Julie Frodigh Crowley
You might be able to take the girl off the Cape, but you can’t take the Cape out of the girl. That postulate could certainly be applied to Julie F. Crowley (nee Frodigh), a landscape painter whose psyche is rooted in the childhood days spent visiting her cousins who lived at Sunken Meadow Beach in North Eastham. Summers were full of the beaches in South Wellfleet, exploring the flats and marshes on the bayside and nights sparked by fireflies under star-filled skies.
Crowley and her family live year round in Princeton, Massachusetts and extended weekends and summer vacations are spent at their home in Megansett, a sleepy hamlet in North Falmouth. But whenever she can steal away, despite the time of year, Crowley will make the trip from either Princeton or Megansett to the head-clearing expanse of the Outer Cape’s National Seashore. A surfer, a sailor and a skier, her life is full of motion and adventure, making her paintings that capture a singular moment in time all the more captivating.
“In the beginning, my family and friends thought I was crazy to drive over an hour to go to the beach,” Crowley shares. “We would be having a lovely time in Megansett and I would sneak away to Wellfleet.” Crowley reminisces about trips to The Outermost House as educational adventures provided by her father and his cousins. She remembers surfing the beaches along Wellfleet’s Ocean View Drive with her two male cousins to whom she constantly suggested she could be their surf sister. “I wanted to share my love of the Outer Cape with my children, so we would make a point to rent a house for a week each summer,” she remembers.
“I can’t resist it, it’s in our blood when you are brought up out there, and you’ve got to get in that water,” Crowley explains. “The basis of my life and art, certainly the Outer Cape, is what my parents, and my grandparents taught us to love.” Crowley’s oil paintings capture the unspoiled beauty of the beaches, marshes and activities that define what time on the Cape is all about. Landscapes, wildlife, regional architecture and classic sailboats; they are all iconic images that Crowley deftly translates into emotional moments that are evocative of memories from another simpler time. It is no wonder her influence comes from some of the most iconic painters of the region: Motherwell, Sargent, Benson and Hopper.
As she raised her family on the shores of Buzzards Bay in the summer, she developed an appreciation for the Upper Cape’s landscape as well. Images of The Knob jutting out into Buzzards Bay from Quissett’s quiet harbor; an anticipatory approach to Nobska Lighthouse and the crescent of the boulder studded beach that grounds the light’s majestic service; these are all scenes that Crowley is able to interpret in a subtly different way than many other artists.
There is a freshness to the quality of her paintings; they are not fussy, over-worked or over-scrutinized. Instead they seem as though they are slides in a show from her mind where a steady diet of fresh air, wind in your sails and a cold salty wave in your face set-up an endless montage of memories from her days on the Cape.
“So much of the Cape is to be appreciated,” Crowley confirms. “But there is something unique about the Outer Cape.” One year, inspired by Thoreau and Beston, Crowley decided to make a pilgrimage and walk from the cut at Fort Hill in Eastham, all the way to Provincetown. Accomplished in separate days, approximately eight miles each, throughout the spring, summer and fall in order to experience the changing seasons, and accompanied by friends and family on the various legs of the trek, Crowley gathered enough memories and images for a lifetime for most people. But Julie F. Crowley is not most people.
Julie F. Crowley’s work can be seen locally at Falmouth’s Gallery on Main or at juliefcrowley.com.