New Paintings From The Province Lands

Drift Fence IV, Russell Steven Powell mixed media on canvas board, 14x11

Drift Fence IV, mixed media on canvas board, 14×11

“DRIFT FENCE IV” is from early June. The rest — presented in the order in which they were completed — are from the week ending July 5; the last in the series was painted during the final throes of Hurricane Arthur, while the shack shuddered and swayed and the windows whistled and rattled. Despite the lashing rain, the interior of the shack stayed dry except for a couple of inconsequential drips and some bubbling around the sashes.

1, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 14x11

1, acrylic on canvas, 14×11

2, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 14x11

2, acrylic on canvas, 14×11

3, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 14x11

3, acrylic on canvas, 14×11

4, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 14x11

4, acrylic on canvas, 14×11

5, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 14x11

5, acrylic on canvas, 14×11

6, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 14x11

6, acrylic on canvas, 14×11

7, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 11x14

7, acrylic on canvas, 11×14

8, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas board, 12x9

8, acrylic on canvas board, 12×9

Dune Tours

Provincetown Dunes, Russell Steven Powell oil on canvas, 24x36

Provincetown Dunes, oil on canvas, 24×36

 In And About The Dunes

Artwork created in and inspired by the dunes of the Cape Cod National Seashore

Truro Public Library

May 27 – July 31, 2014

Opening reception

Tuesday, May 27, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Oil and acrylic paintings and linoprints

Russell Steven Powell

Photography Trish Crapo

Wood carvings and collage Christa Edlund

Tuesday, June 17

6:30 p.m.

Shack Time 

A 27-minute video documentary program about the artist shacks in the dunes of the Cape Cod National Seashore. Produced and directed by Russell Steven Powell, Shack Time was chosen for the 2001 New England Film and Video Festival and aired regionally on WGBH-TV in Boston.

Shack Time includes rare photographs by Walker Evans: a stunning portrait of shack owner Hazel Hawthorne Werner, and Eugene O’Neill’s Lifesaving Station leaning into the Atlantic Ocean following a storm. Poet Cynthia Huntington and writer Annie Dillard read from their work, and there is a rare photograph of Jack Kerouac typing in the dunes. Late shack owners Ray Wells and Laura Fowler are interviewed. Julie Schecter co-wrote the script.

7 Standish Way, North Truro, Massachusetts

508-487-1125

trurolibrary.org

Truro Exhibit Opens May 27

Moon Over Dunes, Russell Steven Powell oil on canvas, 16x12

Moon Over Dunes, oil on canvas, 16×12

Waves, Russell Steven Powell oil on canvas, 16x40

Waves, oil on canvas, 16×40

“IN AND ABOUT THE DUNES,” an exhibit of photographs by Trish Crapo, wood carvings and collages by Christa Edlund, and my acrylic and oil paintings and linoprints, will open at the Truro Public Library on Cape Cod Tuesday, May 27, continuing through July. The exhibit will feature work created in and inspired by the dune shacks in the Cape Cod National Seashore.

Crapo, Edlund, and I were awarded 2013 summer residencies in the Margo-Gelb dune shack by the Outer Cape Artists in Residence Consortium (OCARC). The one-room shack, which was once owned by painter Boris Margo and his wife, printmaker Jan Gelb, sits on a high dune overlooking the ocean.

An opening reception for “In And About The Dunes” will be Tuesday, May 27, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The Truro Public Library is located at 7 Standish Way in North Truro, Massachusetts. Regular library hours are Tuesday and Wednesday, 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Trish Crapo’s photographs express the rhythms and moods of daily life in the dunes.

Trish Crapo’s photographs express the rhythms and moods of daily life in the dunes.

Trish Crapo lives in Leyden, Massachusetts, where she works as a portrait photographer and as a freelance writer and photographer for the Greenfield-based daily newspaper, The Recorder. During her OCARC residency she took photographs using a variety of methods and equipment: 120 film in a plastic Holga camera; 35 mm film in a cardboard pinhole camera she built from a kit; and digital images with a small Lumix camera and with her smartphone. Her photography and collage has been exhibited at galleries in Boston, western Massachusetts, Vermont, New York City, and — as part The War and Peace Project — in Moscow and in Tula, Russia.

For more information, visit her website at trishcrapo.com.

“Yellow Legs” by Christa Edlund, carved from bass wood with covered copper tubing for legs, painted with acrylics, with glass eyes, stands about 10 inches tall.

“Yellow Legs” by Christa Edlund, carved from bass wood with covered copper tubing for legs, painted with acrylics, with glass eyes, stands about 10 inches tall.

A resident of the Cape for the past 30 years, Christa Edlund has been making carvings of birds for 20 years, and has shown her work at the Museum of Fine Art in Dennis, the Guyer Barn in Hyannis, Provincetown Art Association Museum in Provincetown, and the Cultural Center of Cape Cod. She earned her bachelor of fine arts degree from Kansas State College. In addition to her carvings, she will exhibit some of her Sailor’s Valentine collages.

East From Boris's, Russell Steven Powell oil on canvas, 36x48

East From Boris’, oil on canvas, 36×48

Five Tides

Harbor, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 14x11

Harbor, acrylic on canvas, 14×11

Sun God, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 11x14

Sun God, acrylic on canvas, 11×14

THE SOURCES OF INSPIRATION in the Cape Cod dunes are as multifarious as tides, and equally mysterious, guided by forces ethereal (moon phases), and elemental (ocean currents, distant storms).

High and low tides arrive reliably twice daily on these shores, at roughly six-hour intervals. But where they end, the intensity of their waves, and what washes up on the beach are never the same.

I paint with regularity, gradually over time achieving greater consistency, recognizable style and themes. But the sources are many, and they are often unpredictable.

In some cases the idea for a painting surfaces full blown (“Straw Hat”); in others, the original concept takes an unexpected turn along the way (“Weeping Woman”).

Voice Mail, Dunes, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 14x11

Voice Mail, Dunes, acrylic on canvas, 14×11

Sometimes the idea appears unformed, seemingly from nowhere, an unnamed energy or emotion like a lightning bolt suddenly stabbing the stone-flat sea: 30 seemingly innocuous words (or less) of a familiar voice heard during my daily phone check (“Voice Mail”).

Other times, without preconception, the painting reflects my particular mood or circumstances (“Sun God,” painted during a blazing hot day).

Weeping Woman, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 14x11

Weeping Woman, acrylic on canvas, 14×11

Sometimes, what begins as an exercise in color, form, and brush stroke gradually coalesces into a unified theme (“Harbor”).

***

These examples are some of the work I completed during my recent two-week stay at Boris’s shack in the Provincetown dunes.

Straw Hat On Table, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 20x16

Straw Hat On Table, acrylic on canvas, 20×16

New Paintings From The Dunes

Sunset, Dunes, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 14x11

Sunset, Dunes, acrylic on canvas, 14×11

Night Vision, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 14x11

Night Vision, acrylic on canvas, 14×11

I HAVE JUST RETURNED from two glorious weeks living alone in a one-room dune shack. I did all of the things I had hoped to do, without pressure or distraction:

I painted daily, in acrylic and watercolor (some of the results are posted here).

I wrote daily journal entries, an essay, and three long letters to friends.

I read three novels, three issues of Harper’s (cover to cover), a friend’s poetry manuscript, a work of nonfiction, and parts of two other books.

I walked and swam, and took lots of photographs.

I had just enough food to make it through without once having to walk into town, returning home with half a box of Triscuits and some peanut butter.

Supermoon, Dunes, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 14x11

Supermoon, Dunes, acrylic on canvas, 14×11

My two weeks encompassed the longest days of the year, and a full moon. I rose at dawn before sunrise and watched the night sky dim without artificial light, only lighting a kerosene lamp one time (and that for just a few minutes).

Most valuable—and difficult—of all, I did nothing. I drank my morning  coffee sitting on the deck watching tree swallows dive and glide around me and the birdhouses they occupy in front, to the side, and at the rear of the shack.

I resisted my compulsion to activity during this early hour, even to read, listening to the mockingbird and song sparrows, breathing in the pink, fragrant beach roses that rise around the shack.

Swallows, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 16x20

Swallows, acrylic on canvas, 16×20

Without effort, I observed the wide band of continually undulating dune grass—there is always a breeze, from a whisper to a gust—cresting 20 feet above the beach, and absorbed the view of ocean beyond, with its seals and seagulls and boats of various shapes and sizes, and its tides rising or falling every hour of every day.

I watched ocean turn to sky: deep to powder blue, bright pink, menacing green, slate gray.

I practiced doing nothing, several times a day, and I got better at it as time went along.

Weather Pattern, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 20x16

Weather Pattern, acrylic on canvas, 20×16

What happens next is a mystery, of course. But I will continue to cultivate the good habit of beginning my days doing nothing, substituting my ship-like front porch for the ship-like deck of the shack.

Sea Change

View From Boris's I, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 20x16

View From Boris’s I, acrylic on canvas, 20×16

MOST DAYS had (at least) two distinct types of weather, strong winds and whitecaps in the morning calming to a cloudless sky by mid-afternoon, prelude to a slow, broad sunset. Or the reverse: rose to peach to lemon dawn replaced by rolling banks of seagull clouds before noon.

View From Boris's II, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 20x16

View From Boris’s II, acrylic on canvas, 20×16

*

Perspectives from a week in Boris’s shack in the Provincetown dunes, May 11 to May 18, 2013.