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(artscope magazine asked some of its writers to share their memories of their favorite exhibition of the past year. Hopefully, instead of kicking yourself for missing these shows, you’ll keep an eye out for future chance to see these artists’ work.)

Fine Arts Work Center MFA Thesis Exhibition by Rena Lindstrom

I had been anticipating this exhibition since the first class of MFA students arrived in Provincetown in September 2005. Founded in 1968, the Fine Arts Work Center (FAWC) is a truly extraordinary institution. It has become an internationally renowned, premier residency fellowship supporting talented individuals at the outset of their careers.

Now, through a new collaboration between the FAWC and the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, an MFA in Visual Arts is being offered. The eight students in the class of 2007 were an adventurous group, enthusiastically engaging in the challenge of a small, new, low-residency program, and deeply committed to their development as artists.

This was no vacation on the Cape. With only two months each year to work on site with resident instructors and visiting artists, it was all about the studio, critique and work. I got to know several of the artists as they took their coffee breaks at a nearby cafe where I am a barista, serving up caffeine and sweets late night and early morning, seeing on a daily basis who is dragging, who has a cold, circles under her eyes, who has made a breakthrough in the studio. The other 10 months are long-distance in students’ hometowns, guided by a local mentor in communication with resident faculty.

Except for Nathalie Ferrier, whose fascinating thread constructions captures and release light and space in labyrinthine constellations, this class of MFA students is all painters. The Class of 2007 returned for a third September last month to present their thesis exhibition.

The exhibition took place in two parts; smaller work hung in the Hudson Walker Gallery at the FAWC, and larger pieces were installed in two beautiful spaces at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum. The smaller works sparked my appetite and that excitement grew in my first quick pass through PAAM’s spacious galleries. The high ceilings, the larger size of the work, the light, the color - there was an exponential expansion of sensation. And more than that, there was something visceral about the collection, something akin to the instinctual, some elemental emotional charge. This was strong work.

From the dramatic presence of Carole Ann Danner’s figures; to the movement in Kay Knight Clarke’s heavy-hanging clouds and changeling skies; the reductive, intimate and elegiac abstractions of Cathleen Daley; Alice Denison’s extravagant and romantic English flower compositions; the controlled, murmuring verdance of suburbia in Liza Bingham’s paintings; and finally, to Sandra Deacon Robinson’s floor to ceiling mysterious, humid, beckoning, swamp forests - this group of artists found something together here that enriched their individual work. And exhibited together, that work speaks to the collaborative success of an inventive new MFA program.

Barnstable Patriot, November, 2011

Flashes of Cape light shine in 4Cs exhibition

The 13 artists represented in the latest exhibit at Cape Cod Community College’s Higgins Art Gallery have several obvious things in common. They are all painters and they all find creative inspiration from the local landscape. But each brings a well-developed individual style and vision to their work and to the show.

Curated by Betty Fuller, an adjunct art instructor at the college and director of the gallery, this is a well-orchestrated and thoughtful show that brings together the many elements, physical and emotional, inherent in the connections between land, sea and sky that inform this place we call home. “I wanted to offer a full range of Cape Cod artists, from Falmouth to Provincetown,” said Fuller, “and to show the landscape as it ranges across the Cape as well.”

The dark, moody, expressive works by Rob Dutoit greet the viewer at the gallery entrance. They are images of Provincetown, the wharfs in particular, and the title of one piece, “Homage to Moffatt” is a tribute with multiple layers. Shirley Mossman Nisbet’s “Monochrome” seems to describe the gray upon gray upon white upon gray layers of landscape we experience here for much of the year with simple shapes, expressive strokes and an eerie feel for the dusky light between night and day.

Hillary Osborne fills her canvases with deep neutrals and simple shapes that come alive with the sharp contrast of a bolt of light through the clouds that illuminates one small place in our view, a place and a light we have all seen, however briefly, on those days when the light and clouds cannot decide which will win and which will give way. It is that light that has helped make our stark landscape so alluring and compelling. You are never quite sure when it will strike and Osborne has nailed it to the canvas with a few well-placed and sleek strokes across the plane.

Donald Beal gives us a closer, more intimate view of the landscape. It isn’t all about the beach, after all. There are trees here, shrubs and clusters of vines and briers. Beal gives us a bit of chaos to consider, a slant on the landscape that he reinforces with the literal slant of dead tree trunks and fallen branches as well as the tangle of briers or branches we must peer through to see what lies beyond.

Ken Carson makes us a bit giddy with all the light he captures in his paintings and Joyce Zavorskas gives us an almost decadent, sensuous view of a dune, painted with broad but sure strokes of color. Jan Lhormer’s work may be the most abstract, with her rather whimsical “Rose Clouds” floating across her richly colored canvas. Mary Moquin gives us brooding landscapes full of dusky light and slab-like buildings that rise up squat and solid to catch that light. In contrast, Herb Edwards gives us paintings that seem to be snapshots of summer days long past but remembered in heightened color and simple shapes.

Jane Lincoln continues her studies of color, abstracting the dominant and complementary colors to simple shapes and planes. Carol Danner has created bright and colorful landscapes full of primary colors and lots of energy. Liza Bingham, a 2010 grant winner from the Massachusetts Cultural Council for her painting, offers a series of almost whimsical monochromatic paintings that seem to invite the viewer to either peek through a window or a stylized frame design. Lillia Frantin abstracts boat and rock forms in a way that seems to create a motif more than literal subjects and her colors and lines provide a surface tension that flattens the plane and abstracts the images as well.

These are all well crafted paintings and each painter brings their own specific viewpoint and painterly language to their work. The show is a testament to the various artists, artistic styles and ways the landscape can be represented in both traditional and non-traditional ways. The exhibit is an especially strong one for the college art students to experience and study, for these are not your everyday regional landscapes. They are evocative, sometimes mysterious and all make a statement about a certain place at a certain time affecting a certain artist without being sentimental or trite.

Fuller pointed out that this summer was the celebration of Tennessee Williams’ hundredth birthday at the Tennessee Williams Festival in Provincetown and that it was there that he was inspired to write his autobiographical play, Something Cloudy, Something Clear. She played with the words a bit, changing them to “Sometimes Cloudy, Sometimes Clear,” making the title of the exhibit as multilayered and fun as the show itself.

The Higgins Art Gallery is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the exhibit will be up through Nov. 10.