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Bill Forlenza


Billy Forlenza was a magnificent creative presence in Provincetown from the moment he arrived in the 70’s. He was beloved as a bright spirit, generous and energetic in his support of other’s creative efforts.

Forlenza was born July 1, 1952 in Newark, NJ, and grew up in New Jersey. He studied at Kean College, earning a BA in Printmaking and later in MA in Education. During the late 60’s and early 70’s, Forlenza taught kindergarten in East Orange, NJ, and Creative Art and Movement. He later received a grant from the Massachusetts Arts Council to teach in the Cape public schools.

Once in Provincetown, Billy studied photography with Marian Roth and Ariel Jones. Billy was a fabulous cook, and his home was often a hangout for other artists, particularly when he lived down Pearl Street, just down the lane from the Fine Arts Work Center. For a time, he ran his own cafe on the bay in the East End. Rosie’s was the place to be. His spectacular custom cakes and pastries, often launded as unique sculptures, featured at many birthdays and celebrations.

In the 80’s Billy Forlenza initiated a new body of work. He began exhibiting an extraordinary group of photographs of common objects, especially fruits and vegetables, praised for their gorgeous simplicity of form, rich color, and evocative light. According to curator and fellow photoghrapher, Midge Battelle, Forlenza “sought his expression in the metaphysics of color and form; isolating singular organic shapes against - floating in - a color field.” In particular, he loved the Polaroid color, which is unique. Billy created mood and metaphor with disarming simplicity. His work was exhibited in important group shows at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, Eye of Horus gallery, the PWA Coalition Auction, Provincetown AIDS Support Group Auction, and the MIT Photographic Research Institute Traveling Exhibition. His work is in many private collections.
AIDS cut short Billy Forlenza’s life and artistic promise. He became ill on the cusp of wider recognition for his art. Forlenza was a pivotal presence in the Provincetown community of artists and an activist for artists living with HIV and AIDS. He was instrumental in creating a tangible support network for artists, and his annual Musicale was a fund-raiser and happening not to be missed. Says, Battelle, “Billy was inspiring, kind, funny and smart, with a compassionate and vulnerable heart.”

Billy Forlenza died in Provincetown on December 13, 1995.






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