Book Review: Second Volume Of 'Contemporary Cape Cod Artists' Focuses On People And Places

 - Deborah Forman's latest book on contemporary Cape Cod artists highlights people and places. Her 2013 book explored images of land and sea while a book on abstract art is still in the works. - "Three Dancers on Green," a 1996 oil and gold leaf on canvas by Selina Trieff, courtesy of Berta Walker Gallery in Provincetown, is one of the works featured in Deborah Forman's new volume "Contemporary Cape Cod Artists: People and Places." Work by 17 of the 45 artists included in the book is on view at the Cape Cod Museum of Art in Dennis.

In 2013 Deborah Forman published “Contemporary Cape Cod Artists: Images of Land and Sea,” which featured breathtaking cloud formations, woods, wetlands, dunes, boats, sunsets and light reflecting of Cape houses both humble and haughty.

But it’s one year later and Ms. Forman is done with all that.

The next subjects in book two of her series on contemporary Cape Cod artists are people and places. The book features paintings of people at art galleries, libraries, school, horse races, outdoor markets and more. There are also people-less interiors and still lifes, but there’s nary a beach scene in sight so don’t go looking.

At first glance this omission of sand, sea and lighthouses seems glaring even if you know Ms. Forman already has an entire book on the subject. But after you finish searching for that glimpse of a landscape you can move on and appreciate “Contemporary Cape Cod Artists: People and Places” for what it is: a compendium of artists who spend at least some of their time on Cape Cod but don’t aim to replicate the natural beauty of the Cape in their work.


Despite, in many cases, the lack of direct representation, it’s still enjoyable to read about how individual artists are influenced by being on Cape Cod. Artist Murray Zimiles, whose colorless drawings depicting the holocaust are some of the most disturbing images in the book, says he loves the dunes; sculptor Romolo Del Deo describes being able to work on his large sculptures outside his Provincetown studio rather than inside his 60-foot high New York studio in the quote, “I don’t have a skylight studio, I have the sky.”

Images in the book range from phantasmagorical and surreal to impressionistic and photo realistic. There are representations of everyday life—families in front of televisions, and whimsical interiors—to images of Marilyn Monroe, President Bush, and Dick Cheney.

I was surprised, given that my favorite color is black, that my favorite section of the book is “Coloring their World.” I enjoyed the embellishments and colors in Danielle Mailer’s work. Jewelry and floral patterns that creep like vines around a painting and extended into the borders of some of the works. It would be well worth a trip to Torrington, Connecticut, to view her aluminum “Horse Tales” in which a 16- by 12-foot silhouette of a horse appears to trot along unaware of the unusual and festive adornments.

Also in the “Coloring their World” section are several acrylic paintings by Dorothy Strauss of dancers in boldly colored dresses, arms raised amid the joy of the dance. The paintings are reminiscent of Matisse’s “Dance of Life,” and even Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” but under more joyful circumstances.

Nan Hass Feldman’s patchwork paintings are also Matisse-inspired interiors made up solely of biomorphic shapes, (“I could never do right angles,” she admits in the book) and are included in the section “The Home Front,” but could have also wound up in the Coloring their World category.

Other categories into which the 45 artists featured in the book are divided include Getting to Know You, Out and About, Memory and Mystery, Taking Shape, A Moving Figure, Dramatic Moments, and Still Time.
Interestingly, the Land Ho Restaurant in Orleans appears in paintings twice in the book, first in Mel Leipzig’s acrylic “Land Ho, Orleans,” and second in “Last Summer at the Land Ho,” by Elaine Coffee. Does this mean the interior of the Land Ho is a special draw to artists? Or that the menu is especially appealing and that artists bide their time more productively than most while waiting for meals?

As far as people and places go, there’s something for everyone in Ms. Forman’s book. Perhaps there’s a little too much for everyone. With only a small sampling of potters and photographers represented, it felt as if perhaps they should have been left out completely and perhaps given future tomes of their own. Surely the Cape has more than the photographers who focus on people and places than the five highlighted in the book.

Work by 17 of the 45 artists featured in “Contemporary Cape Cod Artists People and Places” is currently on display through September 14 at the Cape Cod Museum of Art.

In conjunction with the exhibit, Ms. Forman will present a gallery talk at the museum at 2 PM on Thursday, September 4. The talk is free with the price of admission.


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