Cape Cod ART 2016

Artist Profile: Cynthia Packard

Cape Cod Art  /  Annual Art 2016 / ,

Writer: Marina Davalos

Artist Profile Cynthia Packard

“Provincetown Fishing Vessel” tar, wax, and oil paint | 36” x 48”

On her easel, Cynthia Packard turns a huge wooden panel on its side, then upside down. She might just flip it again, gaining a different perspective with each turn as she slaps on generous quantities of oil paint mixed with wax and swipes it across the surface with a trowel. Then she turns the panel again and applies another color—right before taking a blowtorch to it.

The paint melts, and Packard flips the panel once more to watch it drip. It melds right into a rather realistic version of a human figure she has already sketched out in charcoal.

“It’s always a delicate search for meaning and emotional expression,” Packard says of her creative process, “but it can also be quite aggressive. The act of painting itself, for me, is a very physical, aggressive act.” The artist is referring to the forceful manner in which she applies paint to panel. The process then turns delicate, she says, “as I sit and contemplate what that action was.”

Known for her dynamic interpretations of the human figure, Packard sometimes creates a series of paintings around a theme or an event she is passionate about. When Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African American high-school student, was fatally shot in Florida by a neighborhood watch volunteer, Packard created a series of 12 paintings on large wood panels, each depicting a faceless figure dressed in a “hoodie,” a tribute to Martin and a statement about tolerance. She’s currently creating a series using varieties of cloth from around the world as a tribute to the women who make and wear them.

The scale of Packard’s panel work ranges from 4 x 5 inches, to 10 x 20 feet. Her work is sold throughout the world, and her large-scale installations can be found in such businesses and public buildings as Biogen in Cambridge, and the Red Cross building and Yale-New Haven Hospital, both in New Haven, Conn.

After graduating from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design with a degree in sculpture, Packard recalls that she had no money for sculpture supplies, so she taught herself to paint by copying the masters. Borrowing a little here and there from artists such as Cezanne and Matisse, she developed her own style. She works with a variety of materials, including oil paint, wax, paint sticks, charcoal, tar, and plaster.

She recently returned from six weeks in a village in Uganda where she, her children, Zach and Emma Luster, and her sister, Leslie Packard, participated in a project to help bring clean water into the village. She also taught painting to the local children. “They had never seen a paintbrush before, or even paint,” she says. “They were amazed by the colors, and when I began mixing them—you would have thought I was a magician.” – Marina Davalos

The artist’s work can been seen at the Packard Gallery, 418 Commercial Street, Provincetown; Quidley & Company, 26 Main Street, Nantucket; and in her studio at 96 Bradford Street in Provincetown.

Marina Davalos

A resident of Cotuit, Marina Davalos is a freelance writer specializing in hospitality, design, and the arts. When she's not out gallivanting for stories, she can be found spending time with her niece, her dog, and her cat. Marina has covered several unique stories for Cape Cod LIFE including a history piece on Emperor Hirohito’s 1975 visit to Woods Hole, a profile on Provincetown chef Michele Ragussis, and – for our 2017 Annual Guide - a comprehensive look at 17 B&Bs and inns on the Cape and Islands.