Artist Profile: Adam M. Graham, painter
Noted impressionist painter Henry Hensche once said, “Paintings are to teach man to see the glory of human visual existence.” Provincetown painter Adam M. Graham—whose father, artist Bob Graham, studied with Hensche at the Cape School of Art in the late 1970s and early 1980s—agrees.
“I think what Hensche means is that the beauty in life is always present. We just forget to see it sometimes—and I can relate,” Graham says. Illustrating the point, Graham recalls a special painting session he enjoyed one day in the yard of the Cape School of Art, where he studied the Hensche impressionist method for three years after moving to the Cape from his native New Orleans in 1999.
“I had been working on this piece all week,” Graham says, “and I believed that this was going to be the painting where it all came together for me. I had become so absorbed in the painting that as I was walking down Pearl Street later that day, all I saw was vibrating color bursting around me. I was so tuned in to just the color and the light that I didn’t see anything else—not the cars or the buildings, all the things that distract us from the beauty that’s always there in life.”
In a way, that painting did serve as a turning point for Graham, ultimately leading him to develop a method he calls “organic realism.” Layering acrylic and oil, Graham combines a tonal approach of drawing and under-painting with impressionist techniques to achieve vivid “emotional distortions” of landscapes. In his paintings, such as those of post-storm scenes, Graham depicts his perceptions of the world around him, using color to create a sense of light and atmosphere and mark making—lines, patterns and textures—to further capture his emotion.
“When we perceive our environment, it’s running through our emotional filter, and it gets distorted by the time it makes it into our minds,” Graham says. “I treat landscapes as a subjective reality. I go into a painting like an investigation or a study—what makes a particular subject, or phenomenon, look the way it does in reality?”
With Hensche in mind, Graham says his work is all about the human visual experience. “When people look at my work, hopefully they see something familiar in a new way,” he says. “If they can see that familiar thing in a new way, maybe they can see other things in a new way, too, and expand their range of possible perceptions.”
Adam M. Graham is represented by Rice Polak Gallery, 430 Commercial Street, Provincetown. To learn more about his work, visit adammgraham.com.