Robert Abele III traces his family ties to Cape Cod all the way back to his parents’ honeymoon in Provincetown. For many years, the family rented a house on Campground Road in Eastham. “I like the simple, old cottages there. Families have had these cottages for many years,” Abele says. “That connection to the past is very evident to me through my friend’s shop [The Landing]. … It reminds me of the 1970s when we walked to buy ice cream and candy as a kid. These strong memories prompt me to paint. It’s powerful stuff.”
Abele grew up in Bronxville, New York, where his dad owned a convenience store. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the New York School of Visual Arts in 1993, then ran the family store for 24 years. Inspired by his experience, Abele sees general stores, small markets and farm stands from a unique perspective, and he frequently paints them as subjects. “I like those old-style businesses,” he says. “It’s not just a subject. It’s a part of history. I try to find that link to the past, paint it, and hope it resonates with other people.”
The artist has painted en plein air on Cape Cod since 1987. His first love was landscape painting of iconic sights in Truro, such as the flower cottages, farm stand or Dutra’s Market. “There’s something special about the light,” he says. “It bends or refracts in a way that creates beautiful shadows and warmth. Cape light is crisp and clear.” While he usually works in oils, Abele uses watercolors to capture images quickly when he’s traveling. “Watercolor is immediate, and you can travel with it. It’s easy to pull out and do a quick study.”
That urgency shows up in the confident brush strokes that characterize Abele’s canvases. His palette of oil colors leaves bold impressions of light, shadow and movement on his subjects. Houses are frequent subjects in his work. “I used to look at homes as a subject,” he says. “I’ve matured and now see them as a metaphor. Homes can feel like portraits. They contain good and bad memories. The houses on the Cape carry that history.” In 2010, the Abeles sold the family store and the family moved to Dartmouth. Abele is halfway through a master’s degree program in painting at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.
Robert Abele III is represented by Addison Art Gallery, 43 South Orleans Road, Orleans; and Anthi Frangiadis Associates, 11 Spring Street, Marion. For more information, visit robertabele.com.