There’s no place like home.
Dorothy said it, and the world agreed. But the artwork of Peter Batchelder challenges the famous movie mantra. By ditching the details and accessing only the universal essence of a place, he presents “home” as somewhere that can be found almost anywhere if you know how to find what’s familiar.
Mr. Batchelder is the featured artist at the Dragonfly Gallery in the Oak Bluffs Arts District this coming week. He has called many places home himself, including the Vineyard. All throughout New England, Mr. Batchelder has captured the landscapes and architecture with which he is most familiar, and has made it familiar for other people.
“Particularly with architecture,” he said in a telephone interview this week. “There’s a history that you can sometimes sense just by looking at it. I’ve always loved the history of things. When I look at these old structures and try to paint them, I strip away the specifics. What’s left behind is a mysterious interpretation of a solitary building. People can attach their own past to it, infuse it with their own history.”
Aside from removing superfluous details, there’s manipulation involved. “A lot of these places could be anywhere. A barn in mid-country Vermont will remind me of a barn on the Vineyard, so I’ll paint a glimpse of a seascape in the background. I constantly mix and match locations,” he said.
“His work strikes a chord with a lot of people,” said Don McKillop, owner of the Dragonfly Gallery. It struck one with Mr. McKillop, who is an artist himself. “He’s a painter’s painter,” he said. “It’s his means of presenting his subject matter.” Each painting in the gallery makes use of bold colors to bring to life the solitary building within the frame.
“I liked his work right away,” said Mr. McKillop, who has now worked with Mr. Batchelder for three years. “And that was before I knew him. He’s a terrific guy.” And he does well on the business end of art, not only at the Dragonfly Gallery but at prestigious galleries all over New England.
Mr. Batchelder currently works as a full-time artist. He is also the cofounder of a Web design and software company and still meets with clients.
And he has a family. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife, Kim, and his two kids, Owen, 14, and Lily, 11. He met Kim on the Vineyard in 1992. They both worked at the Beach Plum Inn — he was a waiter, she was a hostess. The following year they opened an American crafts and art gallery in Vineyard Haven, called Anasarra.
Mrs. Batchelder, too, is a creative person, and supportive of her husband’s work. But they look to their daughter as the blooming artist.
“Lily is the artist in the family,” said her proud father. A story and illustration she created is soon to be published in a literary journal through her school. And both kids are big on baseball. Mr. Batchelder coached his kids’ recreational teams for seven years.
“I played baseball as a kid,” he said. Then he laughed. “I’m definitely more of an artist than an athlete.”
Having kids is keeping Mr. Batchelder static, but he’s toying with the idea of a major move after the kids are out of the house. “My wife certainly wouldn’t be opposed to somewhere warmer,” he said. Landscapes in Virginia and the Carolinas would offer a challenge but also the opportunity to grow as an artist. “It would take some acclimation,” he said. “I’d need to build the memories and develop the emotions to relate to my new surroundings. It would just take some time.”
But anywhere could become familiar, and become home. No heel-clicking necessary.