Billy Forlenza was a magnificent creative presence in Provincetown
from the moment he arrived in the 70s. He was beloved as a
bright spirit, generous and energetic in his support of others
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 60s and early
70s, 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. Rosies
was the place to be. His spectacular custom cakes and pastries,
often launded as unique sculptures, featured at many birthdays and
In the 80s 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 Forlenzas 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.