An artistic circle of trust
Tally, the pink nosed yellow lab, pants at the feet of her owner, Hermine Hull, while eight other women artists sit poised to critique her latest painting. Ms. Hull explains, "I've started working backwards again," as Sunny Wilson passes around shrimp cocktail and kisses.
Seated in a circle in Ms. Hull's West Tisbury open gallery with mosquitos buzzing and wine glasses clinking are Ruth Kirchmeier, Leslie Baker, Liz Taft, Wendy Weldon, Claire Chalfoun, Lyn Hinds, Sunny Wilson, and Nancy Furino. This is a gathering of peers, respected colleagues: the best of friends.
One by one each artist takes a turn, fearlessly displaying her work for uncensored advice and opinions. There is no order about who comments when.
Ms. Hull, concerned about her treatment of a flower in her painting, asks, "Do you think this red is too much?" A chorus rises in unison, "Fabulous! I love it."
There is a musicality about the discussion. One voice speaks, then three, then one. Then all nine swell into percussion, only to have each fall away one by one until only a single a cappella speaker is left.
"I think if you finish the figure to your satisfaction, then it all will come together," Ms. Chalfoun notes. A round of agreements.
Wendy Weldon adds, "Because everything else is beautiful. Your pallet is just beautiful."
Out of the din, Ms. Furino's voice booms, "I think you ought to be careful you don't ruin it." Silence.
Then a ripple of collective laughter, over which Ms. Chalfoun says, "I thought the purpose was to ruin it and re-paint it." More laughter.
Ms. Baker rises from her seat and approaches a painting. As she speaks, she sculpts the air with her hand, pausing here and there to illustrate what effect a brighter color green might have.
Photos by Lynn Christoffers
The artists lean left and right to get the best view, their heads coupling with a neighbor's on each side. They stand, sit, swap seats. It is a flow of movement and opinions given unselfconsciously, but in words of sophisticated specificity.
Ms. Weldon stands close to her canvas, eyes wide in anticipation. When it is Ms. Taft's turn she talks of her upcoming show, and raises issues of portfolios and framing. In the ensuing discussion the trends in frames favored by certain galleries emerges: gold is out; wood is all the rage.
Ms. Baker shares the experience of advertising for her most recent opening at the Shaw Cramer Gallery in Vineyard Haven. There are digital photography reproduction secrets to share.
Ms. Hinds' abstract canvas winds up revealing which artists among them turns their canvases upside-down as they work, until someone wonders out loud whether Tally has been spending time with a skunk.
The collaboration is as finely tuned as an instrument that vibrates with years of care and honesty. The group has been meeting for more than ten years, and the relationships span former teacher and pupil to neighbor, and the trust is as unwavering as their brush strokes.
Ms. Hull says, "We bring things in we wouldn't show other people. It helps you try to figure out where you're heading."
Ms. Taft affirms, "And isn't it great that we can all support each other and say there's room for people to collect all of us."
Each woman spontaneously offers her own personality, providing a unique perspective. The art group is a sanctuary for artists who travel from home to home, studio to studio, helping its members help each other figure where to go next.
Adriana Stimola divides her time between the Vineyard and New York, where she is an actress and performing singer/songwriter.