Nature, for Provincetown artist Peter Hutchinson, is alive with vivid color and strange juxtapositions, chattering birds and startling presences. That’s all especially evident in his most recent exhibition, The Eye of Nature, which just closed and whose companion catalogue is available in a limited edition from Arts & Leisure.
Hutchinson fuses Land Art, diaristic text, and photo-based collages that help the viewer see not only what is “out there,” but also inside his mind. His Ptown home is often the backdrop for his work, and it’s explicit here in his 2017 work—a combination watercolor, photo collage, and drawing—called View From My Garden, with an orange-colored Pilgrim Monument rising above (and crowned by) flowers.
My favorite in the collection is The Vanishing Rose with a quote from Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat, “Alas that spring should vanish with the rose.” An enigmatic Middle Eastern-style village with dark empty windows sits on a hill, but closer to the viewer there’s a profusion of life: bugs, flowers, birds. Yet all are muted, moving from the greens of spring into the more stately colors of full summer. It’s another watercolor, photo collage, and drawing with text and it’s completely delightful.
For commentary on another piece, I’ll defer to the catalogue narrator, Samir Nedzamar:
Hutchinson’s taste for ironic, dry humor is also on display in the exhibition. Flight II shows the artist with raised arms amidst a variety of living creatures, including a bat and winged horses and cats. They are rendered in an almost childlike manner, and the text at the bottom of the work (“if bats can fly why can’t I”) furthers this sense of naivety. Though compelling in themselves, these works show the range of expression that Hutchinson is able to refract from his natural subjects; along with the impressions of the surreal and sublime, as evinced in other works, is a playful, almost curious irony.
Indeed, Hutchinson’s written commentaries on many of the pieces are wonderful in and of themselves. “Beauty,” he writes on one, “is not only in the eye of the beholder,” hinting at something less personal and more universal in both his work and the world it represents. On another, he put his tongue in his cheek as he comments, “I have always liked gardens, birds, animals, landscapes (especially mountains), writing and art and I almost forgot to mention, art collectors!”
Hutchinson was born in London; he moved to the United States for college … and never looked back. Summers he worked for the UN in a typing pool—“death to an artistic career,” he says now—and once went to visit a college professor who summered in Woods Hole. “I drove to Provincetown and fell in love with it immediately,” says Hutchinson. “I made up my mind I would live here someday.” After college he moved first to NYC, hanging out with the Warhol crowd at Max’s Kansas City… until the owner paid $8,000 for one of Hutchin’s pieces of art, “and I decided to buy a place in PTown with it rather than fritter it away,” he says.
He bought his house in 1981 and has only left town since then to accompany his artwork to gallery exhibitions all over the world; permanent collections are at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Basel, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, and The Museum of Modern Art in New York.
There’s a copy of The Eye of Nature catalogue at the ptownie offices at Whaler’s Wharf. Stop by, say hello, and take a look!