonsville Cemetery is a fully realized expression of his art. Far from finding it cold, I, who hated geometry in high school, find it very natural and warm. “I feel like the Geometry is God-given,” wrote Robin.

There is a story about my second cousin, now a renowned mathematician. When he was 3 years old, his mother informed him that god was everywhere. The child responded by asking if he had squeezed part of god out of the kitchen by coming in and taking up space.

For Fredenthal, seeking order through his unsettled childhood and control over his Parkinson’s, geometric form may have offered a welcome surety. But even in that, his work surprises the viewer:

“…not just the 45-45-90 degree rectilinear geometries you might expect, but 60 degree angles, equilateral triangles, rhomboids, tetrahedra. Still working in the cube, Fredenthal choreographs these different geometries until others less familiar are discovered in the dance.”

Click image for Fredenthal’s website.

The meaning of the ancient Greek word rhombus is to turn round and round. A rhombus, or diamond shape, is considered the most perfect shape in ancient Wicca tradition. “It is the culmination of the alchemy symbols for the four elements, Earth, Air, Fire and Water. These elements correspond to the four directions, North, East, South and West. In Native American tradition, the diamond is a protective emblem that invokes the power of the four winds.”

Whether the viewer experiences Andover’s Rhombus as squeezing god into or out of some space, or encapsulating the four winds, there is just enough room between Fredenthal’s grave and a nearby old settlers’ stone wall to circle round and round appreciating both.

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Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeLeft in Andover

About the Author: Vermont native and noted potter Susan Leader grew up on Popplewood Farm in Andover. At age 17, she was inspired to take up the potter's wheel by "a charismatic potter" from the Society of Vermont Craftsman. She spent 18 months apprenticing at pottery villages throughout Japan. She returned to Popplewood Farm, where she and her husband, fiddle player John Specker, raised their two daughters.

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  1. Toby Treu says:

    As always Susan you provided us with history that was not only interesting but incredibly informative! I eagerly await your articles, keep them coming, please!