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A change in environment typically fosters a change in artistic expression. Jan Gelb, a printmaker-turned-painter, experienced this when she moved from working at Atelier 17 in New York City to living in isolation with her husband in a dune shack on the Peaked Hill Bars of, then remote, Provincetown. Prior to her relocation, Gelb had spearheaded the emergence of a group of artists, known as 14 Painter-Printmakers, that has been long associated with the avant-garde art movement in the US. However, during her time spent isolated in the dune shack, Jan Gelb radically transitioned from her life as a prominent printmaker to creating paintings of her newfound muse: her front yard. Gelb’s front yard was the beach, and to her, it was a monumental inspiration to her works. Indeed, the beach itself became integrated into her work, with specks of sand from the capricious dunes evident in her painting, The Great Beach: June Entering (CA 1960-1967). In my research, I argue that what might appear to be a radical shift from one form of art-making to another, does not, in Gelb's case amount to a complete departure from printmaking. The layered process that is integral to printmaking is reflected also in her painting. Recognition of this continuity, I show, enables us to better understand her painting, while also acknowledging the significance of the impact of her new environment on her work.



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The Great Beach: Parallels Between Print and Paint