Before the pandemic, celebrated and influential Provincetown artist Cynthia Packard was blocked for two years — she hardly painted. Every time she tried, she would feel the urge to wipe it off, start over. Then something changed.
During the shutdown, she started to do free live-stream painting classes — eight of them, so far, which she put on Facebook and YouTube and garnered 25,000 views — and suddenly she had an audience, a reason to paint. “I felt a responsibility, an urgency,” she says.
“Permission to Paint” is an exhibit of 25 of Packard’s most recent paintings. Beginning on Friday, Aug. 21, it will be on view at the Packard Gallery at 418 Commercial St. in Provincetown for three weeks. The gallery is open daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., evenings (except Tuesday) from 6 to 9 p.m., or by appointment (508-487-4690). There will also be open studio hours at the Cynthia Packard Studio at 96 Bradford St. (508-487-9696).
“The word permission is everything, especially as a teacher,” Packard says. “Permission to be scared, ugly, big, small.” In this case, the giver of permission may be the audience, or the model. “Every model I have is very close to me,” she says. “It is a collaborative process.” She often uses her children or friends as models.
Packard has been remarkably prolific during the coronavirus crisis. When she feels inspired to paint, “It is like a surge,” she says. “The best paintings take 20 minutes.” Her most recent work is a departure for her, almost entirely oil paintings and largely abstract.
The question of when a painting is finished is an elusive one. “It’s never done,” she says. Sometimes she heeds the advice of her children when it is time to set down the brush. She quotes Picasso: “It takes two people to paint — one to paint it, and one to say it’s time to stop.”
As Packard’s exhibit shows, sometimes one needs permission not to stop but to keep going.