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The Shape of Love

A Provincetown Art Association and Museum show celebrates artist Jim Peter's adoration of the female figure.

Looking at the work of Jim Peters, you can feel the heat. You are gazing at private moments. “Sensuality is important in my paintings,” says Peters.

The Shape of Love

The artist is the subject of a retrospective at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM), which runs June 28 through August 11, with an opening reception on July 19. The show is a powerful expression of Peters’ feelings, reflecting what he calls his “adoration of the female figure.” July 19 also marks the opening of an exhibition of his work at artSTRAND in Provincetown, which runs through August 7. The PAAM show will include about 20 works, spanning 30 years. The works define Peters’ intense devotion to specific images and his endless searching for new expression of those themes.

The Shape of Love

When Peters decided he wanted to be an artist—perhaps an unexpected fit for a man with degrees in atomic physics and nuclear engineering—he studied painting at the Maryland Institute College of Art and earned an MFA. He was a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown from 1982 to 1984. In 1985, he was selected for a “new faces” exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. He was one of nine artists out of a field of 2,000 selected for the Guggenheim’s 1985 show “New Horizons in American Art,” in which Peters exhibited 16 works. (One of those paintings, Reclining Figure, Jealousy, a nine-foot construction/painting, is in the Provincetown retrospective.) Although he now lives in North Adams, Massachusetts, Peters lived for many years in Provincetown and Truro. He is still connected to Provincetown, where he teaches and exhibits his work.

Peters is fully engaged when he talks, always animated, with a flashing smile and a hearty laugh. It is not surprising that this energy and dramatic sensibility spills over into his art. “I love the figure,” he says. “I love to construct compositions, spaces, human presences. I want to explore this relationship in its many perturbations, evolutions, and tensions. Although my subject may seem to remain constant, I use different materials, processes, formats to make my pieces, to cobble together my thoughts [with] paint, collage, wax, glass, wood, and photographs.”

The Shape of Love

His passion for painting the female figure has remained constant for the past 30 years, but the materials he incorporates into his work have changed. His work, he says, has to do with the “tension” between a man and a woman in a confined space, and also the tension and energy he creates on the surface of the canvas. There is always a lot going on in Peters’ work, which explores the intimacy and the private lives of his subjects. The paintings may have two nude, or partially clad figures in the composition. If it includes only one subject, Peters says, “I, the painter, or the viewer become that second person.”

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