SHACKING UP IN PTOWN
In the early 1900s, writers, artists and families made summer homes on the wild back shore of Provincetown, Massachusetts. Affectionately called the “dune shacks,” some were originally life-saving huts constructed in the late 1890s, but most were built in the 1920s and ‘30s out of debris and shipwrecked ruins. A cluster of these original structures exists today.
A solo exhibition by photographer Jane Paradise, “The Dune Shacks of Provincetown: Series 1,” opens March 1 at Galatea Fine Art in Boston. Gallery director Marjorie Kaye said, “These photographs are full of life and reveal [Paradise’s] intimate relationship with the back-shore landscape.” Rich images capture the artist’s stays and visits at various dune shacks over the course of a decade.
There is a rich legacy of American greats who have sojourned on the “backside,” as it is called by locals. Among many others, artists Edwin Dickinson, Marsden Hartley and Jackson Pollock; writers Mary Heaton Vorse and Josephine Del Deo; poet Harry Kemp; playwrights Eugene O’Neill and Tennessee Williams all credit a dune shack experience to a breakthrough in their art. With the weight of this legacy, it is a daunting task to create a body of work about the dunes. Independent curator Ewa Nogiec observed, “Paradise’s unique vision shows the personal nature of her images which reflect the long-term scope of her project as well as long-time roots in the Provincetown community.”
Paradise has stayed in five of the 19 dune shacks with the Outer Cape Artists in Residency Consortium (OCARC) and through public lotteries (Peaked Hill Trust and the Provincetown Community Compact.) “It is a place where my husband and I have shared welcome respites from the day-to-day chores of daily living enlivened by the day-today chores of living rustically without running water or indoor plumbing,” she said. “There is something elemental about having to pump your own water and lug it up to the shack. You forget how heavy water is but remember that you don’t need to drink as much as you normally do! Being in a shack reminds you how time-consuming living simply really is.”