There is the light that every dawn brings, and then there is the light imbued in the work of Nantucket artist Elle Foley. Muted or clear, subtle or strong, reflected or refracted, light rays cast a lovely, gauzy net over her evocative impressionist landscapes, lending them focus, definition, and clarity. “It’s my greatest inspiration,” Foley says.
A summer resident of Nantucket, she travels extensively and considers her art “a painterly travelogue” of places in Europe, New England, and Nantucket, where she sets up easels outdoors for en plein air painting, or in a studio for more complex pieces.
The island, emblematic of our region’s sublime play of light, gives Foley limitless opportunities for expression. A first look at Summer Surf, for instance, reveals bands of blue ocean dotted with breaking waves and seabirds and offset by a swath of grass in one corner. Then the lyrical clouds come into view and finally, a light—clear and iridescent—washes over it.
One of her newer works, Red Sail, makes use of warm tones to brighten the sky over a sailing dory. “I’m always struck by the beauty of Nantucket,” says Foley.
Color, paint, and brushwork ultimately allow her to explore the natural world and sense of place in her art. “Varying the brushstrokes and layering is part of the fun of working with water and land. It adds depth and dimension,” says the artist. It also helps establish the place. “Each building, boat, hillside, or human figure is carefully painted in the context of its surroundings,” she says. “I like to keep it simple, to keep the eye moving.”
Foley has been coming to Nantucket since the 1980s, when she was a practicing architect and remodeling houses on the island. She studied painting at the Maryland Institute College of Art and architecture at the Boston Architectural Center. After her architectural career, she returned to painting at the Art Students League in New York City, and began picking up awards—in New York at the Salmagundi Art Club, from the National Arts Club, and from the Nantucket Artists Association.
As both an architect and artist, Foley has an uncanny balance of an analytical mind and a creative spirit. It keeps her moving, literally and figuratively. As she says, “My energy and delight in color, light, and shape are ever changing.”
Elle Foley’s work may be seen at the Artists Association of Nantucket at 19 Washington Street and the East End Gallery at 3 Old North Wharf, both on Nantucket; Powers Gallery in Acton; Mecox Gallery in Palm Beach, Florida and at ellefoley.com. The East End Gallery hosts a one-woman show from 6 to 7 p.m. on July 27.
In these frenetic days, it’s easy to miss the drama and mystery of everyday objects. Not so for Yarmouthport artist Elaine Gardner. To her, the stuff of life—a book on a table, cut fruit on a board, a china set—is a golden opportunity for expression.
It is the timelessness of the objects that Gardner loves. “Most of the objects could be in a painting a hundred years ago,” she says. Consider Lemons and Oysters, a multilayered, painted still life of cut lemons, oyster shells, a strand of pearls, and a crystal cruet picking up light in the background. In Gardner’s hand, the scene is cloaked in anticipation.
There is some appeal of the old-fashioned here, but it’s much more. While Gardner says simply, “I paint in a very traditional way,” her powers of contrast and ability to bring her subjects from darkness give objects an unusual drama. She gives much of the credit to the things themselves. “They’re timeless objects,” Gardner says. “What attracts me to them is the old, the dusty, things with tarnish or rust.”
In Preparing to Travel, a bust emerges from the dark background, near a row of books and behind a messy pile of maps, a spyglass, and other objects. In the front “step” is a map and a couple of French francs. “I like stepping from the background forward,” she says. And she loves her oil paints. “I love the smell, I love the texture,” she says. “It’s heaven.”
Gardner grew up in Barnstable and studied printmaking at the Swain School of Design. “But I always wanted to paint,” she says. A defining experience was a yearlong trip to Italy at age 23, when she discovered the painter Caravaggio. “What was exciting was the drama of his work, his composition. That has stayed with me,” she says. Then six years ago, she picked up a paintbrush and the fire ignited.
Today Gardner paints part time, but she looks forward to the day when she can spend all her time in her painting shed, with its quiet, natural north light. “I want to be able to paint until I can’t anymore,” she says. “My dream is to be able to spend my days painting. It’s a dream come true.”
Elaine Gardner’s work has been shown at the Cape Cod Art Association at 3480 Main Street in Barnstable, and the Cultural Center of Cape Cod at 307 Old Main Street in South Yarmouth. The Cultural Center features her work from June 13 to 24.
Ann Hart is the quintessential self-taught artist. After a creative childhood, she was diverted from art, then returned in unexpected style. While waitressing one summer as a college student at The Squire in Chatham, she drew chalkboard menus and designed t-shirts during slow times. Today, 37 years later, Hart is a little awed that she is back on Main Street in Chatham, this time in Gallery Antonia, where her dynamic watercolors hang.
The contrasts in Hart’s life are mirrored in her art. “When I choose a subject, I’m looking for that brilliant contrast that allows me to use my paper in a dramatic way,” Hart says. She creates her effects through “negative painting”—using the paper as another palette of colors and saving white space as she works.
There is no going back in this method. In All My Marbles, a small, lovely piece that rings with color, shape, and depth, Hart thought she might have met her Waterloo. “It was such a challenge to create all that depth and brilliant color, and saving all those whites,” she says. “It was kind of a terror, but so much fun to do.”
She admits that her fellow artists think she’s a little far-gone. “You have to be a bit of a detail freak,” she admits.
Pocket Patio is a different angle on Provincetown, but purely stamped with the spirit of the Outer Cape: the brilliance of coleus and vines catching the light; the texture of the stone; the complementary shades of aqua, burnt orange, and violet. “I think of them as just singing against each other,” Hart says. Another charming Cape Cod scene, Ryder’s Cove, with dinghies lazily tethered on a marshy patch of sand at low tide, brought her an invitation to exhibit in a national show of the Transparent Watercolor Society of America.
Hart also does more structural pieces, mostly in another setting she loves: New York City. Signs of the Times is a vignette of a street scene with contrasting colors and eras. Amid contemporary signs and a faded brick building is an everyday traffic light, Hart’s favorite part. “It’s so artist centric,” she says. “I guess all artists are pretty self-involved with their work. We just zero in on something visual that gives us great pleasure.”
Ann Hart’s work may be seen at Gallery Antonia, located at 578 Main Street in Chatham ( galleryantonia.com) and annhartsart.com. The gallery will stage a solo show of her work August 8-September 30. She also exhibits at the Cape Cod Art Association in West Barnstable and the Creative Art Center in Chatham.
Considering the challenges that life has thrown her way, Patricia Kaufman is remarkably attuned to its goodness. After all, Kaufman says, all her life events led her to her art, a personal journey for 40-plus years.
“My life’s experiences have provided the catalyst for the birth of my paintings,” Kaufman says. “Art is my life. It’s what I’m supposed to be doing.”
Kaufman’s oil paintings brim with rich creativity, symbolism, and the subconscious mind. Almost all contain threads of personal history, such as Grandmother’s Garden, which depicts a young girl kneeling, head bowed, over rows of flowers stretching into the far distance and lilies in the foreground providing a talisman of protection, all under a sapphire-colored sky. It is at once deeply somber and joyful. The kinetic Heart Chakra focuses on a dancer, with allusions to mysticism, yoga, and the body’s chakras.
Though she is often influenced by poets and philosophers, such as the 13th century mystical poet Rumi, she is not afraid to bare her deepest joys and wounds in her oil paintings. After a difficult childhood, Kaufman entered a disastrous marriage. After divorcing, she went on welfare and put herself through the University of New Hampshire, earning a bachelor of fine arts and a master’s degree in art education. While rebuilding her life, her son was paralyzed in a fall at age 21.
Her life today, in New Market, New Hampshire, with travel to the Cape for exhibits and visits with friends, is filled with personal exploration and painting, her sacred ritual. “We’re connected to some inner guidance,” she says. “We don’t really do anything alone,” she says. As she sits before an empty canvas, she connects with her subconscious, trusting that the stories that emerge are the real deal. Always, she is “moving through the piece.” What begins as a playful manipulation of colors and shapes expands into androgynous figures, landscapes, and underwater images, fantastical, symbolic, and deeply meaningful.
Art is a permanent fixture in Kaufman’s life, as crucial as water and air. As she says, “The art has saved my life.”
Patricia Kaufman’s art may be seen at Bowersock Gallery, 373 Commercial Street, Provincetown, and Mount Dora, FL (bowersockgallery.com). A show of her work is being held at Bowersock’s Provincetown location on August 17th.
To understand how Steven Kennedy’s art manages to pro- ject both raw natural force and urbane sophistication, it helps to know the full story of his professional life. While primarily a painter, the Wellfleet resident’s other talents include being a feature writer specializing in commercial fisheries, a racecar photographer (a book on vintage racecars is due to debut this year), and an art teacher. All his work thrusts him into settings that satisfy his fascination with the outdoors—especially the traditional waterfront—and his desire to showcase people with an expansive worldview.
Kennedy is aware of the pull between his worlds. “Sometimes I think I’m an urban painter trapped in the country,” Kennedy says, chuckling. His plein air paintings, mostly done on the Outer Cape, but also in urban landscapes such as mill towns, capture the powerful forces of nature somewhat subdued by manmade structures—boats, bridges, working harbors. There are no soothing, white-flower-bedecked fences here. “I like the drama of the ice and the heartiness of winter against the graceful lines of the boat, the harshness of saltwater, the man-against-sea feeling,” he says. “It’s an interesting aesthetic that draws me.”
Provincetown Winter (a sizable 36 inches by 24 inches) is a depiction of a commercial fishing boat that has cut through ice to dock at MacMillan Wharf. The sun is low, casting a murky yellow light on Cape Cod that those who spend deep winter here know well. Even in his more sedate paintings, such as Dottie’s Garden, the flowers are electric with color, the deep green trees painted in moody expressionist style. It is very close to realism, but with just enough of a painterly touch to give it deeper emotion.
Kennedy started his art career in representational style, and then experimented with modernism while training at Paier College of Art in Connecticut. He moved to the Cape, where he and his wife Lucy have lived for 30 years. Kennedy says her support is critical.
Once on the Cape, another art style bubbled up. “In a sense, I went back to my roots. I shed the modernist style of working pretty quickly,” he says. “I’m at the opposite end of the spectrum.”
Steven Kennedy’s work may be seen at Left Bank Gallery, located at 25 Commercial Street in Wellfleet (leftbankgallery.com); Kiley Court (kileycourtgallery.com) Gallery at 445 Commercial Street in Provincetown; and stevekennedyfinearts.com. Kiley Court Gallery is displaying his work from July 20 to August 2. He is guest artist at Addison Art Gallery on Route 28 in Orleans from August 10 to 24. A reception will be held on August 11 from 5:30 to 7:30p.m.
Bao Lede was part of the daring 1985 New Wave art movement in China, in which artists began expressing themselves in avant-garde style, challenging eons of tradition in Chinese art. One of Lede’s collages, Sun Flower, was included in the prestigious China avant-garde exhibition held in Beijing in 1989.
Lede had visited the Cape several times after he moved to New York City from China, and encountered nature here in a way he hadn’t before. “I was fascinated by the beauty of Cape nature,” he says. “At the time, I had an idea, that it’s an ideal place for living and painting.” So he and his wife, writer Dian Tong—whom he met during the 1980s Chinese art movement— came here to live in 1992. Shortly thereafter they opened Tao Water Gallery in West Barnstable and Provincetown. Lede felt the connection with the outside world strengthen, and his art changed accordingly.
“Cape Cod is a very unique nature resource,” Lede says. “Details vary: everything changes. Sometimes Cape Cod is peaceful; sometimes you can see the wild. It touches me.”
Lede’s abstract expressionist art is powerfully dynamic. His figurative work and landscapes, in bold, brilliant colors, flow across the canvas—and sometimes on rice paper collage—with a Zen-like meditative quality. In the earthy, active figurative work, Boxer, there are clear vestiges of Chinese calligraphy. “I’m standing in the line between Eastern and Western inspiration,” Lede says.
The influence of his Chinese heritage and training are clear, in both his figures and landscapes. The body, Lede says, is also a natural landscape, so our physical environment and the human form have more in common than some might think. “You’re painting not only the outside landscape, but also your inside world, your spirit,” he says. “How you paint is the way to show your spirit.”
The female figure in Green Tea, juxtaposed with two folding chairs, has the same flowing vertical lines as his landscapes Sandy Neck Beach: Snow-Day Time and Farewell at Pilgrim Lake I. The thoughtful use of black in his paintings is a signature touch. “It is my style,” he says. “I use black for my force.”
While his focus is on composition and brushwork, Lede’s main tool, he says, is unblocking chi, or energy. “It’s kind of a dynamic force,” he says. “I paint the way I feel. I feel the power, the force; then I try to unblock it, to free myself.”
Bao Lede’s art may be seen at both locations of Tao Water Art Gallery: 1989 Route 6A, Barnstable and 352 Commercial Street, Provincetown (taowatergallery.com). His abstract, Sandy Neck Beach: Snow-Day Time, will be displayed at Barnstable Municipal Airport throughout 2012.
Whether it is oil, pastels, or acrylic on paper, canvas, or board, Falmouth artist Diana Lee loves everything about paint and painting—plain and simple. The passion comes from a woman who can’t remember not feeling the pull of a brush. “I never left painting,” Lee says.
When her children were small, she couldn’t work as much she wanted. So, she says, “I would paint at night, while they were sleeping.” Those nights had to tide her over until she could go back to school and earn a bachelor of fine arts. Her earlier training was at the competitive School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. She went on to show in area guilds, including her first major solo exhibition, at the Cape Cod Conservatory in Barnstable in 1991.
Lee’s exuberance is clear in her vivid colors and majestic brushstrokes that capture their subjects spot on in landscapes, seascapes, still lifes, and portraits. From beach scenes with drifting sailboats and playing children, to marshland vistas with grassy knolls and rolling dunes, Lee’s work conjures up the natural beauty that locals and visitors treasure about the Cape.
Today, Lee lectures and teaches summer workshops on painting en plein air and pastel. “When I’m teaching, I’m still learning,” says Lee. Both her paintings and workshops reflect her joy of the natural world. “I’m using the landscapes in a way of responding to nature, how the spirit moves me, rather than thinking about it so much,” she says. Lee often mulls the words of Henri Matisse: ‘to look at life with the eyes of a child.’ “That is my passion,” she says, “to be able to see nature with the eyes of just total joy and to be able to convey that.”
Diana Lee’s work may be seen at Gallery 333, 333 Old Main Road, North Falmouth (gallery333.com), which will feature her work July 18-Aug. 12. Her upcoming shows include two at Cataumet Arts Center at 76 Scraggy Neck Road in Cataumet: the “Summer Group Show”, July 19-Aug. 5 and “Cape Scapes”, Aug. 9-26. Her work also may be seen at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Nov. 28-Dec. 2; and at dianaleestudios.com.
James Maddocks was one of those lucky children whose parents recognized his talent very early. At age 12, he sold his first work—a winter scene of a house in a meadow—to a neighbor. Today, Maddocks brings that same fresh, unadulterated vision to the paintings hanging in his Brewster gallery.
The fact that he had no formal art training may be at the root of Maddocks’ vision. While the scenes are quintessentially Cape Cod, there are no paved roads, sleek motorboats, or power lines. His use of color and stylized brushwork celebrates the Cape at its natural best. Consider Windsong, in which several sailboats sit on a placid sea awaiting their crews. A soothing scene reflected in the calm water bathed in morning light.“I create a lot of depth and mirror reflection for a calm mood,” Maddocks says. “Sun and shadows play a large role.”
Maddocks’ paintings depict an idealized Cape Cod—rich in detail and expressive color, at times conjuring the spirit of children’s author Beatrix Potter. “I envision Cape Cod with all its charm,” Maddocks says. He loves to paint from circa-1900 photos, before modern culture cluttered the landscape. For a current work, Maddocks strikes out in early morning or late afternoon, camera in hand, and may take 20 photos before heading back to his studio, a carriage house attached to the home where he and his wife, Denise, have lived for 30 years.
He also is adept at closing his eyes and envisioning a scene, eliminating phone wires and blacktop. “New England has changed so much,” he says. “Harbors come and go, they get rebuilt, get destroyed by storms. It’s ever changing.”
In 1974 at age 23, Maddocks rented gallery space in the Boston area. He progressed to outdoor Cape Cod art shows, where he won best in show awards in Chatham for several years, before settling in his current space in Brewster. He has a thriving vocation—one painting was purchased by an individual for Queen Elizabeth II.
His paintings often inspire memories for clients, who are drawn to his realistic, but artful touch and his settings, which are almost always on Cape Cod. With fresh material around him every day, the region is a perfect locale for Maddocks. As he says, “I assume there’s a subject around every corner.”
James Maddocks Gallery is located at 1283 Main Street (Route 6A) in Brewster. Log on to jamesmaddocksgallery.com or call (508) 896-6223 for hours, or visit by chance.
To say that Kimberly Medeiros’s clay work radiates color and verve—her pieces practically dance on her studio shelves—is only half the story. The Pocasset potter’s desire to change the world through her art is just as impressive.
Medeiros also teaches. One of her students, Sarah Symons, is co-founder of The Emancipation Network. The organization rescues trafficked women and girls, mainly in India, and Medeiros traveled to India in 2006 to witness this human tragedy. “It changed my life,” the artist says in her home studio, filled with fetching pots and other clay pieces that show her inner fire.
After returning from India, Medeiros created her “India Series,” a collection of pottery rich and textural in color and design, depicting some of the girls and women she met. “We were in the red light district, in slum schools, where garbage was piled 13 feet high,” she says. She tagged the series “Pots with a Purpose” and today donates a percentage of sales to help the women. One piece is Cruel Kurnool, a platter that shows trafficked girls—some as young as 10 years old—working as prostitutes in Andhra Pradesh, India.
Medeiros, a mother of two, also produces pots with a lighthearted theme. Her “Motherhood Series” includes Baby Belly Mugs, which feature pregnant women rendered with artful but playful details, and vases with mother and child themes. Her technique is sgraffito, a painstaking process that involves applying slip to unfired ceramic and then carving a design. She was inspired to create the “Motherhood Series” when two passions dovetailed: motherhood and her discovery of the paintings of the late Gustav Klimt, who created The Kiss.
Last winter, Medeiros was juried into the prestigious Society of Cape Cod Craftsmen. But her inspiration often comes from people who don’t know the meaning of prestige: today, some of her favorite pieces are created by stamping clay, which was inspired by her small-fry students. “I love teaching,” Medeiros says. “It keeps me fresh.”
Kimberly Medeiros’s work may be seen at her studio, The Barn, at 359 Barlows Landing Road in Pocasset (thebarnpottery.com). Medeiros shows at these events: The Society of Cape Cod Craftsmen Show, Aug. 14-16 at Drummer Boy Park in Brewster; “Art of Clay: Function and Beyond,” Oct. 3-21 at the Falmouth Artists Guild at 137 Gifford Street in Falmouth; and “Concepts in Clay,” Oct. 27-Jan. 6, 2013 at the Cape Cod Museum of Art at 60 Hope Lane in Dennis.
It takes a brave artist to conceive a piece not from a setting or photograph, but from the interior of the self. Consider Mashpee painter Amy Rice. Two years ago, she curated the show, “Out of Their Minds,” in which she and fellow artist Cecilia Capitanio painted strictly from mental or emotional landscapes. “I challenged myself to paint completely out of my head,” says Rice, the owner of Woodruff’s Art Center in Mashpee Commons.
A funny thing happened. Rice got comfortable and discovered that she loved it—loved it so much that she adapted the same technique for a piece she showed in last year’s “Lunar Art Series,” a series of several receptions that were held on full moons, each featuring paintings inspired by the name of that moon. One of those, the “Flower Moon” show, featured her painting, Joy. Perfectly named, it exudes a glowing sense of freedom and growth, with vibrant tufts of yellow, orange, and blue wildflowers stretching toward a radiating sun.
“I’m forever experimenting,” says the self-taught artist, who expresses herself in a variety of mediums, on different-sized canvases, and through impressionistic or abstract styles. “I get bored doing the same thing,” she says. Owning an art supply store helps, bringing her constant inspiration.
In what she calls her “former life,” Rice lived in New Jersey and sold real estate, making a living, but not happily. She had been interested in art, and started experimenting in the early 1980s. A few years later, she and her then-husband, John Woodruff, moved to the Cape and started the gallery. John, a portraitist, was an important inspiration, says Rice.
Moved by the colors and natural wonders of Cape Cod, for a period of time Rice focused mainly on fish. In Catch Me If You Can, composed of acrylic on a background of brilliant blue fibrous rice paper, a striper is captured in a single moment. Seaworthy typifies her current direction: big blocks of brushstrokes, loose and impressionistic, define a brightly mixed white and blue sky above a majestic sailboat.
Whatever comes next is sure to be just as fresh and inspiring. “I’m always looking to try something different,” says Rice. “I’m forever reaching, searching.”
Amy Rice’s work may be seen at Woodruff’s Art Center, located at 1 North Market Street in Mashpee Commons, Mashpee (woodruffsartcenter.com).