|BARED & BENDED
A Place Called Home by Frank Yamrus
“Cape Cod is the bared and bended arm of Massachusetts: the shoulder is at Buzzard’s Bay; the elbow, or the crazy-bone, at Cape Mallebarre; the wrist at Truro; and the sandy fist at Provincetown, behind which the State stands on her guard, with her back to the Green Mountains, and her feet planted on the floor of the ocean, like an athlete protecting her Bay, - a boxing with northeast storms, and, ever and anon, heaving up her Atlantic adversary from the lap of the earth, - ready to thrust forward her other fist, which keeps guard the while upon her breast at Cape Ann.”
“Cape Cod – The Shipwreck” (1865) – Henry David Thoreau
“Who knows why we fall in love, with places or people, with objects or ideas? Thirty centuries of literature haven’t begun to solve the mystery, nor have they in any way slaked our interest in it.”
“Land’s End” – Michael Cunningham
A Place Called Home - These pictures are my journal, my personal history of my first winter in Provincetown - some seemingly familiar, perhaps banal, while others prove a more difficult read. The conspicuous representations and the more cryptic abstractions aspire to jog memories of time and place, and affect emotions, sentimental fulfillment or perchance bittersweet desire. Individually, they are seashells collected on a summer’s vacation. Collectively, they are bread crumbs shepherding my journey home.
Home is a complicated notion. Although physical structure and social ideology of family crucial in grasping the less ambitious definition of home, it is the enigmatic home that propels our affection to its complex labyrinth. Conceptually, home lies within each of us and, as the collective characterizations are digested, the resulting understanding is undeniably individual, but never completely comprehended thus feeding lifelong curiosity.
Provincetown is my home - it is comfort food and my favorite reading chair. It is the smell of a newborn’s hair or that moment when you first wake up in the morning snuggled against your lover. It is the place that offers me the intangibles: security and happiness, as well as the place for discovery, development, and ultimately a source of inspiration. I have spent endless summers in Provincetown but it is not where I reside. It is home, the place I visit, physically or emotionally, when I need a fix.
Twenty-five years ago, my relationship with this vulnerable and fickle spit of land, this once tiny fishing village that has evolved into a vacation destination, began. Charmed by the rolling dune landscapes, endless stretches of unresolved beaches, the amalgam of three centuries of architecture, all washed in corporeal light and liberal tendencies, I was completely seduced. This past winter, in the middle of a spiraling relationship and creative crisis, I returned home. Without the lusciousness of summer green or the glorious fall foliage, Provincetown, this familiar landscape, this language I spoke so fluently, was foreign. This landscape echoed silence; drenched in thick light, often sprinkled in winter’s elements- snow, fog, mist, or rain- all prohibiting visual clarity but mirroring my psychological space.
As I began my exploration of this unfamiliar landscape, I sought out familiar ground, looking for visual clues to unlock the imprinted knowledge of twenty-five years. I walked; and in these walks I followed in the footsteps of my creative heroes - visiting vistas I’ve seen painted a hundred times, watching sunsets that have been photographed from every angle, finding objects that could be juxtaposed into sculpture, or discovering that piece of driftwood- art all on its very own. I found enormous comfort in these familiar and common elements and although nature’s chaotic systems limited visual predictability, distinct and rhythmic patterns emerged, with no regard to size or scale. Using the camera as my interpreter, this exotic landscape, this new dialect, started to decode. Winter’s discordant decorative coat, upon closer inspection, confirmed much of what I know to be true while adding new vocabulary to the already rich language of Provincetown.
Each seashell and breadcrumb has been collected and studied, arousing memories and creating potential, assembled in this series of photographs that encourage my construction - perhaps deconstruction – of a place I call home.
© 2004 Frank Yamrus
A Winter's Tale by Diana GastonThis is a modern pilgrimage of sorts. Returning to Provincetown during the coldest stretch of the year, Frank Yamrus marked his days by walking, deliberately seeking out the landscape in its most inhospitable, unknowable season. The photographer is not a tourist here; he has been visiting this narrow spit of land at the end of Cape Cod for two decades. But these images explore the flip-side of what he knows about Provincetown, after the parties wind down and the summer guests empty out. During the winter months the year-round residents reclaim the town, along with the visiting writers and artists who hole up in their little houses to work and sleep. He now knows the landscape in its winter persona, its most raw and brilliant version, stripped to its shimmering bones.
Assembled together the images suggest the structure of a daily journal, a series of brief and penetrating notations of his day. They also mirror the meditative calm that comes through the small rituals of solitary living. He hadn’t intended to work this way, but the work revealed itself through his routine of getting up early and heading out without a prescribed direction, secure in the practice that he would walk until the landscape stopped him or he found his mood reflected back to him. The photographs are shaped by the physical rhythm of walking, and the kind of focus that comes with moving against cold air, slightly numbed by the temperature but painfully alert. In walking he established a cadence in accord with the frozen world around him, a slow and deliberate meter for its transcription. In this state, the subtle undulations of an icy current, the brilliant blue of the ocean breaking through floats of ice, or an unlikely surge of color displayed in a tangled red bramble, all reveal themselves more readily. He records the full range of the season’s petulance and grace, from the days when the dim light reflects a gray sea back onto the sky, barely intersected by a soft gray line of beach, to the days when the light is dazzling, reverberating against every brittle, crystalline surface.
Throughout these minimal pictures, Thoreau’s musings of the place as he experienced it in the mid-1860s resound, as “a filmy sliver of land lying flat on the ocean, a mere reflection of a sand bar on the haze above.” The photographer is using his own body as much as the camera to record the landscape, to intuit the arrested patterns and forms that the winter has so sharply inscribed. There is a kind of empathy that ensues, a heightened awareness of the elements, having experienced such harsh conditions himself in the making of these photographs. He recognizes the stoicism of fine grasses, whipped around and frozen into place, or the perseverance of snow that latches onto sand in a series of fierce switchbacks, or the exquisite mirror of the sea, reflecting the sky so perfectly that the two become indistinguishable. From this vast sandy platform where the land empties out into the ocean, the boundaries between water and sky, ice and sand, physical and spiritual matter become hazy, mutable, and an endless space for transformation and reverie.
2004 Diana Gaston – Curator