Nancy Whorf Kelly (1930-2009).
When Nancy Whorf Kelly died in 2009, not long after the passing of Romanos Rizk, Sue Harrison wrote in The Banner that a major gap had opened “in the upper echelons of the Provincetown art colony, as if two of the brightest stars just disappeared from the sky.” Nancy Whorf was the daughter of the painter John Whorf, the sister of the painter Carol (Whorf) Westcott, and companion of the artist Herman Tasha, with whom she operated the Hairpin Shop in a shed adjoining the main house. You have seen the work of Nancy Whorf around town, even if you weren’t aware of it at the time; that is, if you’ve ever purchased sundries at Adams, eaten at the Mayflower Café, conducted business at the Seamen’s Bank, or inspected art at the Berta Walker Gallery. Her murals adorn the walls of Adams and the Mayflower, her paintings hang in the bank and Walker represents her. The public art all portrays Whorf’s favorite subject: the town itself.
“What ultimately emerged from her vibrant love of life and keen observation of people and place was a style that captured more than the image of Provincetown — it captured the essence,” Harrison wrote. “Whether it was fishermen working the shore or hunters in the woods, a side street garden in late summer or Commercial Street turned mysterious in a swirl of snow refracting through pale streetlights, her hand and eye were true to the heart of the matter.”
Whorf’s paintings might be broadly and vaguely described as impressionistic, though there are often jolts of energy and color almost Fauvist in their intensity. Her daughter Julia Whorf Kelly worked with Whorf on a lovely memoir of the family and its home on Howland Street, Feast or Famine: Growing Up Bohemian in Provincetown (2008). “Painting mostly with a palette knife on masonite board,” Kelly said, “her paintings became a vehicle for expressing not only her unique vision of her beloved home and town, but also allowed her to develop her perception of color, light and compositional movement.”
¶ Last updated on 26 October 2017.
Provincetown’s Historic Cemeteries and Memorials, Key A-73, Page 19.