Vermont has served artist Craig Mooney well. After growing up in New York City, he traveled, worked in the film industry in London and New York, and considered being a doctor, searching to find his way. Art was the last place he looked. “I did every possible thing to avoid being an artist,” he says. “If I had gotten into med school, I probably wouldn’t have ever shown my work.”
A job in a medical lab brought him to Burlington, Vermont, as he was waiting to get into medical school. He entered an employee art show at another hospital. “I brought in a few paintings. I caught the eye of the PR person,” he remembers. “They wanted me to do paintings for a new hospital. This came just as I was getting rejected from medical school.” Mooney took it as a sign. “I wasn’t a great scientist,” he says.
Despite the fact that Mooney had been painting for a while, he was unsure of how to be a full-time artist. He was accepted into the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont, and spent more than four months on his first commission, working day jobs and painting on the side. “It was probably the scariest thing I ever did,” he recalls. “Everyone in New York said I was crazy and that I would starve. And I did starve, but I was happy! Little by little, I found my way. I started to get recognition. I got into a couple of galleries in Vermont, which led to Boston, Atlanta—and then it became something I could do full-time.” Today, Mooney completes up to 150 paintings a year to keep up with the 16 different galleries that represent him, everywhere from London to Martha’s Vineyard.
Without training or an art school education, Mooney considers himself an art world outsider—like his father, an amateur artist who never showed his work. “My father never exhibited, although I think he certainly could have,” he says. That independent streak is alive in Mooney, who sees his lack of formal training as a benefit. “I’m not hung up on technique. I’m not constrained. I’m sure I do everything incorrectly,” he says. “I learned everything on my own. I developed my own technique and it works for my process.”
Mooney’s work, while representational, bursts with expressive brushwork and color. The subjects, whether landscape, cityscape, or figures, are really just ways to explore paint. Like dreams, his paintings have an air of the familiar, yet lack specificity. Idealized and a bit fantastical, they are landscape as an escape. “It could be whatever you want it to be—it’s mutually inclusive,” he says. “I compare it to listening to a song and you make up the lyrics, then you see the liner notes and you’re a little disappointed. I don’t want to deny people enjoyment of the paintings.” Mooney’s paintings are like beautiful daydreams. Who wouldn’t want to join him in his reveries?
Mimi McPartlan is just starting her career—although you would never know it from her work, which sings with the singular vision and technical strength of a mature artist.
McPartlan was born and raised in Brewster. While she says she was more “crafty than arty” growing up, McPartlan took a ceramics class at Nauset High School almost by mistake. “I was late signing up for classes and got stuck with wheel throwing and painting,” she says. The pottery wheel captivated her, and she has been working in clay ever since. She participated in the Cape Cod Museum of Art’s school to careers program where she was paired with Matt Kemp of Kemp Pottery. “He was really, really awesome,” she says of Kemp. “I made the best pieces in my portfolio with those guys, Matt and Steve Kemp. They are two people who are really making it work—creating functional pottery and making a living doing it.”
McPartlan’s most recent work is slip-cast porcelain functional ware. Her forms are fleshy, round, and bulbous. “I have been calling the sides of my forms the love handles. There’s a tension in the fullness—like the feeling when you squeeze a balloon,” McPartlan explains. “I want to make something that I want to use and touch. When you’re carrying it, it should feel comfortable.” The soft white of the porcelain and the delicious candy hues of her glazes—reminiscent of a strip of candy dots—make her pieces distinctly alluring. They draw you in to touch and cradle in your hands.
McPartlan has been making functional—and sometimes dysfunctional—pieces: A matching tray, jar, and spoon for eating Nerds (the candy); a ceramic sippy cup. “I like ridiculous ideas and parts that fit together,” she says.
Of her colors, McPartlan says her friends and teachers would joke because she was always thinking of candy. “I started to see how the colors people use are similar to the way they dress—a reflection of themselves,” she says. For her, it was candy and sweets. “I have a picture in my studio of an old Friendly’s ad. It looks like a mountain, but it’s just scoops of sherbet. I had a really big palette and then I narrowed it down to what I would call my citrus sherbet colors.”
After graduating in 2012 from Alfred University, which has one of the country’s well regarded ceramics programs, McPartlan started her professional journey with a stint in New York City, working as an assistant for KleinReid, a ceramic design studio. This past spring, she spent four weeks in an artist residency in Germany. While she is currently on the move, she is looking forward to reconnecting with some old studio mates who share her passion for creating beautiful, functional work. “I love things that have a use. I love using handmade things. It’s such a cool feeling—I can make something out of clay that I can use everyday, it will be mine, and I can make it just the way I want it,” she says. She is equally enthralled with the idea of being able to share her work with others. “Making functional ceramics is a very genuine thing,” she says. “I really love creating an experience for someone.”
Intense, choreographed dances of reflecting, pop-colored forms and patterns, Carl Lopes’s paintings don’t match any of the traditional art categories. A Lopes painting is a celebration—a visual feast. Like a piece of music, it is masterfully balanced with moments of rest as significant as the busier fast-moving shapes. His paintings, which combine woodworking, painting, drawing, and collage, are distinctly modern. Large, curved forms skip from one side
to the other. Every edge of a form is trimmed with tiny, repeated patterns that pull the eye from one element to the next.
Lopes takes his most direct cues from early African art. “I’ve always liked ancient art especially from Africa,” Lopes says. “I collect masks. I always liked the fact that the faces had character and personality even though the forms were abstracted. To take simple forms and put them together to represent a face and have that face represent a feeling—I thought that was pretty powerful.” Lopes uses the masks—of which he has many examples—as his own starting point, translating it through what he calls a “geometric style,” that he developed over many years.
“My ethnic background is Cape Verdean,” he says. “I feel I need to use content representing African nations that is regal in a sense.” Time spent living on Cape Cod has also influenced Lopes. “I am an avid fisherman. I noticed one day that when you pull a fish up on to the deck of a boat, you see all these iridescent colors in the scales,” he says. The changes in scale and the glossiness of the surfaces make Lopes’s paintings engrossing. From a distance, the large forms grab you; up close, the smaller patterns are mazes. “I try to represent what I do in a positive fashion,” he says. “People look at my paintings and they smile.”
Lopes is Art Director at Barnstable High School, where he has been teaching since 1978. With classes ranging from fashion design to cartooning and film/video, the arts program at Barnstable is one of the most vibrant on the Cape. Lopes worked for five years to create a gallery at the school, which finally became a reality in 2009. He runs it and shows a combination of both student and professional work. Lopes often comes home after a full day of teaching to spend hours in his studio. “I’m a better artist because of being an arts educator,” he says.
Lopes has used his experience as a teacher to become one of the Cape’s best advocates for arts outreach. He was the first Arts Educator of the Year, chosen in 2007 by the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod. Through it all, he is committed to education. “I say to myself, ‘What good do I want to bring out?’ That’s why I’m a teacher,” he says. “I try to teach my students that the art world is not full of artists that are starving and miserable. There is a whole other side.”
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.”