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).
Since boyhood, painter Mike Rooney had dreamed of being an artist. But there were no art fellowships, ateliers, or scholarly art classes waiting for him. “I always wanted to paint fine art,” Rooney says. But life came at him hard and fast. After dropping out of college to support his family, he had a long stint in the military, where he painted designs under airplane cockpits. “It’s tough,” he says. “Life can get in the way sometimes.”
But no matter the twists and turns, Rooney has always kept his focus. “I’ve been a lifetime student,” he says. “You can work at a supermarket, but be thinking about painting every minute.” Now his childhood dream is coming true: the Harwich summer resident has found his niche, traveling throughout the East Coast teaching and painting, and creating in Key West for the winter months.
Rooney’s oil paintings are celebrations of the natural world, inspired by his favorite places on the East Coast, one of which is Cape Cod. Many of his paintings—with names like From Corn Hill to Roseville, Nauset Beach, and Cape Cod Morning—exude a tangible sense of the Cape’s light, air, and gently shifting shapes. The Virginia native’s paintings and travel choices reflect the coast for a reason: “It’s the way the light and the air comingle,” he notes. And almost always, he paints outside, going inside only, he says, “under duress.”
Rooney’s childhood and time in the military were followed by an income earned through professional sign painting. “It wasn’t the best time, but I just got out there and did it,” he says. When the business changed with the advent of computer graphics and his last child left for college—despite nerves about leaving a secure income—he made the leap to fine art. He still seems surprised at how his career has taken off. Today he paints and teaches, traveling among his favorite eastern locales. Showing at the Elizabeth Rowley Gallery in Orleans has been a perfect fit. Owner Elizabeth Rowley, he says, “understands art and understands the artist.”
Rooney muses about his roundabout introduction to fine art and the drudgework he did that endured up to it. Now, he sees his experience through a lens of serendipity. “The thing that I was never able to do was what bailed me out,” Rooney says. “Art allowed me to reinvent myself.”
Mike Rooney’s work may be seen at the Elizabeth Rowley Gallery at 84 Route 6A in Orleans, and at elizabethrowleygallery.com. He will teach a painting workshop at the Elizabeth Rowley Gallery on the weekend of September 15-16, from 9a.m. to 4p.m.
Whether she is painting in oil, pastel, or mixed media, Christie Scheele’s message is carried on atmospheric elements of light, air, and moisture. By softening her images’ shapes and lush colors behind a silky veil, viewers are free to gather their own message or simply a stirring—perhaps a forgotten memory or dream.
In Scheele’s eyes, the more minimalist her artwork, the more evocative it is. “I prefer the shape to be simpler, so the eye doesn’t get snagged on too many things, including brushstrokes,” she says. Images of big sky and water—pools, marshes, tidal rivers—abound in her work, much of it inspired by our area.
Scheele, a resident of New York’s Catskills, began coming to the Cape at age eight. Today she spends large chunks of every summer here with her husband, usually staying in Brewster and sometimes accompanied by their college-age twins. She finds many happy moments in places like the Brewster tidal flats or Paines Creek marsh, camera in hand, capturing settings for her studio work. She loves stepping back from the ocean into quieter areas and stiller waters. “The way the sky reflects on a tidal pool is completely different from way it reflects on the ocean,” she says.
The effect is mesmerizing. Wide swathes of color as weightless as clouds float across Extravagant Sky. Scheele is fascinated by how the eye travels across art. In Two Trees, a color field painting composed of a bit of shore, a couple of spare trees, and a water hole reflecting the sky, the eye first goes to the water hole or the trees, then circles around to masses of color. Her multi-panel works, such as the three-piece Exuberant Wave, are opportunities for her to increase the effect. She almost never paints foreground, relying on “simplicity of shape,” to carry her message. “In abstract painting, it’s all on the surface,” she says.
After Scheele “kind of tumbled” into landscape painting in the early 1990s, she quickly developed her visual voice. “I had no rules about what I was supposed to do,” she says. She found she loved reducing the details in landscape paintings to shapes of minimalist luminescence. As Scheele says, “My nature is to get blissed out when I’m outside.”
Christie Scheele’s art may be seen at both locations of the Julie Heller Gallery, 2 Gosnold Street and 465 Commercial Street in Provincetown (juliehellergallery.com) and at christiescheele.com. The gallery is hosting the group show “Three Visions,” featuring Scheele with artists Jenny Nelson and Polly M. Law, at the Anchor Inn in Provincetown, through September 16. An opening reception is being held on July 28. Scheele is teaching a landscape painting workshop July 30-August 2 at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum.
Sarah Slavick’s abstract art explores some of the most basic elements of the body’s interior—DNA, blood, veins—and their societal implications—birth, family, disease, recovery. Expressing such complex concepts in a minimalist framework is no easy feat, but Slavick has spent her full artistic career doing just that.
Slavick loves polarities and other puzzles. “I’m interested in duality,” she says. Her nature is not to prescribe messages for viewers to take away from her artwork, but to encourage them to travel their own interior paths. “I look for broad interpretation,” she says. “I don’t want my work to have singular meanings.”
That may be how she manages to turn out paintings that are raw and intense, but also lyrical and joyful. Her “Phylum Series” is comprised of works with deeply colored patterns that are almost a system of shapes—beautiful, complex, organic. Some of the pieces have dizzying numbers of wooden panels of varying sizes and depths. “I was referencing nature visually and conceptually,” Slavick says. She quickly settled on her key theme for the series, mostly oils on wood: phylum is the primary subdivision of a taxonomic kingdom. “I was thinking how we categorize nature and control it,” she says.
A resident of Jamaica Plain, Slavick travels with her husband and their teenage son every summer to Provincetown. She also visits the Cape-tip town with her students from the Art Institute of Boston at Leslie University, where she is a professor of painting and drawing. She grew up in a large family, and several of her sisters are artists as well. The siblings assembled the exhibit “Flesh and Blood,” which touched on genealogy and the body and traveled to points including Carnegie Mellon University, Florida, and Hong Kong.
Her current work is in the “Phylum” vein: paintings composed of hundreds of pieces of wood in varying shapes and sizes. Slavick sees it as a journey to understand how separate entities are linked with their “surrounding neighbors and how they change by becoming something greater than themselves.”
Change is in the air for Slavick; for one, her materials are more refined. “I use this teeny little paintbrush now, close up to canvas,” she says. “I can’t tell you why that happens.” Her color sensibility is changing as well. “I think it’s more optimistic in certain ways,” she says. Where she will be with art in 10 years is anybody’s guess—10 years ago, she says, she had no inkling that she would be where she is today.
Sarah Slavick’s work may be seen at Tao Water Gallery at 352 Commercial Street in Provincetown (taowatergallery.com); at sarahslavick.com; and at the Ellen Miller Gallery at 38 Newbury Street in Boston.
If anyone is living their art, it is Provincetown printmaker Kathryn Lee Smith. Smith was barely out of baby shoes when her maternal grandmother, the late Ferol Sibley Warthen, started exposing Smith to the art of white line printmaking. Warthen, a painter and printmaker, had learned the technique from the renowned painter and printmaker, Blanche Lazzell. “She got hooked and started making prints,” Smith says. “I was fortunate to have my grandmother take me under her wing.” In the summer of 1981, Smith spent the season with Warthen, learning from a master.
Today, Smith lives in Provincetown, the home of the famed Provincetown Printmakers, where her life centers on a powerful fusion of art expression: creating prodigiously, teaching, and lecturing, at such institutions as the Provincetown Art Association and Museum. Her first woodblock prints tended to be representational; her later works still have an organic feel but are more abstract. “Ancestor Series,” such as Dawn #3, are both primitive and modern, with a range of rich color infusing each print with its own life force. “The ‘Ancestors’ were a vision,” Smith says. “They build as they go along, with each one informing the next.” Subjects, she says, draw on one fleeting moment snatched from the past, whether that moment is conveyed as a representational image or an abstraction.
Smith’s technique is very physical; as she manipulates color, she pulls each print, with the work constantly informing her theme. Large prints, such as Provincetown Daylilies, are challenging, she says. “You’re continually moving the paper, lifting,” she says. “You sort of hold your breath.” Because every print has a full color range and she can change the colors in every successive print, or not, each print is unique. Provincetown Daylilies is a delicate floral print of butter-yellow and green against a flat background.
The summer she reconnected with her grandmother and refined her printmaking was life changing. As Smith says, “It gave me the pathway of my life’s work.” She is embarking on new themes, but they are still in vision form. “I’m on the cusp of a new body of work,” Smith remarks. “I can’t say exactly what it is. I don’t know yet. I have ideas floating in my head, as always.”
Kathryn Smith’s work may be seen at Gallery Ehva at 74 Shank Painter Road in Provincetown (galleryehva.com); Crowell’s Fine Art (crowellsfineart.com); and Fine Framing in New Bedford; and at kathrynleesmithwhitelineprints.com. Her work is showing through Aug. 26 at the Cape Cod Museum of Art exhibit, “Tides of Provincetown.”