During the 1980’s, Gareth Crispell lived in a cottage in Craigville Village on Cape Cod with his mother Agnes Whittemore. During that time, he created 45 remarkably strange, detailed and beautiful paintings in oil on stretched canvas. To the best of my knowledge, he was completely self-taught.
When he died unexpectedly in October 2015 after long years of illness, the whereabouts of his paintings were unknown. After his mother died, he rented a room in a private home in Barnstable Village, where he lived for about fifteen years before his death. While living with his mother, he had worked as a caretaker for the Craigville Conference Center, and he mentioned that his paintings were hidden in one of the buildings there, but would not say which one.
In December 2015, while opening a box of letters addressed to Gary, his brother found a letter from the Craigville Conference Center, saying the paintings were in the attic of a building known as Minnie’s Seaside Rest, that the building was about to be sold, and if he wanted the paintings, he needed to come pick them up before the sale. The Conference Center was unaware of his death. Apparently he’d been given permission to store the paintings there for six months- they had been there for fifteen years.
Frantic to save the paintings from being thrown out, I called his landlady, and with help, she rescued them two days before they would have been destroyed. She kindly photographed all the paintings, and sent them to me by text. The reproductions in this booklet were created from those photos. I was astonished and moved to tears when I saw them all together for the first time.
Gary had a tremendous love for the Cape. Many of the paintings depict scenes from there- his mother’s cottage, Barnstable Harbor, the marshes and glens of Barnstable and Craigville. He had a deep and spiritual connection to nature. Some of the paintings of female nudes display what appear to be “portals” into other worlds, perhaps higher dimensions. Many of the paintings suggest a story, and a gently humorous eroticism. The detail is stunning, almost psychedelic. They are truly visionary works. No one who has seen them has been unaffected. Although it’s possible to see that Gary was familiar with a great deal of art, what comes across when looking at his work as a whole, is a vision that is very much his own, a unique and extraordinary, almost surreal beauty.