Jeanne McCartin’s sculptures presented in the Provincetown exhibition
Denise J. Wheeler
Provincetown, at the tip of Cape Cod, is an oasis of dunes, glitter and art. It’s a beach lover’s paradise, a playground for the LGBTQ community, and home to one of America’s oldest artistic colonies. There are scenic views everywhere, be it the camp / vamp trail known as Commercial Street, or the curving tidal pool. While many come to P-town to see or be seen, Portsmouth sculptor Jeanné McCartin has come for a variation on this. She is there to see her art be seen.
McCartin and painter and gallery owner Steve Bowersock are the artists featured in “Trippin ‘: A Surreal, Fantastical, and Engageing Journey Into Two Very Peculiar Minds”. The exhibit opened to a lively crowd at the Bowersock Art Gallery in Provincetown on Friday August 20 and ran through September 2.
McCartin is widely known throughout the coast as an art writer and theater critic. She has also been an artist for over five decades – although she does not feel comfortable calling herself that.
“I’m finally ready to declare that I’m an artist,” she said the morning “Trippin ‘” opened. “It’s part of my evolution.
McCartin’s work has been featured in numerous art exhibitions over the years. For decades, she created original sculpted masks that were often as much social commentary as striking works of art. The elements of mask making continue to play a major role in his latest 3 and 4 dimensional pieces.
McCartin uses several cellulose and polymer pastes to create narrative sculptures – images of women – alternately empowered, angry, or vulnerable – and children enshrined in the wonders of youth.
The Provincetown Independent describes his work as “raw and fascinating”, claiming that some have “a puppet quality and a Tim Burton air”.
Gallerist Bowersock describes McCartin’s sculptures as “deeply relevant and highly collectable”.
“I do two things with my art,” says McCartin. “I create fantastic pieces featuring children. They represent things like Halloween fun, conquering the spooky monster under the bed, or kids making pirate ships out of cardboard boxes. The themes are the imagination and the experience of exploring and discovering life.
With the dynamism and color of a circus palette, these pieces have a storybook aesthetic and innocence that both charms and delights the spectators, launching them into whimsical flights.
Then there are his works which speak of the human condition, which make the pain palpable and real.
Influenced by German artist Käthe Kollwitz, whose WWII works illustrate the effects of poverty, hunger and war on the working class, McCartin makes no effort to show his torment.
“Käthe’s work may tear your heart, but it makes our human condition elegant,” says McCartin. “We want to take the pain out of life, but it’s really part of life. Behind every fight, in this ultimate fight to overcome pain, there is human perseverance. Whenever we overcome adversity, we honor life. I want to show it in my work.
People are reacting. Earlier this summer, McCartin sent Bowersock a 3D sculpture of a snake-haired woman, hunched over fragments of a warrior, fists clenched, screaming in fury. Called “Medusa,” the room exuded pure rage. Bowersock, known for exhibiting innovative and eclectic works, placed it in his gallery window.
It sold out within days.
“Jeanné is one of those artists who are not mainstream. It’s distinct, ”says Bowersock. “It is highly collectable and skilled. When you come across his work, you connect to it immediately.
Bowersock, whose surreal and dreamlike oil paintings make up the other half of the ‘Trippin’ ‘exhibition, has been friends with McCartin for more than two decades, having bonded through a shared love of symbolism and storytelling. .
For “Trippin ‘,” they challenged themselves to use the difficult COVID-19 time to delve deeper into personal and cultural issues.
“It helped that Jeanne and I were in constant contact throughout, sharing both the process and the pain,” Bowersock says. “We talked about making a concerted effort not to edit what was said, and just push the new techniques to the limit.”
When he saw McCartin’s results this summer, he knew she had done just that.
“When I first met Jeanné, you could see his theatrical side in his work. Since then, she has taken that and turned in on herself, ”he says. “The stories are deeper and more relevant to our world. She is one of those artists whose work will always be relevant today.
That McCartin sees herself as an artist only now may seem mind-boggling to some, and quite understandable to any woman who has crossed that tightrope in balancing career, creativity, and caring with her evolving identity.
“It took so long because of my family’s attitude, cultural attitudes and probably gender factors,” says McCartin. “In our culture, art is considered a hobby. As my mother used to say, I was the “artistic handyman”. She didn’t call me an artist until I was in my 50s.
McCartin discussed this dynamic with her friend and fellow female artist Christopher Gowell, founding executive director of the Sanctuary Arts School of Arts in Eliot, Maine.
Before the opening of “Trippin ‘,” Gowell wrote this as a tribute to McCartin, “As aging women, we are invisible, neglected, left on our own, just hoping to survive an unjust society. As women. creative, we are demeaned… Our hard work is seen as a game – not serious, not part of the patriarchal systems of galleries and museums, but diminished because we use “tricky” materials such as papier mache or work in a ‘decorative object’ ‘or narrative tradition. “
Don’t make the mistake, Gowell says, of downplaying McCartin’s art. He says “which is usually not said, that we are fearful, anxious, sad, angry – all in equal measure.”
McCartin says that tapping into deeply intimate ground and channeling it into his art strengthened his commitment to it.
“The more I made honest statements to myself through my art, the more I got involved. Art has become more passionate and necessary – it motivates me completely now.
Changing the way she prioritizes her time to create has also helped her see herself as an artist.
“I increased the level of my personal commitment to making art,” she says. “It means I’m spending more time on it. Art isn’t the last thing I spend time on, it’s the first thing.
At the opening of the exhibition, McCartin spoke with guests and discussed his work. A guest said she was afraid to buy a sculpture of a person turning away from the peril of life or death because it would “rip off the character’s head.”
“She got it,” McCartin laughs. “She recognized the story behind the coin.”
“People have said great things,” she added. “More importantly, they seemed to capture the themes of the plays – which is very important to a storyteller.”
For more information on ‘Trippin’, A Surreal, Fantastical, and Engaging Journey Into Two, Very Peculiar Minds’, at the Bowersock Gallery, 373 Commercial St., Provincetown, Massachusetts, visit https://bowersockgallery.com/.
Editor’s Note: Jeanné McCartin is the theater critic for the Seacoast Media Group and writes his weekly column Gossip.