by Lee Roscoe
There have been flocks of painters with Cape Cod as their subject, but one stands above all to capture the essence of the Cape, perhaps even beyond Edward Hopper (is this heresy?). That is Brenda Horowitz. Her colors are pulsing hyperboles of the place’s cranberry bogs, hills, seasonal changes, ancient houses, mesmerizing you with untold stories, with a sense that nature and man merge in eternality; that you will feel them in your dreams and walk into another world.
At once both sparely mid-century modern and futurist, Horowitz’s work is a kind of Rothko meets Hopper, where an abstract bold block line of color can both divide and capture an essence hovering within a semi-representational vista. But those vistas are never real. It is composition and color which excite Brenda. She calls herself a colorist, creating paintings with “invented color,” and reveling in “the endless possibilities” of creating landscapes, from her own “invented compositions,” not a literal interpretation of what is in front of her. “I’m a Fauvist,” she says.
If her mother captures color and solidity, daughter Diana Horowitz captures light and ephemerality with a style which is an antipode or perhaps an antiphony to her mother’s. The Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM) will honor the mother and daughter with awards for artistic excellence at a gala this weekend and an accompanying exhibition of some of their new works.
Diana Horowitz’s landscapes are not just of the Cape, but also of Manhattan and vistas of Italy where she spends a good deal of time—reminiscent of the background in Italian Renaissance masterworks or Dutch masters like Aelbert Cuyp. They are washed in fog, muted, and pearlescent.
Asked about the contrast, Diana quips, “It’s not a conscious choice but you would have to ask Dr. Freud.” Brenda painted outdoors in gouache for years during summers, but also in the studio with acrylic and oil. She paints inside now, with her implements near her bed. Diana only paints en plein air unless it’s winter when she may paint from inside her car. She’s committed to oils, because “why not?” She finds them easier than other media. “I don’t feel I’m working unless I am using oils.”
The mother studied with Hans Hofmann, and was influenced by the impressionists, Bonnard, Monet, and especially Matisse, “because he used color with imagination and feeling.” Finding a dead end in figural painting, she turned to landscapes entirely. Daughter is more in tune with Edwin Dickinson by way of her teacher Leonard Anderson at Brooklyn College, and by Arthur Cohen with whom she worked. “We are deeply rooted in the Cape legacy,” but from different points of view, she says. Diana’s influences are not only the Italian and Dutch masters but Corot and Giorgio Morandi, and the Escola Italiana of the 1930s. (They both love Mondrian.)
Mother and daughter are spending more time together both on the Cape and in New York City, since Brenda’s husband, a musician and educator, passed away eight years ago (and is still sorely missed). Like all mother-daughter relationships, they can drive each other crazy, but it is evident that they love each other. Brenda speaks of Diana as a child, “She was smart and adorable, a lovable, active kid, always crawling to my desk and investigating the drawers.”
While Brenda began honing her talent at New York’s High School of Music and Art, Diana can’t recall not painting. “My mother would hand me a brush when she painted outdoors to keep me out of her hair.” She grew up with artists around, especially in Provincetown summers, “they were like family. Bob (Henry) and Selena (Trieff), Sal Del Deo.” She says, “I think I was a math major for a year. It (art) was the last thing I wanted to do, but then it seemed to be the thing I did best.”
For Diana, “painting is a bit like a meditation. I’ve never found anything that holds my interest in the same way that landscape, painting from life, outdoors does. Especially on the Cape. It’s changing all the time. It’s always different. It’s exciting. And I think for both of us it’s an anchor and framework.”
The works at PAAM are smaller than usual for Brenda, who may paint as large as 3’ x 4’. Some are 12” x 12,” and most of Diana’s are postcard size, 5” x 7”, save for a magnificently original large piece showing Manhattan overlooking the empty World Trade Center footprint.
Diana says the PAAM show is the “First time we have shown together in 40 years!” Years ago, Brenda offered Diana this: “I’ll take Provincetown and you can have the rest of the world.” Diana agreed and stuck to New York, Chicago, and parts beyond, such as Ireland, and has only shown in Provincetown again off and on for the past nine years at The Schoolhouse Gallery, while Brenda has shown with Berta Walker Gallery for 30 years.
They both are workaholics. Brenda will, even at age 91, stand for 4 hours to paint, and Diana works sometimes for 6 to 8 hours. Diana’s resume shows pages of awards, shows, and articles (including the New Yorker) about her. Married 36 years with one child – (“Thank God I gave my mother a grandchild,” she laughs)—she has a full schedule of painting and teaching. Yet she feels that managing career and gaining some recognition for her art was easier for her than for her mother, who was more intent on mothering her and her two brothers, and following her own painterly vision, than in self-promotion and networking. “This (exhibition) is all about her. It is for her.” Hopefully to gain her the recognition she deserves.
PAAM will present Brenda Horowitz and Diana Horowitz with the Award for Artistic Excellence at The 2023 PAAM Party: Moments of Light and Color on Saturday, September 30, 5 p.m. at Motta Field, 25 Winslow St., Provincetown. The exhibition of their work is currently on view at PAAM, 460 Commercial St., through October 15 and there will be an opening reception there on Friday, September 22, 6 p.m. For more information or tickets to the awards event call 508.487.1750 or visit paam.org.