BY CATE McQUAID
AUG. 12, 2009
PROVINCETOWN—In her Cape Cod landscapes at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, painter Anne Peretz ties the elemental quality of her material to that of her subjects. She adds sand to her paint as she paints sand dunes. But the topic is more than sand dunes. It’s erosion. Many of her canvases meditate on time and change.
Look at the rush of the unruly beach grass in “Truro Dune #10,” in which a dune rises in restless motion against the brilliant blue backdrop of a calm sea and sky. The dune seems more changeable than the sea behind it. This painting, with its sharp tones, is an eye-catcher, but most of Peretz’s other dune paintings keep to gray weather in works such as “Falling Dune and “Ballston Beach #2.” Peretz’s careful modulations of tone and the pull of a shrub’s exposed roots provide the drama.
Peretz, who founded the Family Center in Somerville, has developed a passionate second career as a painter. She often works on a large scale—up to 6 to 10 feet—athletically flinging, scumbling, and spackling her paint. Unlike legions of Cape Cod painters, Peretz doesn’t strive to evoke picture-perfect scenes, but usually turns her eye to humble subjects, such as the old, useless, waterlogged posts that once held up piers in “Provincetown Pilings.” They rise from gray mud and lean into each other like old friends who can no longer stand straight.
I love the intimacy of Peretz’s smaller-scale pieces, “Truro Pond #3” is all muddy green, its spackled surface delicious with rough dollops and pale, gathering light. It’s as if we’re neck-deep in the pond, watching the sun glint on its surface, sinking our toes in its mud. “Truro Woods #14” shows a grove of gray-green verticals beneath a canopy of daubed olive leaves. But a thick, peachy light marauds between the tree trunks; it has more substance, materially and tonally, than the trees themselves. These canvases, each just 2 feet square, are easier for a viewer to enter than the larger ones. Monumentality can be forbidding.