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The Canvas As Time Machine: Tom Boland at the Berta Walker Gallery

Images courtesy of Berta Walker Gallery 
Wood End, 2021 (oil on canvas, 12 x 36”) by Tom Boland

by Steve Desroches

When Tom Boland looks out over Provincetown Harbor over to Long Point, he is of course always struck by the natural beauty of the Cape tip, never taking it for granted. Whether it’s a busy summer as the ferries from Boston come and go, cutting through the traffic of pleasure boats and charter cruises, or the quiet of winter as a solitary fishing boat goes out for that day’s catch, Boland feels the pull of time bringing him back to a different era in Provincetown. 

While Boland is well known as the co-owner of Far Land Provision, the year-round, beloved corner store he’s run with his husband Jim Farley for 20 years, he is also a respected artist. As a painter, his favorite subject is seascapes, often including ships just on the horizon. But take a close look at the sea-going vessels and you’ll quickly slide into another era.

“I try to imagine what that view would like over a hundred years ago,” says Boland. “The views are largely the same today as they were then, but I try to find those elements of a late 19th century seaside village.”

Prior to moving to Cape Cod, Boland worked as a historic preservation specialist after having studied the subject at Boston University. He worked for the Boston Landmark Commission and with property owners and businesses in the city’s historic districts developing plans to preserve the historic integrity of their respective buildings. Such an undertaking develops a keen eye for detail and as to what features makes a historic structure a work of art. It’s an ability to see beauty in everything and history in something usually mundane like a staircase railing or trim of a window frame. 

Quickly upon moving to Provincetown in 1991, Boland began painting first on furniture and then on canvas. Largely self-taught he did at times study with Carol Whorf Wescott, Jim Peters, and Thomas A.D. Watson. And that background in historic preservation served him well in developing his own vision and viewpoint as an artist. He formed a historic preservation consulting business with Ginny Binder and worked on such iconic structures as the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House, the Schoolhouse Gallery as well as Whaler’s Wharf and several private residences. As he learned more about Provincetown’s history through its built environment, he felt the creative pull that has grabbed a hold of many before.

“I started painting in Provincetown,” says Boland. “I was inspired by the creative energy here and being surrounded by all the talent here.”

Breaking Free, 2022 (oil on canvas, 18 x 36”) by Tom Boland

Boland works in a studio and with photographs as a source, saying he could never paint en plein air as “there’s too much going on.” And true to his internal inspiration many of those photographs are from Provincetown in the late 1800s which he reimagines with color. Showing in galleries frequently through the 1990s and into the new millennium Boland stopped participating in exhibitions when he and Farley opened Far Land. Being so busy, and with even less free time once Far Land took over the concession stand at Herring Cove Beach, Boland’s work occasionally hangs in the Bradford Street deli or in the Red Inn. But after a welcome insistence from Berta Walker, whose eponymous gallery shows some of the best and brightest artists over the past 35 years, Boland agreed to participate in a group show, allowing Walker to “reintroduce” him as an artist to the town all over again. Several of his paintings, all dating from the past three years, as well as some of his painted furniture will be a part of a group show at the Berta Walker Gallery that also includes Polly Burnell, Lucy Clark, Penelope Jencks, and Peter Watts.

While he loves painting, it is no sad story that his attention has been elsewhere for the past twenty years. Far Land is a labor of love, although one that comes with a lot of hard work. It’s no exaggeration to say that Far Land has become a bit of a community center, certainly popular with tourists in the summer season, but also an important gathering spot in the middle of winter for the community. It begs the question as to how much of his creative impulses overlap whether its running a corner grocery store or creating a new painting.

“It definitely influences both,” says Boland. “There’s a bit of creativity in food, well, maybe not in making a ham sandwich, but in baking a cake and catering. And maintain the vibe. That’s certainly something we work hard at creating and maintaining.” 

Tom Boland’s work will be part of a group exhibition also including Polly Burnell, Lucy Clark, Penelope Jencks, and Peter Watts at the Berta Walker Gallery, 208 Bradford St. June 21 through July 13. There is an opening reception on Friday, June 21, 5 – 7 p.m. For more information call 508.487.6411 or visit

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Ginger Mountain

Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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