The painting tradition is strong in Anne Packard's family from grandfather, Max Bohm, turn of the century Impressionist, to her grandmother, great aunt, uncle, mother, and daughters. Packard studied at Bard College and with Philip Malicoat of Provincetown.
Reviews & Articles
A DAUGHTER BRINGS HER MOM INTO THIS WORLD
Author(s): Cate McQuaid, Globe
Correspondent Date: March 16, 2003 Page: N5
Section: Arts / Entertainment
Anne Packard has one viewer in mind when she paints her misty Provincetown landscapes: her daughter, Cynthia. Cynthia lives across the street from her mother, and although Anne has been painting for nearly 40 years, it's Cynthia who went to Massachusetts College of Art, Cynthia who spends five days a week in her own studio, Cynthia who pushes Anne past her fears as a painter and into the joys of paint.
Now mother and daughter find themselves in an unusual situation: They have concurrent exhibitions at two
galleries right across the hall from each other at 129 Newbury St. At Chase Gallery, the walls are filled with
Cynthia Packard's nudes. Feverish with color and dancing brushstrokes, the paintings hold a tension between
passion and ruthless self-reflection. Over at Arden Gallery, Anne Packard's landscapes, inspired by the view
of Provincetown Harbor from the window of her home, are ethereal and soft. They're quieter than her daughter's
paintings. But Anne is not quieter than Cynthia. Both artists paint in a traditional vein that appeals to
collectors more than museum curators. Neither has a piece in a museum collection, but both work full time to
satisfy their fans.
When Anne swoops into Arden Gallery, everyone turns to look. Brassy, auburn-haired, on the verge of 70, she
commands the room with a presence at once theatrical and down to earth. This is the Provincetown painter's eighth show at the gallery, and at the opening reception, friends, longtime collectors, and fans come up to thank
her for her rich but spare landscapes.
"This is my favorite," she says, pointing at "Ghost Boat." In it, two shadowy figures stand in a dory, cloaked in velvety green fog. Unlike many of her paintings, "Ghost Boat" has no horizon line to anchor the figures. They simply float.
Anne's process can begin with a place, an incident, or just her imagination. With "Ghost Boat," she says, "I
started with a boat. It's unconscious when it all happens; that's the best part. Fortunately, I stopped in time. Cynthia came up to my studio and said `Stop!' " Anne smiles. "I paint for Cynthia's approval," she says. "I've grown tremendously, and she's given me a lot of courage. She taught me to let go. She taught me to believe in myself. Isn't that strange for a daughter to do for a mother?"
Longtime Provincetown resident Tony Vevers, a painter and local art historian, says Anne has come a long way
over the years. "She's broadened herself," Vevers says. "She's not content to stand still."
While Anne entertains visitors at Arden Gallery, Cynthia holds court at her opening reception. Dressed all in
black, her hair frosted, she's the picture of a gutsy, brooding artist. Her mom comes in and pats her on the
rear. "Very firm," Anne says admiringly.
Cynthia squirms. This is part of their dynamic: Whenever Anne is effusive or especially demonstrative, Cynthia
seems to be at a loss for words.
Most of the paintings in Cynthia's show depict the same nude woman, but Cynthia, 45, has also painted her own
children; she has four, age 7 to 15. "Three boys and the little girl. I paint all my kids. I also have three stepchildren and a foster child," says Cynthia. The nudes in this exhibition look fresh, dashed right onto the canvas, yet tender. Cynthia says of her nudes, "There's the emotional content. Why don't I paint men? I don't know men; I know myself. There's strength but sadness, anger but beauty. I love women."
"She's quite an accomplished painter," Vevers says of Cynthia. "Like Milton Avery, she does these domestic
interiors that are very appealing. She's much more relaxed than her mother is, really."
Anne took up painting at 30, when the youngest of her five children was 6 months old. At that point, she and her family summered in Provincetown, where her grandfather, painter Max Bohm, had lived toward the end of his life and made his lyrical sea scapes. In the '70s, Anne divorced and moved to Provincetown to live there full time.
"I used to hang my paintings outside my house, the small paintings, and try to catch what traffic I could. I'd sell them for $15 or $20, then $50 and $75," Anne recalls.
One day, Provincetown artist Robert Motherwell wandered past. "He bought four of them and came back four or five days later, and he bought more." Anne says. "I didn't know who he was. Then one day I saw him on the street and asked someone. `That's Motherwell,' they said." The two artists became friends, and when Anne moved to Provincetown, Motherwell let her stay in his house. When Cynthia was still a teenager, she'd sit with her mom while she was painting and do batik. Cynthia modeled for and studied drawing with another Provincetown artist, Fritz Bultman. Then she went to MassArt. It wasn't until she returned to Provincetown with a degree in sculpture that she started to paint and found herself addicted to color, brushwork, and the human form.
Today, the family owns and operates the Packard Gallery on Commercial Street. Anne's daughter Leslie, also a
painter, is the gallery's director.
Anne and Cynthia acknowledge that they're competitive. "It's good," Cynthia says. "It pushes us. We both have a hard work ethic. Most people don't put in the hours that we do."
"I paint for you," Anne tells her daughter, then turn to a visitor. "Cynthia does not paint for me." Again, Cynthia squirms. But Anne is delighted. She doesn't seem to want Cynthia to be concerned about pleasing her mother. That could cripple an artist; it could cripple anyone. Instead, the daughter is mentor to the mother, and the Packard women have come full circle.
She doesn't paint sunshine but likes skies with turbulent clouds. Her paintings have tremendous power, and she portrays the strength of nature in the windswept dunes, the force of the quiet seas, the light striking through the storm clouds, the intensity of night coming across the water. There is a quality in those paintings that draws the viewer in to wonder a little, to contemplate the viewpoint. Packard says that she wants the viewer to see whatever he or she wants to see in them.
Cape Cod Life - September 1995
'I want to create in my dune paintings, ' she says, 'that privileged isolation. And awe. I am in awe out there. It's like being on the surface of the moon. Yet, it is not lonely in my dunes. My dunes wrap me in light, in warmth, in safety.' She sees a double nature to the dunes, viewing them on one hand as motherly woman, wrapping the lone voyager in tender shawls. Or in distinct contrast, she'll portray them as sensual. 'My dunes are very female. Women's bodies are beautiful. I love the shapes, the contours. The dunes are women's thighs and curves of hips.'
The Cape Cod Compass, 40th Anniversary Issue - 1986
My paintings have nothing to do with nature. It's something to do with forever going.. the space behind the sky.. the space behind the shadow.
It's an inner world [of] emotion and yearning. I yearn to express solitude.
Syndicated Feature Story - November 1985
The expanse of sky above Provincetown's hooked harbor is as grand as a western sky above the pains, so it is no wonder that the woman who has painted that watery horizon with a fluid skill, over and over again, no wonder she has won much attention for her work.
Cape Cod Antiques and Art - September 1984
'It's more of an atmosphere that I like to capture,' Packard says. 'I do paintings that are alone, not lonely, that good kind of aloneness.'
The Boston Globe - September 3, 1982
'Space is so very important to
me,' denying being either a philosophical or intellectual painter. 'I
paint just the way I feel.'
The Cape Cod Compass, 40th Anniversary Issue