Back to the Cape, By Way of Mexico
Rainbow, 18 x 18, oil on panel After more than a decade away, an artist returned to the Cape—through a chance meeting in San Miguel de Allende. It was the mid 80s, and a lot of Frank Gardner’s friends were migrating to DUMBO, an acronym for a section of Brooklyn—Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. “That was the place to go and get a loft” if you were a young artist trying to make a mark, says Gardner. But, living in Providence after having received his fine arts degree from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) three years earlier, he didn’t fancy going to New York—and caving to the art scene there. “I wanted to find my own way without the pressure of having to pay rent in the city or understanding what sells and going with that. As a young artist in New York, if you’re desperate to be able to pay your rent, you might look at what’s in style, what someone is looking for at a gallery, as consideration for marketing your work. I didn’t think having a gallery to influence [what I painted] was the way to go.” Gardner did decide to leave Providence, but didn’t have a destination in mind, he says. Then fate stepped in. One Thanksgiving, he was at a friend’s house when another friend called to wish a happy holiday. Gardner’s host told the friend, “Frank is leaving town.” “Where’s he going?” the caller asked. “He doesn’t know.” “Put him on the phone.” It turned out the caller had moved to Mexico—the city of San Miguel de Allende, smack in the country’s geographic center—and opened a furniture shop there. He asked Gardner to come down and teach his crew how to put painting finishes on furniture—faux marbling, antiquing techniques, and so…
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