Brian Larkin loves Provincetown’s famous light, but it is the town’s authentic creative spirit that has really helped define his artistic life. “I love the light; there is definitely something different about it; but I also love the funkiness of P’town. It is just dripping with creativity,” says Larkin, who lives in Providence, but says he visit Provincetown all year long. “In Provincetown, I feel charged up and alive. I like the sense of freedom there of letting loose with your art.”
Larkin’s art has also been energized by Provincetown’s creative heritage. He is an accomplished master of one of the community’s notable contributions to the art world—white-and black-line woodcuts. Larkin took classes with Provincetown’s woodcut pioneer Kathy Smith years ago. Today, he teaches classes in woodcuts in Providence and P’town. “I do classes celebrating the town’s cultural history,” says Larkin, who has a degree in medieval literature. “I weave in stories about the town’s literary and artistic figures, like B.J.O. Nordfeldt, Eugene O’Neill, and e.e. cummings.”
A true renaissance man, Larkin also paints fine landscapes that reflect his love for New York’s Ashcan School. “Growing up in Brooklyn, I was very aware of the Ashcan artists; George Bellows, John Sloan, Edward Hopper, I liked them all,” he says.
Larkin’s skill with different mediums makes him hard to label. His finely executed woodcuts, like The Fisherman #3, have emotional immediacy and playful rhythm, yet are carved with a precise and delicate touch. The woodcuts of Provincetown’s Pilgrim Monument and P’town street scenes are almost abstract with tilting buildings drawn flat, and a closeness that is almost in your face; there is a loneliness here that reflects the Ashcan painters. That sense of isolation, of detached observation, is also evident in Larkin’s evocative acrylic pieces, Truro Dunes-After Hopper and A Home At Last.
Larkin also does distinctive figurative work. “I get real enjoyment of doing figurative work quietly, carefully,” Larkin says, although he admits that he “agonizes” over his drawings. He recalls a class with Provincetown legend, painter Selina Trieff. “One day, I was drawing a male figure,” Larkin remembers. “Selina stopped and said, ‘Don’t ever apologize for drawing in that classic style. It takes a long time, but you can draw, so do it—because most people can’t.’ I really felt empowered by that.”
Larkin is represented by Provincetown’s Cortile Gallery. “Cortile is tremendous, I feel privileged to be there,” Larkin says. “Kerri Filiberto does such a fine job displaying the art and marketing the artists.”
Larkin says that although Provincetown has evolved from a funky artists enclave to an upscale resort, it still buzzes with creativity. “I bring my students to Provincetown for a day trip sometimes to see where Tennessee Williams hung out, the places where Jackson Pollack lived,” he says. “We go to all the holy Provincetown places.”