Catching the Cape in restless motion

Clockwise from above: “Truro Dune #10’’ by painter Anne Peretz, “Truro Woods #14’’ also by Peretz, and sculptor Varujan Boghosian’s “Pluto.’’ Clockwise from above: “Truro Dune #10’’ by painter Anne Peretz, “Truro Woods #14’’ also by Peretz, and sculptor Varujan Boghosian’s “Pluto.’’ (Courtesy Provincetown Art Association And Museum)
By Cate McQuaid
Globe Correspondent / August 12, 2009

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PROVINCETOWN - In her Cape Cod landscapes at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, painter Anne Peretz ties the elemental quality of her material to that of her subjects. She adds sand to her paint as she paints sand dunes. But the topic is more than sand dunes: It’s erosion. Many of her canvases meditate on time and change.

Look at the rush of the unruly beach grass in “Truro Dune #10,’’ in which a dune rises in restless motion against the brilliant blue backdrop of a calm sea and sky. The dune seems more changeable than the sea behind it. This painting, with its sharp tones, is an eye-catcher, but most of Peretz’s other dune paintings keep to gray weather. In works such as “Falling Dune’’ and “Ballston Beach #2,’’ Peretz’s careful modulations of tone and the pull of a shrub’s exposed roots provide the drama.

Peretz, who founded the Family Center in Somerville, has developed a passionate second career as a painter. She often works on a large scale - up to 6-by-10 feet - athletically flinging, scumbling, and spackling her paint. Unlike legions of Cape Cod painters, Peretz doesn’t strive to evoke picture-perfect scenes, but usually turns her eye to humble subjects, such as the old, useless, waterlogged posts that once held up piers in “Provincetown Pilings.’’ They rise from gray mud and lean into each other like old friends who can no longer stand straight.

I love the intimacy of Peretz’s smaller-scale pieces. “Truro Pond #3’’ is all muddy green, its spackled surface delicious with rough dollops and pale, gathering light. It’s as if we’re neck-deep in the pond, watching the sun glint on its surface, sinking our toes in its mud. “Truro Woods #14’’ shows a grove of gray-green verticals beneath a canopy of daubed olive leaves. But a thick, peachy light marauds between the tree trunks; it has more substance, materially and tonally, than the trees themselves. These canvases, each just 2 feet square, are easier for a viewer to enter than the larger ones. Monumentality can be forbidding.

Wit, wear, and tear
Like Peretz, sculptor Varujan Boghosian is interested in erosion. He builds his sculptures from found objects. An old shoe, hockey pucks, a decoy, a paint-encrusted smock, and more on view in “Varujan Boghosian: A Career Survey,’’ also at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, show their history in their wear and tear. Boghosian layers them into witty, enigmatic assemblages that feel steeped in history and vital in the moment.

The sculptor, now in his 80s, has a handful of works here dating back to 1963, but 27 of the 31 pieces on view were made in the last decade, and of those, 23 were made this year. This is not truly a career survey.

Still, “Pluto,’’ the earliest piece, provides a terrific starting place: It’s a wooden hat block peppered with scores of tiny nail heads, some so close together they form a stippled, rusty gray surface over the wood. It’s elemental, rising like a dark, half-shadowed moon from the murky depths of a wooden box.

The box is important: Most of Boghosian’s assemblages have a frame. In “Promptor’’ (2009), a wooden doll in a black dunce cap sits inside a picture frame on top of a measuring stick; a grid and a disk also balance along the ruler. The border suggests a unique internal world like that of a painting. In “Cinderella Much Later’’ (2009), Boghosian has set a shredded white lady’s boot that looks a century old inside a frame against a torn canvas. Inside the boot’s heel, a brass mouse appears to be sniffing for food.

All of these pieces layer form with myth, puns, storytelling, and memory. They are objects rich in meaning, but half the fun comes with the personal associations the works will spark in each viewer.

Prints and plywood
Down Commercial Street from PAAM, the Schoolhouse Gallery has two stunning bodies of work up. Printmaker Daniel Heyman’s “Tony’s Shelter’’ is a maquette for a larger project he intends to install at Swarthmore College and Wesleyan University. It’s a structure made up of plywood panels, each with a vivid print, which asks the question, “What is patriotism?’’

Heyman has interviewed victims of torture at Abu Ghraib and formerly homeless Vietnam veterans. Many panels bear portraits of some of the people interviewed, and often related text. Others show menacing bald eagles - one with testicles carries a gun and flowers - and Heyman’s version of Titian’s painting “Sacred and Profane Love.’’ Ultimately, the structure will be large enough to walk into. But even at its current size - about 6 feet tall, and 2 or 3 feet square - it holds both the sacred and the profane in its witness to good intentions, faithful service, and the horrors of war.

Sharon Horvath’s mixed-media paintings start with familiar forms - a baseball diamond, a rear-view mirror - and take off into shimmering, mirage-like images that retain the skeletons of their origins. “Red Fern Study’’ looks like the outline of a bonfire, with ornate, lacy edging and tight grids within, but the whole effect is of a pulsating red-gold burst with turquoise-rimmed white splats. It’s seductively gorgeous.

ANNE PERETZ: Cape Cod Paintings through Sept. 13


through Aug. 30

At: Provincetown Art Association and Museum, 460 Commercial St., Provincetown. 508-487-1750,


At: the Schoolhouse Gallery, 494 Commercial St., Provincetown. 508-487-4800, www.schoolhouse

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