Yingzhao Liu’s remarkable talent for painting endured despite a life that began with deprivation, struggle, and uncertainty. Liu, born in China in 1956, lived through Mao’s oppressive regime until his early twenties.
“When I was a child, I liked to draw and paint,” says Liu. “My family was very poor, but I loved to draw so much that I even drew pictures on the ground because we had no money to buy paper.” Liu recalls that his father, an engineer, used to hide his technical books to keep the young artist from drawing on the pages.
After five years on a collectivist farm when he could not paint at all because of state mandated laws, Liu finally received formal artistic training, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in oil painting from the Harbin Normal University and an M.A. from the Lu Xun Academy of Fine Arts. For many years, he worked as a professor for Tianjian Academy of Fine Arts and in the mid-1990s, as the result of his growing reputation as a painter, he traveled to America.
Realizing that the U.S. offered more opportunities, Liu emigrated here in 2001. From the start, he says he wanted to come to Cape Cod. “I knew this was a place with a lot of galleries and antique shops,” says Liu, who eventually embarked on a cross-country drive alone from Los Angeles to Cape Cod in 2005.
“After 20 days across the country, I finally drove onto Cape Cod,” says Liu. “The beauty, scenery, and artistic atmosphere really attracted me and gave me the idea to open my own gallery here.” In 2012, Liu opened the doors to LLD Fine Art in Brewster. “I think Chinese artists will understand western culture by coming here and will love Cape Cod, one of the most beautiful places in the world,” says Liu, noting that he hopes his gallery will become a “paradise for art lovers.”
Liu’s exquisite oil paintings display a skill and a mastery of vivid detail so fine that it is hard to believe that you are not looking at a photograph. The intricate details of an engraved silver plate beneath a plate of lobster, the individual bumps on a lemon’s skin, and the ruffled fragility of each petal in a peony blossom, pull the viewer in for introspection. Yet there is a vivid freshness, a Western flair for color and composition in Liu’s superb still lifes and portraits that keep the paintings from looking overly academic. Like Andrew Wyeth, one of his heroes, Liu infuses his paintings with an awareness of light and shadow that give the paintings an emotional impact often not found in the realist vernacular. Combined with his mastery of classical elements, including flawless brushwork and his Eastern appreciation for beauty, it is easy to see why Liu’s paintings are sold to collectors worldwide.
Despite his considerable success, this international artist is determined to keep his gallery on Cape Cod for a long time. “Cape Cod is a beautiful place and a place that will always bring me inspiration,” says Liu.
David Lazarus likes reinvention. As a young man, he left his home in England for life in the United States. “I left on a whim. I just wanted to see this part of the world,” he says. Visiting the Pacific Northwest, he discovered scrimshaw. “I found it to be the perfect traveling medium for me; I was backpacking around and the whole studio fit into a cigar box.” His interest in the craft led him to Nantucket. While he stopped his scrimshaw work years ago, he still has island connections, showing his paintings at Sylvia Antiques and the Four Winds Craft Guild, with whom he has been associated for years.
Lazarus has also shifted from printmaking to painting, getting looser and bolder along the way. He picked up a brush about 15 years ago in his Nantucket studio. While his subject matter may at first appear typical of the island—landscapes and seascapes—his approach is not.
“My creative challenge is to make that somewhat mundane image into something more interesting,” he says, “to push the envelope and make the ordinary extraordinary.” He is constantly contemplating the old and familiar to conjure up something new.
With definitive brush strokes, the landscape provides Lazarus with a structure for capturing abstraction. “I love loose, verging on the abstract,” he says, “but I also like realism expressed in a very physical way.” His current work keeps close company with early 20th century artistic traditions, somewhere between impressionism and early modernism. Lazarus’s forms oscillate between the representative and splendid gestural expressions.
Color provides both a surprise and a curiosity. Whoever noticed that sand was so ruddy pink? Somehow it looks right. You won’t find the usual crystal blue sky amongst Lazarus’s paintings. “The sky is not that color at the horizon,” the artist says. “It’s green with reds and browns in it.” For Lazarus, it is the challenge of pushing beyond that blue sky and those typical visions that drives him to go beyond realism. “I don’t paint from life very much. I paint from memory,” he says. “I kind of deconstruct realism and then reconstruct it as paintings.”
Using a broad brush, Lazarus’s works are bold and decisive. “I’m a big brush guy. I don’t like fiddly things,” he says. “The muscular, physicality of paint is what I really enjoy. I don’t like glazing; I’d rather slather it on with a palette knife.” Working alla prima, or “all at once,” Lazarus’s process is a fast, active one. “I love to just do it in one sitting,” he explains. “Having said that, I love taking an old painting, turning it upside down, and starting over.”
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.”
“Comfortable is okay, but I like uncomfortable a little bit more,” says Kely Knowles. After many years as a well-known watercolorist, Knowles is embarking on a brave new adventure by challenging herself to translate her work into oils. “Changes are part of my DNA,” she says. “I find change exciting.” This year has brought not only a change in medium, but also a change in representation. After running her own gallery for over 17 years, Knowles is thrilled to be working with Addison Art Gallery in Orleans.
Without a business to run, Knowles has been able to refocus in the studio. Inspired by her participation in a painting group led by Paul Schulenberg, she decided to make the move to oils. While the medium has changed, the subject matter and the artist have not. Knowles remains well-known for her masterful depictions of traditional Cape scenes: farmhouses, harbors, marshes, and boats. She is an observer of both the majestic and the mundane, equally inspired by a view of Provincetown Harbor at dusk or a hallway lit by afternoon sun.
An expert draftsman, Knowles is also a colorist and no matter the media, the orchestration of color is of primary importance. “My goal is always to develop a strong and intense color balance,” she says. “You can manipulate color in these provocative, incredible patterns.” Knowles’s work stands out from myriad other representational watercolor painters by the playful, almost abstract way that she manipulates colors, patterns, and shapes.
Growing up in North Attleboro, Massachusetts, Knowles remembers drawing at an early age. “I can remember at a young age drawing the kitchen cabinets,” she says. “My brother and my mother were artistic in a traditional sense; the others were artistic in other ways. Everyone had something: gardening, cooking, sewing. I was one of eight children, right in the middle.”
Somehow, Knowles has always found a way to make a living as an artist. In addition to her painting practice, she frequently did freelance graphic, and illustration work when she was starting out. “I did illustration, advertising, menus, whatever came my way—it was something I could do at home with three kids,” she says. She and her husband moved the family to Cape Cod on a whim in 1987. “We wanted to live on the Cape so we just said, let’s do it.”
With an ideal location in Orleans, Knowles’s husband built her a studio/gallery on their property in 1995. She sold her paintings and taught classes out of her gallery, at the Cape Cod Museum of Art and through the Nauset Community Education Program. Teaching continues to be a source of satisfaction. “I can show simple things and it opens doors,” she says. “My students get to succeed. People shy away from art and they don’t have to.”
In addition to her occasional teaching, Knowles is looking forward to a summer at work, both in her studio and out in the world. “To be an artist, you really need to disconnect. I’m not a talker, I’m a listener. I’m an observer.”
Duoling Huang was born in China in 1950. “For my life journey, I feel like I come from another age—from one world to another,” she says. “I still love the traditional world, and I love things in the modern world, too.”
For Huang, the Cultural Revolution was not a chapter in a world history textbook. At 16, as her country’s social and cultural fabric was shredded, she was old enough to understand the loss. She can vividly recall her teenage self—separated from her parents, scared, struggling, and through it all, captivated by painting. She went to live with a sister who was studying fine art in Beijing. Schools were closed, but a few students met and continued to paint. “Students started to teach themselves. When they painted, I always stood behind them,” she says. “I was watching them—who is painting this, who is doing that.” Some of those students would become her lifelong friends. Her husband, fellow artist George Xiong, was one of them.
Those early sessions left an indelible impression on Huang. Even as she was sent away to Inner Mongolia to be “reeducated” in the late 1960s, she maintained her determination to keep painting. “I kept teaching myself as much as I could,” she explains. “I was living in a small village. It was very rough—basic paintings and drawings, but I didn’t stop.”
And she still hasn’t. She and Xiong moved to the US in the late 1980s. Between her life in China and the United States, she has had careers as both a teacher and an artist. Her recent body of paintings, entitled “Cultural Landscape,” is a collection of visual manifestations of her sense of displacement—not just from the move from China to America, but also from the disconnect between her traditional past and her own modern sensibilities. “People ask me, ‘why is your hand so western?’ I don’t know, it is the natural me,” she says with a laugh.
With fractured forms and compositions, her pieces are like broken mirrors. The paintings are sometimes collections of objects—a late 19th-century American upholstered armchair, a bouquet of tulips, an antique hand-painted Chinese screen. Perspective is twisted. Space is flattened, as if Huang is literally layering one cultural reference onto another. “For several years, I felt very confused—who am I and what can I do? And little by little, I decided I’d just paint out what I am and what I thought,” she explains. “I can build a bridge between my eastern career to the western, from the past to the present.” Huang plays with the ways in which color evokes a time and a culture. “I think color is human civilization. When you see the colors, you can feel the different histories and times,” she says. “High-quality color is good-quality life!”
Huang’s life has been a journey in the truest sense. She has traveled great distances. She has lived through much. But optimism and joy have allowed her to successfully paint her path from one culture to its essential opposite.
To understand what Sarah Hinckley’s paintings are all about, the best thing to do is drive out to a bay-side beach at low tide, get out of the car, and just gaze for a moment. Blur your eyes a little bit and stare at the sand and the flat steel stripe of water under blue sky and hazy white sun. “It’s really about color,” says Hinckley. “The other stuff is just an excuse to get the color down there and to make the color work. I like these washed out, dirty, really pale browns, a washed out cobalt green that looks almost blue—sun-drenched colors that have been washed out from the sunlight over time.”
The paintings are formal explorations of color and composition with a limited vocabulary of forms that Hinckley rearranges in infinite ways. There are always bands of color. There are organic, flower-like silhouette forms. The works are deceptively simple, and while each one follows a formula, they somehow resist becoming formulaic. Each is an iteration of a theme, an articulation of a dream state, one piece in a circle of moments, where nature struck color, and color struck a chord. From restraint and simplicity comes possibility and diversity.
Hinckley’s process is intuitive. She starts by layering drips of thinned colors onto the canvas. “Working out a painting is just how I think,” explains Hinckley. “If something looks good with a painting, I feel like you have to earn it—maybe it’s my New England roots—so I’m always painting over, painting in and painting out. You can’t just sit down and finish a painting in a day. It’s kind of like Chapin Beach—the tide goes out, but it comes back in and covers everything, and it’s beautiful. You can see that in my paintings. You can see where I’ve painted over something.”
Hinckley attributes her artistic inspiration to a seemingly idyllic childhood spent outdoors near water. “We were always outside. We would just have to come home for dinner,” she says. “We would roam all over our neighborhood, go all through the marshes. My mom didn’t know where we were, and we were having a blast.”
While Hinckley currently works in Brooklyn, New York and lives in Manhattan, her roots are firmly planted here as a thirteenth generation Cape Codder. Growing up in Cummaquid, Hinckley spent many days out on the Cape’s beaches. “Chapin Beach at low tide was always one of my favorite places. When all you see is sea and sky, that palette is a big inspiration.” Today, despite her geographical moves, water has been a constant companion. “I live right by the water. In my studio, I can’t see the water, but it’s right there. I grew up with the water right down the street. I’ve always been close to the water.”
Louis Guarnaccia distinctly remembers a day in first grade when a teacher singled him out. “We had a homework assignment to draw something. The teacher taped the papers to the board and later called me up to the desk,” he remembers. “I thought I was getting in trouble, but she said, ‘You know Lou, your drawing is much better than everyone else’s and you could be an artist.’” Two years later, his grandmother bought him a painting set. At nine, he was already painting with oil, starting down a path that eventually led him to become a celebrated maritime and landscape painter.
Over the years, his style and subject matter have ebbed and flowed. He was classically trained at Paier College of Art in Connecticut. He painted abstractly for about 10 years. At other points, he did illustration, graphic design, and advertising.
An ardent sailor, Guarnaccia’s first visit to Nantucket came by accident on a sailing trip. “As we were going into Nantucket Sound, we stopped to catch some bluefish,” he says. It was rough and the boat was tossing around, and one of the crew accidentally ended up with a fishing lure in the face. “What started out to be fun ended as an emergency. The coast guard brought us to Straight Wharf. As we were riding in an ambulance up Main Street, I thought, I’m going to move here. I just felt it.”
He kept his word, moving to Nantucket in 1995. The physical beauty of his new home was immediately reflected in his art. “It was all about the light—that light just drives me crazy,” he says, describing his change in artistic direction. “That light made me say, ‘I can’t capture that in abstract painting. I need to go back to representational work.’” Guarnaccia went back to his classical roots, painting predominantly maritime and landscape works. Given his background, the choices clearly represent a work of love as well, and Guarnaccia’s maritime works are prized for reflecting a sailor’s accuracy. “I know how to sail and I know how boats are built,” he says. “My depictions of the boats are beautiful, but everything is also dead accurate.”
Despite this realism, his paintings are not exact renderings of a particular time and place, but rather joyous celebrations with majestic skies and glowing halos of sunlight. Guarnaccia’s art is unabashedly romantic. “I really go for the beauty,” he says. “The paintings are very glorified and idealized.” He admires the Hudson River School painters, artists such as Frederic Edwin Church and Sanford Robinson Gifford. Above it all, he glories in the paint. His work is loose and painterly, featuring brushwork inspired by the intuitive, free strokes found in grass-style Chinese calligraphy, a nod to his interest in Eastern philosophy. “When I’m fully present and painting, I have reached the point that I allow the canvas to tell me what it needs and I do it,” he says. “It’s kind of like this Zen state; I’m almost invisible. I’m just the medium that it goes through.”
In her representational watercolors, Heidi Gallo takes delight in the details, whether it’s the reflections off the chrome fender of a 1950s Porsche Speedster or the dappled shadows falling on cottages in Eastham. “I really like old Cape Cod—the old buildings, cabins, the old signs and the dramatic light we get right before sunset, the color of the grass in early morning. I love reflections, old cars, the curves,” she explains. Her work is decidedly and classically nostalgic, neatly fitting in to the Cape’s long artistic tradition of representational painting. Gallo sees herself as something of a documentarian, rendering perfectly iconic spots like the Lobster Pot in Provincetown. “I’m trying to capture all those little jewels on the Cape before they are gone,” she says.
Gallo grew up in central Massachusetts but often spent summers visiting relatives in coastal Maine, where she got her first taste of the ocean. “I just fell in love with the ocean. I never thought I’d live near the water, and it’s just so cool that I do now,” she says. Her path to becoming a full-time artist was not a direct or immediate one. While always acing her elementary and high school art classes, she had to work and save money for art school, where she studied commercial art and photography. After she finished, she found herself working in a bank for many years. “I always worked in banks,” she says. “Fourteen years, with no windows—I never got outside!” In 1991, she accompanied her husband to Eastham. “I ended up working as a clam farmer. Work at a bank and then end up as a clam farmer, how does that work?” muses Gallo.
In 1995, her need to tap into her artistic talents inspired her to start watercolor classes at Nauset Adult Education. She studied for nine years under both Doris DeCarlo and Kely Knowles. At that point, she was just giving her work away as gifts, then began selling them. “I approached the Strawberry Patch in Brewster and they took some of my watercolors and sold them for $40, and they were selling like crazy!” she says.
When Gallo was farming, painting usually had to be put on hold during the summer season, and she would have to settle for her camera. Having recently retired from being a clam farmer, she is looking forward to expanding her production and getting out more in the summer.
While Gallo has worked in other media, watercolors are her primary means of expression. “I always liked the look of watercolors; it’s the simplicity of it,” she says. “It can be so simple and beautiful. You really don’t have a lot of control; they take over and do their own thing. Plus, I’m kind of an impatient person—watercolors dry quickly and you can frame them!” Still, Gallo is a meticulous painter, often spending 40 to 45 hours on a piece. True to her commercial art roots, she is actively marketing her work in a variety of forms: originals, prints, greeting cards, tiles, and cutting boards. Her paintings are happy, joyous celebrations of the Cape, the place she calls home. “I really love it here,” she says. “I appreciate that there are so many beautiful places.”
Standing before one of Michael Gaillard’s outsized photographs of Nantucket—his largest are 60 inches by 72 inches—one might feel displaced as the saturating blue of a cloudless summer sky envelopes the senses. The choice to print large is not taken lightly by Gaillard. “Viewing the work at that scale, the transformation is more complete,” he explains. “The photograph becomes more atmospheric. The more physical presence it has, the more direct the relationship is. Instead of operating as a window, the photograph functions more as a space.”
Over the years, there have been thousands of photographs of Nantucket’s well-known vistas taken by professionals and amateurs alike. But Gaillard’s are not just another set of sunset photos. The goal is not only to document a beautiful place or a transcendent moment, but also to create a beautiful object in and of itself. The photographs feel like paintings. Compositions typically featuring a strong horizon give way to huge color fields, often punctuated by miniscule tropes familiar to coastal landscapes: a sailboat or a split-rail fence. With simple titles like Rope, Jetties, or Polpis, Gaillard is both emphasizing yet reinventing the local vernacular. Those familiar things become strangely new when they are flattened into simple picture plane forms. Each image is a portrait, and seems inextricably tied to the relationship between the artist and the subject.
For Gaillard, who lives and works in Brooklyn, New York—but was born and raised on Nantucket and still returns every summer—this body of work is like a love letter—a tribute to the intoxicating aesthetics of this place. “What makes it special, what makes it magnetic, are not the details that can be readily documented like the history, the architecture, the flora, and even the people,” says Gaillard. “It’s the air, the light, the sky, the wind. My goal is to make work that conjures the feelings experienced when that salt air makes its way over the dunes and through your hair.”
Gaillard first discovered photography as a student at Nantucket High School. He uses a large format, eight-by-ten view camera, a tool favored by such 20th century master photographers as Walker Evans and Edward Weston. Images do not come easy. It is an exacting, time-consuming, technical process, but the trade-off comes in the quality of the image and the richness of the details captured. “I think it is a common misconception that the artistic process is a pleasant one,“ says Gaillard. “In fact, I am full of adrenaline, racing the light and wrestling with a composition. I sometimes spend a half an hour subtly adjusting, only to walk away without a shot. But then there are times when I know it immediately and take the shot without hesitation.”
This summer, Gaillard will be teaching a travel photography and writing seminar through Columbia University, where he received his MFA, and their affiliate in Jordan. His goal is to keep teaching at the collegiate level. “I owe my professors an immeasurable debt,” he says, “and the only way I can imagine repaying them is to do the same thing they did for me for someone else.”
Whether it’s the majestic canyons of New Mexico or the quiet harbors of Cape Cod, painter and Falmouth resident Herb Edwards captures the beauty of his surroundings. Despite the distinct differences in geography, the dramatic light and natural beauty in both regions has inspired Edwards for decades.
Born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, Edwards grew up in a home where his father, who had a great appreciation for the arts, encouraged his son’s creativity. He found early inspiration at home, where impressionist reproductions hung on the wall and Stevan Dohanos, a famed Saturday Evening Post illustrator and friend of his parents, was often a guest.
Edwards’s childhood inspirations led him to the University of New Mexico where he studied painting, photography, and graphic design under the tutelage of Taos art colony members. Once he had received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1963, he worked in commercial graphic design before going on to receive his Master of Fine Arts in painting and photography from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. The academic world consumed Edwards for the next 20 years of his life until he retired from a professorship at Brookdale Community College in New Jersey to devote himself to his art. “I wanted to try my hand at working with galleries and getting involved in the art field full-time,” says Edwards.
While many painters devote themselves to a single medium, Edwards finds merit in both oil and acrylic. “Oils are a traditional medium with their own qualities. You can build them up and work them—they’re very malleable—while acrylic is a fast-drying artificial material,” explains Edwards. “I use them in very different ways. I paint spontaneously in one sitting with acrylics and build up the oils over time.” His diverse paintings in both mediums have a lightness of touch and simplicity of line reflecting the natural, uncluttered beauty of New England and America’s far west. From impressionistic pieces like Sunny Afternoon, to more austere, Hopper-like works with bare renderings of line and color such as Inner Harbor, Edwards’s paintings reflect the simple beauty and symmetry of natural surroundings that have always been his source of inspiration.
Edwards recognizes that he is in a league among many talented, yet diverse painters in New Mexico and Cape Cod. As he sees it, “The difference between artists is how they see the subject and how they apply the paint, and within that are a million subtleties.” His own subtleties are the result of a clear artistic vision.