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ART REVIEW: 'Three Visions' of Gloucester's waterfront at Cape Ann Museum

Posted: 11/28/15

Wicked Local Salem - Keith Powers, Staff writer

With the works of three contemporary artists — Peter Vincent, Jeff Weaver and Don Gorvett — the Cape Ann Museum has brought together a trio of different visions of that waterfront. None of them are nostalgic, but all of them revel in the waterfront’s history. Each of the artists, all friends at one point in life, has a distinct approach to what they see, and each explore what they see with different media.

Say “Gloucester” to an artist, and one thing comes to mind: the waterfront. Evoking “Cape Ann” probably has a much different effect, but the Gloucester waterfront — picturesque, angular, full of color and bristling with human interest — inexorably draws an artist’s attention.

With the works of three contemporary artists — Peter Vincent, Jeff Weaver and Don Gorvett — the Cape Ann Museum has brought together a trio of different visions of that waterfront. None of them are nostalgic, but all of them revel in the waterfront’s history. Each of the artists, all friends at one point in life, has a distinct approach to what they see, and each explore what they see with different media.

All three artists studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, and intersected in Gloucester, where Gorvett and Weaver shared a studio in the 1970s, with Vincent a regular visitor. Weaver maintains his studio near the docks on Rogers Street. After his stay in Gloucester, Gorvett now works in Ogunquit, Maine and Portsmouth, N.H.

Peter Vincent (1947-2012) moved to Rockport as a young man, and spent a lifetime studying the sea and sailing. In this show, Vincent’s work consists of spare, nondescript but deeply resonant studies of fishermen and their tools. Repeated views of workers in their element — hauling a seine net, swinging about a dory, resting on the docks — have haunting simplicity.

In depicting individuals, Vincent’s paintings border on caricature. But it’s caricature that turns his subjects into everymen, not into cartoon characters. Straight-jawed and lanky, staring deeply not at but through the viewer, Vincent’s fishermen can speak whatever ideas the viewer chooses to narrate. History is there, but the present as well. Hard labor, denial — those too — but contentment as well.

Jeff Weaver shows multiple oils, with deep textures. He’s a brilliant craftsman, with a great strength in capturing the geometries of the industrial waterfront. “Herring Wharf” and “Furnace and Boiler: Cape Ann Tool” are both beautiful examples of paintings that honor the light that falls on work-a-day objects, but also the objects themselves.

Don Gorvett’s work — the most voluminous in the show — starts with woodcut. The exhibition’s highlight comes not only from his prints, but from the fact that the intricate wood blocks and even preliminary sketches are also on view.

Gorvett’s prints swarm the canvas. Finished with oil-based etching ink, the prints exude color and resonate with detail. Narrative also figures into their enjoyment, as in works like “In Memory of Vincent Cove.”

One work that tells its story from sketch to woodblock to print is the complex “Galleon–Mayflower,” captured in its complete timeline in this exhibition. Displayed adjacent to each other, repeated glances between the woodblock and the print reveal the intrigue and mysterious vision of the block print artist.