Order & Chaos

June 21, 2017 5:00 am0 commentsViews: 28


The Art of Peter Macara

by Steve Desroches

The morning started off just breezy, but it’s on the cusp of being full on windy as white caps begin to appear in Provincetown Harbor. Artist Peter Macara pours a cup of coffee as Barbara Rushmore works her way through a stack of newspapers beginning with the New York Times with the Cape Cod Times to follow. The two, partners for over 40 years, talk of the news of the day in the bright living room filled with art in their waterfront east end home. At this particular moment their conversation isn’t about Trump or Russia or investigations, but the zoning board of appeals decision to not grant a special permit to CVS, which wants to open a store at the corner of Bradford and Standish streets.  As the author of the bylaw to prevent chains from proliferating in Provincetown, Rushmore is over the moon with the news.

“Never underestimate the power of the public,” says Rushmore with a big smile.

A veritable force of local politics for decades, Rushmore speaks about the power of democracy, the culture of Provincetown, and the relentlessness of the community when seeking to defend what is unique about the Cape’s tip. It’s worth fighting for she maintains, because without a strong community standing up for what they want the town to be, it risks becoming like everywhere else. She smiles a bright smile and looks at Macara and says it’s time to talk about his art. And when it comes to what makes Provincetown so special, Macara is uniquely positioned to speak with authority and eloquence about this tiny sandbar with such a ferocious spirit.

Artist Peter Macara

Artist Peter Macara

Born in the home that his 98-year-old father still lives in on Brewster Street, Macara embodies so much of the varied strands of Provincetown’s heritage. His grandfather immigrated to Provincetown from his hometown of Olhão in the Algarve region of southern Portugal. And during his childhood on Brewster Street his life was not only full of Portuguese culture, but with art emanating from Henry Hensche’s Cape School of Art in a barn on nearby Pearl Street and the numerous studios that dotted the neighborhood. As a child he frequently sat for portraits, some of which are in museums now. And it was when he was sitting for Hensche himself that Macara had a bit of an artistic awakening.

“I realized he was such an authoritarian, “ says Macara. “He was very much my way or the highway. I realized I was not going to be a student of his. I had my own ideas.”

A 1968 graduate of Provincetown High School, Macara continued his studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst majoring in painting and art education, as well as receiving a fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in 1977. Macara is also known to many as the longtime registrar at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM), having retired in 2016 after 37 years of working with the art of so many others. But starting this week, and through the month of July, it’s Macara’s work that is the focus of a significant exhibition titled Artist as Curator in the Hatches Harbor Room at The Residences at Seashore Point.

The show, featuring 25 works from over his career, is meant to show how his earlier work informs his current artistic pursuits. Over his time at PAAM, Macara assisted or directly curated numerous shows and approached this exhibition with his sharp curatorial eye on his own work. His artistic viewpoint explores the dichotomy and the balance between regimented structures and the random, the co-existence of order and chaos. Through repeated patterns and the breaks provided in mosaic fashion, Macara’s work changes the more one looks at it.

All Things Being Equal.

All Things Being Equal.

“I like things that shift,” says Macara. “Shape shifting. That’s what I mean to say. I like that you can see another dimension, but you can only see one at a time. Each time you look at it, it shifts again.”

The word retrospective never comes up, as Artist as Curator really is more about the live wire of inspiration and vision inherent within Macara’s work and rooted in his lifelong relationship with art in general and his own craft. And while the chaos may be the way of the universe and order humanity’s attempt to make sense of it, the two opposites very much encapsulate what Provincetown is all about, with its neat streets teeming with bombast, imagination, and creativity. It is what makes the town so special.  And like those within the collection of PAAM that Macara so lovingly and ably recorded, the artists of Provinceotwn continually document the results of the crucible of ideas present here. The only way to really absorb that phenomenon is by not only being here, but being present to all that is going on that is not obvious to the casual observer. By birth and by choice Macara is one of Provincetown’s best students, with the work to show it.

“I knew Provincetown was special because why else would so many tourists come here,” says Macara. “And growing up on Brewster Street I was always surrounded by artists. In my young imagination everyone was a shopkeeper, an artist, or a fisherman. It’s what I knew. When I was a kid I always took my sketchbook to the beach. I don’t recall ever not being surrounded by art and artists.”

The exhibition Artist as Curator, featuring the work of Peter Macara, will be on display at The Residences at Seashore Point 100 Alden St., Provincetown, in the Hatches Harbor Room, in cooperation with the Hutson Gallery June 24 – August 1 An opening reception will be held Saturday, June 24, 2 – 4 p.m. For more information call 508.487.0771 or e-mail [email protected]