Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Why I Love Provincetown

Violets, Ferol Sibley Warthen

In conjunction with my second post on the New England Home Design Blog which is a visitors' guide to some of Provincetown's best art galleries, I wanted to do a post on why I love Provincetown, the art and the artists that have spent time in this historic artists' colony. 

A few years ago, I did a post on Ferol Sibley Warthen, an artist who made white-line prints, a process invented in Provincetown.  I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to spend some time in what had been Warthen's studio.  Next door neighbor Robenia Myrer Smith was an animated storyteller and she brought Warthen to life for me.  Robenia grew up on Louisberg Square in Beacon Hill and the family summered in Provincetown her entire life.  Her mother was an artist and had an amazing collection of artwork that had been passed down.

Photo:  Flickr

On special afternoons, Robenia would invite everyone for cocktails on the lawn by the wharf house (with the flag).  As we gathered by the harbor to watch the evening tide go in or out, she served up her delicious stories along with the best chipped beef and martinis I've ever had.  

Fast forward several years when, at a local frame shop, I saw a postcard with this painting:
Fritz Bultman, Heat of the Sky

I couldn't wait to get home to do research on this artist and see more of his work.  

As a high school junior, Bultman studied with Hans Hofmann in Munich.  Hofmann moved in the same circles as Picasso, Braque and Matisse and he brought his knowledge of Modernism to America.

Fritz Bultman, Still Life Study from Hans Hofmann class
Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Hofmann is said to be the father of Abstract Expressionism and if Abstract Expressionism was born in New York, it summered in Provincetown.  Hofmann went to Provincetown each summer and flocks of now legendary artists followed.  I could do an entire blog on the artists of Provincetown.  It's hard to even narrow one person to a single post.  I could easily do four posts on Bultman alone.

Hans Hofmann art class, Provincetown, MA circa 1945
Archives of American Art

I was able to find quite a bit of information about Bultman but it was hard to stay on track.  Each article would mention one artist after another that branched out like a family tree of Who's Who in American Art.  Bultman was part of a group of artists referred to as "The Irascibles" in a 1950 Life magazine article.  

The "Irascibles" photograph by Nina Leen

This group of American abstract painters, including Willem deKooning, Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell and Mark Rothko, wrote a letter of the Metropolitan Museum of Art basically accusing them of ignoring American artists.  Although Bultman signed the letter, he was studying sculpture in Italy so was missing from the now famous photograph.  Bultman always felt his absence from the photograph prevented larger success.

I would never get my chance to meet Bultman who died in 1985.  When I had exhausted all the internet information, I wrote a letter to Bultman's widow Jeanne explaining I was a big fan of her husband's work and asked if I could visit her sometime to ask some questions.  She called me a few days later.  "Any fan of Fritz's work is welcome anytime you want to visit, you just let me know," she said.  I was planning to take a week-long printing workshop at the Provincetown museum in a few weeks so we made a plan to meet while I was in town.

Fritz Bultman in his studio circa 1945                                                The Bultmans in Provincetown

Even in her '80s, Jeanne Bultman was stunning.  We met as she was getting her mail.   We walked up the hill to her cottage and took a seat on her porch to talk.

She came to Provincetown in 1942 where she met Frtiz and she stayed for the summer to work as a model for Hans Hofmann.  They married in 1943.  I recalled Robenia Myrer Smith's talking about German submarines being in the water off Provincetown during WWII and this put Jeanne in town at the same time.  She admitted it was a scary time.  "We never saw German submarines but we were told they were out there.  There were blackouts at night and all of the artists would go to the A-House and dance all night."

Drawing from Hofmann class by (I believe) Lillian Orlowski with inset sketches by Hans Hofmann

I asked about some of the other artists that spent time in town like Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko.  She seemed to love Franz.  "He always had a smile on his face and recruited all the artists to play baseball games.  "Of course they were horrible," she said, "but they all played and everyone laughed."

Fritz was also friends with Tennessee Williams.  I've seen several accounts of Tennessee's shenanigans but I think once Fritz and Jeanne were married and had kids, she wasn't having it anymore.

After I'd exhausted all of my questions, Jeanne asked if there was anything else she could help me with.  Imagining any artist from this period would have an amazing art collection, I asked if I could see her house.  She politely gave me a tour....and I was right.  Not only did she have an amazing collection of paintings, it was rounded out by interesting furniture and objects that I'm sure had their own stories.

Photo:  PAAM

After Jeanne's death in 2008, the Provincetown Art Association and Museum held an exhibition of the Fritz and Jeanne Bultman's collection including some of their furniture and objects.

Although my afternoon with Jeanne Bultman is another chapter closed, there are more yet to be discovered.  Other artists and their sons and daughters who experienced this exciting time in America's history are still there.  And new generations of artists carry on making art and creating new chapters in the story of Provincetown.

The estate of Fritz Bultman is represented by Albert Merola Gallery.
Another great source of vintage Provincetown artwork is Acme Fine Art in Boston.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Wisteria Walk

I saw my neighbor's wisteria in bloom earlier this week which was my signal to get back over to Harvard so I could check out that huge wisteria I showed you a few weeks ago.

It was well worth the trip.  Enjoy.

Click to enlarge.

I wish I could offer scratch and sniff.

The scent filled the damp morning air.

This was the shot I took about three weeks ago for the New England Home blog post.

This is the same shot this morning.

Someone tipped me off that there was another great one around the corner so I thought I'd wander these new-to-me streets to look for it.

I found another Greek Revival I didn't know about.
This one looks like a developer got their hands on it at some point.

Look what's happened.

It looks like a few condos have been added.  The underground parking is nice detail, right?

I think this must be the place but it's not yet in full bloom.  This has a Western exposure so it might be a little behind the others that have a Southern exposure.  

How pretty is this Colonial Revival?  The white tulips are perfect.  And as they fade away, a row of hydrangea must fill in a meet the boxwood hedge.  I'd love to come back and see this in the summer.  I've wanted to add a low hedge like this along the front of my house to people from letting their dogs pee on my hydrangea.

A beautiful Eastern Redbud just coming into bloom.  

The birthplace of poet e.e. cummings.

I wouldn't have known that but the Historical Commission places
these signs on notable properties around the city.

And directly across the street...


...is the former home of a famous Cambridge resident.

I'm sure you know her if not love her.

It's the one and only...

Julia Child in her Cambridge kitchen.  Photo by Arnold Newman.

Julia Child.

I'm glad you asked me to come back.  I really enjoyed my walk this morning and I got to visit several new streets I didn't know before.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Black and White

Sculpture, Mike Wright

First, I'd like to thank everyone who read my post on the New England Home Magazine design blog.  I tried to respond personally to everyone for which I had an e-mail address but for those I couldn't, I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment on the post.  The guest post "gig" is a two-post deal, so I have another one coming up soon that that will be art focused.

Second, my apologies both for the lack of posts and for getting behind on my blog reading.  I've been trying to achieve more balance in my life and, although it worked for a while, it just hasn't been possible lately.  Work has been occupying a great deal of my time.  I've had a lot of early mornings and late nights that just haven't left time (or energy) for much else.  

I haven't made much progress on the bedroom; in fact, I had a big mishap today...

When I rolled out the seagrass rug, I used a can of water-based polyurethane to weight down the corner and then immediately tripped over it.

The rug is ruined but my feet are really, really glossy...and, I'll bet, waterproof.

Since many of you seemed intrigued by the artwork teaser in my last bedroom post, I thought I would do a post on black and white artwork.  I like to collect artwork.  I buy it even when I don't have a place to hang it.  It's a problem, I'll admit.  I've even limited myself to artists who lived in Provincetown as way of controlling myself.  I've always wanted to have a big gallery wall of black and white artwork so I pick up pieces and just file them away.  Here are some of the black and white pieces for my someday gallery wall.

"Wreckage" by Tracey Anderson done as part of a series
in response to Hurricane Katrina.

Tracey is an artist I read an article about several years ago.  I found her so interesting I reached out to her to get to know her.  She's very outspoken about art that's purely decorative:  pretty for the sake of being pretty isn't art to her.  Her work is filled with icons and symbols that are characters of her own language, often what I perceive to be steampunk-type objects that listen to and watch us.   I find her and her work very interesting.

Sculpture by Mike Wright.  I'd love to incorporate sculpture into a gallery wall to give it more dimension.  To have this sitting on a little floating shelf would be really neat.

Peter Busa, ca. 1950s

Tracey Anderson, 2006

Fritz Bultman, 1961

You've seen this piece before in my living room.

Mike Wright, wood construction

Tracey Anderson

Paul Bowen, monoprint, 2010

A drawing by Peter Busa from his time at the Yaddo artists' community in 1942.

You've seen the piece before in my dining room.

Tracey Anderson, 2005

Suzanne Harding, mixed media

This is the piece, also by Tracey Anderson, that I framed to go over the bed.

It's kind of a harsh piece but I thought framing it in the ornate frame would give it a whimsical quality that would lighten it up.  

And I really wanted something that would be a nice textural contrast against the headboard.  It may be a piece that a lot of people dislike, or even hate, but that's okay.  I like art that makes people ask questions and I think the overall effect once the room is done will be good.  

I'm off to buy a new rug.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

New England Home Design Blog

Today I'm honored to have a post on New England Home Magazine's Design Blog.

As we celebrate Patriot's Day next week, see how our
Colonial and Greek Revival architecture reflected the times.

Stop by and say hi on the post here.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

I'm Getting There

The backplates on my bathroom door weren't as exciting as the knobs.  Even though they're not fancy and they're a little corroded, I kind of like their distressed look.  I still haven't been able to take the door outside to strip it but that should happen within the next few weeks.

I have at least one coat of paint on every surface of the bedroom.  The dark taupe wall just wasn't working for me.  It just sucked the life out of the room.

So that wall is now a mid-value gray called Herbal Escape.  It's one of those complex colors that looks a little different at different times of the day.  The floor is a darker slightly browner gray.  I just need to get a second coat on everything and clean up my edges.  Getting sharp edges in an old house is such a pain.  Can I get a witness?

And here's a sneak peak of a piece of artwork I just had framed to go above the bed.  I might lose a  bunch of people with this one but I love it.  I think it'll go above the headboard.

Hopefully by next weekend I can start putting everything back together.

I'm also working on a guest post for another blog -- more details on that soon -- and I need a few photos so why don't you tag along on a walk over to Harvard Square with me.  

This Greek Revival adjacent to Harvard University was new to me.  An enormous wisteria lines the entablature of the porch.  I'll have to come back in a few weeks to see this in its full glory.  The gothic doors on this double house are quite unusual.

I always love to poke around old New England cemeteries.  You never know what famous person you'll run in to.  This cemetery dating back to 1635 is right in Harvard Square.

Memento Mori = Remember your mortality.

The detailed carvings are always amazing...

Here lyes ye body of Dorothy Burre, wife to Samuel Burre, aged 30 years,
died ye 20 of February 1702.

Again Memento Mori and Fugit Hora meaning "the hour flies."

Comparing this headstone to the previous one makes me wonder if the image at the top of two carved columns flanking the stone...

...is a likeness of the deceased.  This was a two-year-old child.

On the corner of the cemetery is a 1734 mile marker stating Boston is 8 miles away.  At the time, the trip to Boston would take the better part of a day by horse.  A bridge built from East Cambridge to Boston in 1793 reduced the trip to just over 3 miles, or just four subway stops from Harvard Square.

The ceiling of the portico of Memorial Church at Harvard.

Detail of ceiling.

The Holden Chapel at Harvard, built 1744, has the most amazing carving on the pediment.

Massachusetts Hall on the right is the oldest existing building
at Harvard having been built in 1720.

I think I have all the photos I need but can't wait to get back and see these wisteria.