Every Picture Tells A Story

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Helen Frankenthaler, The Bay, 1963, acrylic on canvas

When I read that the Provincetown Art Association and Museum was mounting an exhibition of Helen Frankenthaler’s work, my heart leapt.  When I read further, and learned the show was to be comprised of works she created in P-Town, I got chills.

You see, Frankenthaler is the first artist whose work moved me to tears.  It was her retrospective at the National Gallery in 1993, particularly the show’s “finale’, the oversized bronzed screens in that last hall that gave me pause and moved me emotionally.   Since then, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find her work here and there, in Birmingham, for instance.  And even here in Atlanta at the High Museum of Art.  For 25-years, I’ve enjoyed this casual relationship with her lovely, oversized, vibrant canvasses.

I never knew she painted in Provincetown.  I never knew she counted Mattisse as one of her primary influences.  I never knew she swam daily.  I never knew she kept notebooks detailing dinner party menus and guests.  And I never knew that the odd 3-story structure across the street from my Ptown flat was the studio she shared with her husband, Robert Motherwell.  I never knew.

But I knew that I had to get up to the Cape to see this show.   And so I did.

And once again, I was moved to tears.   Not so much by the scale of the work or the enormity of the exhibition or the other, non-related emotions coursing through my brain.   No, this time because of the connections this stranger, this disciplined, beautiful, creative soul has had to what’s been important and significant in my life.   I’m baffled by the similar affect aesthetics have on individuals separated by life, location and generation.

And amazed and appreciative for her work, once again.

 

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