Artist Profile: Arthur Egeli
Artist Profile: Arthur Egeli
Thomas Wolfe said, “You can’t go home again,” and despite some intentional efforts, Provincetown artist, gallery owner and filmmaker Arthur Egeli has defied Wolfe’s assertion. Egeli, who grew up in Provincetown as the third generation of significant artists in one of the country’s most influential enclaves of art and creativity, says his early days were not full of artistic wonder and confirmation of his talents. “My parents had a rigorous schedule of classes, which I was expected to attend when I was young,” Egeli recalls. “They were in dark studios, working on long model sessions, just laboring over work, which is very tiresome if you’re a teenager full of energy, and you are just tied to an easel and working on a painting that was boring to you.” Egeli’s parents were considered some of the premier painters and mentors at the time, and very much in demand for artists who would travel to Provincetown just for the opportunity to attend their workshops. “I was also doing portrait sketching, and I was starting to not like it, because it was very stressful at the time.”
It was around this time Egeli met acclaimed artist Sam Barber while he and his family were living in Hyannis, “Sam became sort of a mentor to me,” Egeli states. “It was suddenly affirming for me to have someone other than your family weigh in on the value of what you were creating. He helped me to see my work and the process from a less intense place, it was critically based, but it didn’t feel critical, if you know what I mean. I learned a lot from Sam.”
Egeli had other mentors of note as well, specifically Henry Hensche, one of the instructors at the oldest art school in the country, Provincetown’s Cape School of Art. Egeli credits Hensche for many of the foundations he was known for, like color studies and color blocks, which the teenage Egeli found transforming, “You’re painting color blocks, kind of laborious and boring, and you only have like an hour and a half to do it because the light is changing, suddenly it energizes your creativity in your body. I mean, you’re trying to paint fast and get this fleeting light effect and it becomes really interesting and fun as you learn daily from it. As a young painter it was really exciting, and in a way, kind of saved me,” he muses.
On a recommendation from an uncle, Egeli headed to Los Angeles for art school. “When I went out to Los Angeles I had ulterior motives because I also had dreams of becoming a film director,” Egeli states. Despite writing screenplays and other pieces, Egeli says that painting once again “found” him and provided a familiar outlet for his creativity. “You’re getting lonely, and you’re always broke and it’s just a struggle. And all of a sudden to start painting again, was like a cure and it made me excited again about creativity.”
As Egeli’s life naturally evolved—marriage, children and the usual trappings of a modern day family, Egeli and his wife found the time they spent returning to Provincetown for summer vacations provided a sense of peace and solitude not available in their busy West Coast life. Always looking at scenarios from every angle, Egeli rationalized that if he opened a gallery in Provincetown, he might be able to extend his time there. “The season just got longer and longer, and as I grew as a painter, my audience here grew. So this became our new world, we had to move here full time,” he explains.
Now, the same environment he reluctantly captured as youth, invigorates him as well as provides a sense of nostalgia he finds comforting. And his dreams of creating films have also been fulfilled as his first feature film, The Art Thief had its world premier at the 2023 Provincetown Film Festival in June.