Monet had his garden. Ed Chesnovitch has his marsh.
Each artist fell under the spell of the entrancing environments just outside their windows. A percolating landscape of the natural world that is completely oblivious to the voyeurs that strive to capture its subtleties. And both filled their days, their lives, painting miles of canvas; each one different in its own way thanks to the infinite composition of nature’s repertoire.
Chesnovitch’s Scorton Creek Studio is perched on the banks of a tidal estuary that is part of the Great Salt Marsh of Sandy Neck and provides all the inspiration the artist could ever desire. Essentially a barn, the structure harkens back to a bygone era with its white cedar wall and roof shingles that have weathered to a hue that makes it look as though the building is an outcrop of its surroundings. However, the history of the building is not only attributable to its materials. The essence or vibe that the studio imbues consists of hours of creative inspiration contributed by the artistic souls who have come before. Peter Peltz, a bird decoy carver of note from the 1950s, left behind shavings and a moniker, “The Bird Barn”, as his legacy, only to be followed by an artist collaborative, and later artist Alfie Glover.
And now Chesnovitch, who says he feels that he is home. In fact, his actual home is only, as he puts it, “at high tide, a short kayak away.” Which means that his world is immersed in the environment that surrounds his every waking moment, where his inquisitive eye has de-constructed the marsh. The twisting rivulets and kinks of the creek, the changing shades of green found in the mounded grasses, the Phragmites (the archetypal tall grasses found along the coastline) whose sun-bleached tresses wave in the fall breezes; these are all the subjects of Chesnovitch’s larger than life oil paintings.
“When I first moved to the Cape and found my cottage, it was really run down and needed a lot of work,” he recalls. “I showed my father, who thought I was out of my mind and said, ‘What are you going to do, paint the marsh all day long?’ My point of moving to the Cape was so that I could easily access what I wanted to paint. I know there are a ton of amazing places to paint, all over the Cape. But, I don’t want to jump in the car to go someplace to paint. So, yes right outside my door.”
The influence of the marsh on Chesnovitch has been profound. It doesn’t matter how many times he has walked his well-beaten paths, or how many times he has ventured down the dock at his association beach, each time he is able to see something new and engaging. “For me everything comes from my surroundings,” he confirms. “To see the color on the water, or at a different tide. Even the seaweed that washes up during a high tide, it is always new information.”
Somehow, Chesnovitch is able to channel his passion for his world without making it repetitive and through his art, he explores and pushes the boundaries of where he may have already ventured. “Recently I’ve been pulling away from that expected vista of the Cape, and honing in on details that might have be overlooked or dismissed,” he explains. Such is the case with his Phragmites series. “That is a series I continue to love and paint them all the time. There are all these complex lines and movement and patterns within them. They change throughout the year, and they are everywhere, but it is easy to take them for granted,” he says.
Chesnovitch, who is slated to have his first solo museum exhibition later this year at the Cape Cod Museum of Art, says he is working in a larger scale than he has ever before, “but my composition is tighter and more restrained.” He says this evolution is in part because he is learning to become self-forgiving, “I used to worry about what people would say about my work, but now I just paint to paint.” – Julie Craven Wagner