Critical Mass: A Visit to the Outer Cape

 In this series:

Tabitha Vevers at Albert Merola Gallery, Provincetown

PROVINCETOWN-- My series, Critical Mass., continues with a trip to the far end of Cape Cod, highlighting exhibitions at Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill in Truro, and in Provincetown at the Albert Merola Gallery and Schoolhouse Gallery. The summer gallery season is short here so exhibitions are correspondingly truncated--two weeks in most instances, sometimes even a week. By the time you get to the Outer Cape, these shows may be down. I'll try to do them justice here.

Castle Hill
We start with a beautifully installed three-artist show, Elementary: Paintings by Sharon Butler, Sharon Horvath and Patricia Miranda, which ran July 11--22. These New York-based artists would appear to share commonalities of modest size, at least for this exhibition, and an engagement with materials.

Panorama of half the gallery: Miranda on left and right walls bracketing Horvath and Butler, Several of the works are shown in closer view below

Three by Sharon Horvath

Sharon Butler, Screenshot, 2015, oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches

Patricia Miranda, Her time passed and they read new stories, 2016; vintage lace embedded with red clay, the artist's hair, thread
I am totally enthralled by the beauty and creepiness of this piece--the red clay coloring the fabric, the same iron, essentially, that's in our blood--the intestinal imagery embroidered on the doily, its ultimate passage leading to the long hair tail.

Detail below

Panorama of the other half of the gallery: Horvath and Butler on the left wall, Horvath and Miranda on the back wall, Butler at right

Sharon Horvath, Bluering, left, and Whiteeye, both 2016; pigment, ink polymer, paper on canvas

Sharon Butler, Cybercave, 2015, oil on canvas

Patricia Miranda, Florilegium, vintage book dyed with cochineal insect dye, bamboo skewer

Sharon Horvath, Moons, 2016; pigment, ink, polymer, paper on canvas

Detail below

Sharon Butler, Blue Alloy, 2015, oil and t-shirt scraps on canvas

Detail Below

. . . . . . . .

Two gallery artists, Irene Lipton and Tabitha Vevers, each with a longtime relationship to the Outer Cape, were featured with solo shows July 8-21 in this small but dependably rewarding gallery.

Lipton had the front gallery, showing five square paintings in her signature organic abstraction. Three paintings on one wall were pulsing thanks to a graphic, largely black and white palette, while color anchored the wall opposite the entry and to your right as you stepped into the gallery.

View from the entry: Irene Lipton, untitled (1504), 2015, oil on canvas

A wall of Lipton paintings as seen from the entry, above, and the opposite direction

untitled (1509), 2015, oil on canvas, 40 x 40 inches

Looking into the small back gallery where Tabitha Vevers' Curiosa: Once, Lately, Later was installed

Tabitha Vevers's small paintings are thrillingly beautiful, consummately painted and, often, extremely creepy. I love them, even if they sometimes make me uncomfortable.  Known for her paintings on such materials as seashells and scrimshaw, here she paints not-quite-miniatures on Mylar or ivorine, lavished with metal leaf.  Her figures are women--strong or dangerous or sexual or vulnerable--but we view them out from under the lens of a male gaze. If you're on the Cape, pick up a copy of Provincetown Arts, where Vevers is the subject of an 18-page (!) feature.

Shiva: Vortex,  2016, Shiva: Vortex, 2016, oil and gold leaf on Mylar
(This painting is visible just beyond the curtain in the image above)

View from inside the gallery, looking out

Lioness: Quieting the Night, 2010, oil paint and gold leaf on ivorine

. . . . . . . .

Schoolhouse Gallery

The steepled wooden structure at the far eastern end of Commercial Street in Provincetown is close to 200 years old. Built to house schoolchildren in grades one through four, it has seen numerous incarnations, including Community Center, American Legion post, art school, and a succession of galleries. Now, as Schoolhouse Gallery, it is under the director of Mile Carroll, himself an artist. 
There are typically several exhibitions on view at any one time. This was the case when I stopped in to see Sarah Lutz's solo, which is up in the front gallery through August 3. I have followed and admired Lutz's work for some years. Beauty is the overarching element of her work with its palette of intense pastels, subtle patterns, and organic sensibility.

The small and the large: Domino V and Sluiceway

Panning around the gallery with Sluiceway; two small paintings shown together, Night Float and Gorgonian; and Elance (Red)

Continuing the pan: Festoon on the far wall and Sea Bloom foreground 

. . . bookend the two small paintings shown below: Sidewalk VIII and Sidewalk VI

I plan to continue Critical Mass through the rest of the summer while I remain in Massachsetts.


Critical Mass: "The Presence of Harmonies"

Anila Quayyum Agha's  Intersections installation at the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts 

I'm spending the entire summer in Massachusetts, so as I have done from time to time in previous years, I'm reviving Critical Mass., my reportage of art in the Bay State. In this first installment we visit the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, a gem of an institution in a waterfront city otherwise known for its 17th Century witch history.

The PEM owns a beautiful collection of pan-Asian objects, the legacy of a time when the museum was the East India Marine Society. Eighteenth-century ship captains returning from their travels to China, India and beyond brought back wondrous objects. The collection has long since expanded to hold art and objects from around the world, and its curators mount compelling historic and contemporary exhibitions.

The spare and elegant Intersections, an installation by Anila Quayyum Agha, is such an exhibition.  A laser-cut steel cube, suspended in the center of a large gallery and illuminated by a single light bulb, casts patterned shadows into the space. The patterns are Islamic, drawn from the artist's recollection of mosque mosaics in her native Pakistan. You do not have to be Muslim, or religious in any way, to feel moved by the quiet and enveloping beauty of these patterns.

Here's the artist statement about her work: "In a contextual milieu where difference and divergence dominate most conversations about the intersection of civilization, this piece explores the presence of harmonies that do not ignore the shadows, ambiguities, and dark spaces between them, but rather explore them in novel and unexpected ways."

Above: the shadow-patterned floor
Below: a panorama of the gallery. Click to enlarge

Agha's Intersections is up through October 16. If you go, make time to see  Rodin: Transforming Sculpure, which is up through September 5. In fact, just plan to spend the day. Visit the collections. And if you're an architecture person, be sure to see the Yin Yu Tang House, a late Qing Dynasty merchant's home, transported and rebuilt tile by beam within the museum; three historic homes--from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, the latter a mansion, on the museum's campus; and Patrick Dougherty's Stickwork sculptures on the grounds of the historic homes.  The gift shop is pretty nice, too.