This August, Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM) presents Biala: Provincetown Summers, curated by Jason Andrew. On view August 10-September 30, the exhibition opens with a public reception on Friday, August 10 at 8pm. Curator Jason Andrew will give a lecture in conjunction with the exhibition as part of the Museum's Fredi Schiff Levin Lecture Series on Tuesday, August 21 at 6pm ($10 general admission, free for PAAM members).
The exhibition brings together a range of works spanning Biala’s seven-decade career focus entirely on work created or inspired by her summers in Provincetown including large-scale landscapes and intimate pencil drawings of views of the dunes. The majority of the works are lent from the Estate of Janice Biala, however a number of important paintings are on loan from private collections in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Rare family photographs as well as letters to and from France to Provincetown will also be included. Additionally, the exhibition will feature a major portrait of Biala dating from 1924 by her friend and mentor Edwin Dickinson.
Biala (1903-2000) was a feisty and articulate painter. A Russian èmigrèe, born Schenehaia Tworkovska in 1903. She arrive in New York from her native Bialystok in 1913 with her older brother Jacob. Like many immigrants arriving from ports all over the world, the Tworkovska family underwent a series of name changes as Jack and now Janice Tworkov struggled to assimilate to American culture at the turn of the century. By the early 1920s, Jack and Janice had defined themselves as artists.
Provincetown would play a critical role in Biala’s development as an artist. From the first summer of 1923, when she and Jack hitchhiked their way there to study with Charles Hawthorne, to her frequent return trips from her home in Paris to visit Jack at his family’s home on the West End, Provincetown inspired Biala throughout her lifetime.
Biala: Provincetown Summers is the first exhibition of its kind to focus entirely on the artist’s work created or inspired by her summers in Provincetown. Organized and curated by Jason Andrew, the show brings together important works from various periods of the artist’s seven-decade career, many of which will be on view for the first time.
It was in Provincetown in the early 1920s that Biala would first dedicate herself to becoming an artist. She was known then as Janice Tworkov, but at the suggestion of one of the leading American artists of the time, William Zorach, she changed her name to Biala (the village in Eastern Poland where she and Jack had been born) so as to not be confused with her older brother. A drawing by Biala of the streets of Provincetown dated from 1929 is one of the earliest work in the exhibition.
Opinionated and tough, the young brunette with a soft Eastern European face was a free thinker of the highest order. She left for France on a boat in 1929 and while in Paris, fell in love with the English novelist Ford Madox Ford. She remained at this side until his death in 1939. In the early 1940s, following the outbreak of World War II and the death of Ford, she fled France with her life and returned to Provincetown for a safe place to heal. And thereafter, as she re-established her career in Paris, Provincetown continued to be an enduring muse and endless source of inspiration.
“I envy you going to Provincetown for the summer,” Biala wrote from Paris to her brother Jack Tworkov in June 1958, “If only I had two lives—I’d spend one by the sea and the other traveling the world.”
Closely linked to the Post War Abstract Expressionists, Biala was one of the few women offered entry into the male dominated New York School. While her work took on the gestural spontaneity of the movement, Biala remained dedicated to traditional subjects of still-life, landscape, and portraiture. She has been recognized for her sublime assimilation of the School of Paris and the New York School of Abstract Expressionism and this unique contribution to the rise of modernism continues to be celebrated. A major gestural painting titled “Beach” from 1958 is on loan for the exhibition, and is a signature work from the period.
Provincetown Art Association and Museum was established in 1914 by a group of artists and townspeople to build a permanent collection of works by artists of outer Cape Cod, and to exhibit art that would allow for unification within the community. Through a comprehensive schedule of exhibitions of local and national significance and educational outreach, Provincetown Art Association and Museum provides the public access to art, artists, and the creative process.
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