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Stories Behind the BrushStrokes

Barnstable artist Frank Chike Anigbo

Anigbo’s workspace is filled with tools, brushes, and paints that aid in making his portraits what they are. Photo by Ashley Owen

Anigbo was born in Nigeria and lived there until he attended college in Connecticut, where he studied computer software per his parents’ wishes. He taught himself how to paint by studying books, frequenting museums, and analyzing works by Monet, Degas, and other impressionists. A 1999 trip to The Museo del Prado in Madrid inspired Anigbo to adopt a new style. “You can’t do what Velázquez, Rubens, and Goya did with impressionism. You just can’t,” Anigbo says.

He relearned his craft and honed his style while taking computer software jobs that brought him from Hartford, Connecticut to rural Vermont to Cape Cod. Though he had no intention of staying on the Cape for very long, he met his future wife, Karen, who spent summers in West Yarmouth. Thirteen years later, he’s still here. Cape Cod provides Anigbo with a beautiful and relatively quiet place to live and work. “If I were to move away from here now, I’d have to move far away from New England because no place around here is as good,” he says. In many ways, the Cape is an escape from the reality that he paints, writes, and thinks about.

At the moment, Anigbo is deep into an exhibition for the Cape Cod Museum of Art. The exhibit, slated to be displayed in spring 2012, deals primarily with the people he has encountered on his trips to Skid Row between 2005 and 2008. Anigbo wants his audience to know each subject as a person—not simply as a painting—so he plans to include a catalog of information he has documented about the lives, relationships, and stories that define his subjects. “I can’t just show these paintings without talking about the people,” he says, “just as I cannot show any of these paintings outside of the context of all of them together.”

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