Steve Fuller: Provincetown Art Tour

April 24, 2012

With warmer weather approaching, my mind starts drifting to Cape Cod. I always look forward to a new season of shows in the Provincetown galleries. While most of the shops and galleries line up along the water on Commercial Street, some of the best galleries require a little detour off the main drag. These are a few of my favorites.

The Berta Walker Gallery, at 208 Bradford Street, represents the honor society of Provincetown artists, several of whom studied with Hans Hofmann. Although the space feels more like a museum than a gallery, there’s no need to feel intimidated. The gallery loves visitors and welcomes questions.

Artist Sky Powers describes Interior of a Landscape as a dreamscape, an inner reflection of her experiences and love of nature. Even at face value, it’s an exciting abstracted landscape in a daring neon palette that the artist frequently uses.

Sky Powers, Interior of a Landscape. Photo courtesy of Berta Walker Gallery

I love it when an artist takes materials that have already lived a life and gives them new life. No one does this more masterfully than Varujan Boghosian. His collages and constructions are filled with elements we associate with the past, even our own childhoods, and often with a sense of humor.

Varujan Boghosian, Childhood Dreams (The Archer). Photo courtesy of Berta Walker Gallery

Just around the corner from Berta Walker is artSTRAND in the old schoolhouse at 494 Commercial Street, but be careful not to miss the side entrance on Howland Street. ArtSTRAND is owned and operated by its nine-member artists. Their sculptors always present the most beautifully executed work.

Breon Dunigan creates sculptures incorporating vintage household items such as pitchers, teapots and furniture parts. Dunigan is probably best-known for her bronze and plaster sculptures, but her ongoing series of upholstered trophy heads such as Torchbearer, utilizing furniture parts for antlers, should satisfy any hunter and gatherer.

Breon Dunigan, Torchbearer. Photo courtesy of artSTRAND

Although the gallery has several sculptors whose work is superb, their painters and photographers are also first-rate. Francis Olschafskie’s Diptych juxtaposes the textures of the Thames and a Louis Braille page from Coupvray, France.

Francis Olshafskie, Diptych. Photo courtesy of artSTRAND

Gallery Ehva, at 74 Shank Painter Road, provides a venue for the emerging and established artists who live and work in Provincetown. The gallery also shows early Provincetown work from local art collections. I’m always intrigued by the sculptures of Didier Corallo whose #2 (Landscape after Casper David Frederich) is a construction of layered glass boxes and oil paint that evokes the feeling of a misty sea fog hanging low over the landscape.

Didier Corallo, #2. Courtesy of Gallery Ehva

Although the medium and style are totally different, Rob DuToit’s oil on canvas, titled Fall Wharf II, relays that same kind of feeling.

Rob DuToit, Fall Wharf II. Image courtesy of Gallery Ehva

Finally, the Julie Heller Gallery, at 2 Gosnold Street, is a hidden treasure tucked down an alleyway just two streets west of the center of town. Her gallery represents over 100 years of Provincetown art. Paintings hang salon-style, floor to ceiling, and in stacks down the center of the space through which visitors are encouraged to browse.

Karl Knaths (1919-1971) is one of my favorite painters and this gallery always has several fine examples of his work, such as his Vista Del Mar, dated 1958. Knaths is undoubtedly one of Provincetown’s masters with a distinctive style that retained his early cubist influences throughout his career.

Karl Knaths, Vista Del Mar. Courtesy of Julie Heller Gallery

We can’t leave town without also including a white-line print, a process that was actually invented in Provincetown. Although there have been generations of artists that have practiced this technique, there is no finer work than that of Ferol Warthen. She learned the process from white-line master Blanche Lazzell and produced some of the most beautiful prints made using this method. Her Provincetown Harbor scene is, in my opinion, her masterpiece.

Ferol Warthen, Provincetown Harbor. Photo courtesy of Julie Heller Gallery.

Steve Fuller

Steve Fuller is a Cambridge resident and author of An Urban Cottage blog about restoring his 1842 Greek Revival cottage, art, cooking and life in New England.