PROVINCETOWN — Andrew Mowbray’s “Tempest Prognosticator,” a weathervane and a drawing machine, is just off a parking lot here overlooking the Atlantic.
“We’re located way out in the ocean,” said Romolo Del Deo, president of the Provincetown Public Art Foundation, which funded the artwork’s installation. “The weather here is more emphatic than elsewhere.”
Two white blades catch the wind and move a paper-lined drum; a pen inside traces the motion. As the wind picks up, the drum rises, tracking gusts. The piece has utility, grace, and an ounce of goofiness in the blades’ cartoony shapes, like a molar and an arrowhead.
The site, now called the Cook Bryant Saltworks Temporary Art Site, was the location of a 19th-century saltworks that utilized a windmill, Del Deo said. Salt was a thriving industry on Cape Cod before the Civil War. The wind machine’s jagged, abstract drawings nod to the town’s history as a mid-20th century retreat for Abstract Expressionists such as Robert Motherwell, Lee Krasner, and Franz Kline.
“Tempest Prognosticator” is the foundation’s second project. The first, Esteban Del Valle’s 2021 mural “Time and the Town” at 245 Commercial St., romps through local history with crackling visuals that whipsaw between figuration and abstraction. It’s a layered allegory — the characters are foxes — weaving themes of artistic spirit, nature’s wildness, and social privilege.
The town has long been a magnet for artists and art lovers since painter Charles Hawthorne set up a school here in 1899.
“Provincetown has this significant place in American art history,” Del Deo said. “But most of the art is behind doors. We decided we wanted to make Provincetown’s artistic soul visible.”
Future projects include Penelope Jencks’s sculpture of 20th-century socialite and salon host Mary Heaton Vorse, destined for the lawn of the Mary Heaton Vorse House when the artist completes it.
Del Deo wouldn’t pin down an exact date. So it goes with public art, which hinges on more variables than how long a work takes to make. He said in an email that “Tempest Prognosticator” will be up as long as weather allows: “It really depends on the storm season.”
At Cook Bryant Saltworks Temporary Art Site, 467 Commercial St., Provincetown, into the fall. www.provincetownpublicart.org/