July 17, 2009

A Visit to the Cape Cod Museum of Art

Even the most dedicated beach goer needs a little break from the sand and sun, and what better place to spend the couple of hours between your lunchtime lobster roll and high tide than the charming Cape Cod Museum of Art?

Located in the historic town of Dennis on the Bay side of the island, the Cape Cod Museum of Art is part of the Cape Cod Center for the Arts, an idyllic 20-acre campus which also comprises the Cape Playhouse, Cape Cinema, and a sculpture garden.

Naturally, the focus here is on local artists both native born and those who have adopted the Cape as their home. The exhibitions are constantly changing to present both special shows and to ensure that the museum's own collection is given ample visibility. Summer 2009 presents "Philip Koch: Experiencing Nature, Inside and Out" a mid-career retrospective of the work of this New York State artist who resides on Cape Cod.

Philip Koch "The Song of All Days" 2008

Mr Koch's paintings are deeply colored, abstract yet realistic landscapes that seek to re-interpret traditional, romantic 19th Century views of America. His technique of applying thin layers of rich color on a hard background like masonite or panel (instead of canvas) makes the images appear both true to life and supernatural at the same time. The works are visually stunning and are a testament to the enduring appeal of landscape painting in a contemporary age.

We move from the great outdoors of Philip Koch to the cloistered rooms of Nick Patten. This special exhibition, appropriately titled "Interiors", presents a choice selection of Patten's detailed, intensely private views of furnished spaces within a home (see left "Tucked Away", 2007). Mr. Patten's desire to "bring a quiet drama to everyday scenes" is achieved with his carefully staged and meticulously painted oils. I left with a feeling of voyeurism that was fascinating but not entirely comfortable!

It is a sad reality that very often, much of a museum's permanent collection remains in deep storage, unseen by the visiting public. It is laudable that the Cape Cod Museum of Art makes an ongoing effort to exhibit art that might not be regularly displayed. This year's "Cape Cod Summer" is part of that endeavor and it presents works by a variety of artists, both living and dead, all with a tie to the Cape. Representing artists ranging from ornithologist J.J. Audubon (his "Wild Turkey" etching is of a native bird) to American Modernist Blanche Lazzell, Dadaist George Grosz (now THAT was a surprise!) to contemporary marine artist William Davis (see below) - the museum's curator presented an enticing look at what treasures are hiding in the vaults!

After a walk through the Yasuna Denny Sculpture Garden it was time to head back to the beach! I'd had my art fix and the salt water was calling! It's been a glorious few days here on beautiful Cape Cod - days to remember when summer in the city really strikes and the refreshing feel of a sea breeze is but a fond memory.

William Davis
"Summer Sailing Nantucket", 2001

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