Galleries : Gallery Owner Mentors Vineyard Artist
Michael Hunter has a gift for artfully combining paintings, designer hats, Oregon wool blankets, jewelry, pickles, and vintage china into one small space, as demonstrated in his unique Oak Bluffs art gallery and boutique, PIKNIK Art and Apparel.
"Everything I have is the best example of what I can pull together," Mr. Hunter states simply.
He met 26-year-old West Tisbury native Max Decker four years ago at an artisans fair. Impressed with the young painter's conspicuous talent, he immediately purchased five of Mr. Decker's paintings for himself.
In PIKNIK's main gallery, Mr. Decker's paintings hang on a wall adjacent to a display of candles and across from an ornate jewelry case. "In here, I like to mix the art with objects," Mr. Hunter explains. "It's a reminder that art interacts with your environment."
This Saturday, PIKNIK will open a two-week show in the gallery's studio featuring the paintings of Max Decker.
The artist gained attention over the past few years for his richly layered and evocative Vineyard landscapes. While predominately modest in scale, they boast vast appeal: realist principles combined with impressionist characteristics that enhance the raw beauty of the subjects.
Despite his accomplishments and the almost instant recognition given his paintings, Mr. Decker remains determinedly modest. He began, he says, "barely scratching out landscape paintings," after converting a small barn behind the home of his parents, Chris and Nelia Decker, into a studio.
The young artist's work has maintained a presence in the space of PIKNIK gallery for the past two seasons. Mr. Hunter says that he is honored to represent the artist. "He could have shown anywhere on the Island," he says.
Outside, a pathway leads to the fine arts studio that will cater exclusively to Mr. Decker's landscapes beginning July 10. Mr. Hunter explains the smaller gallery is a "cleaner space to view the art, intended to highlight art for art's sake."
Mr. Decker paints in his Brooklyn apartment, where he moved two years ago after graduating from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. There, he explores a completely different style of work from his popular Vineyard landscapes: large murals approach abstraction as they explore the juxtaposition of humans and industry in a means that suggests collage.
He admits it's hard to get back into painting landscapes when he returns to West Tisbury for the summer. "I'm scrambling trying to figure out how to do it again," he says. The wall of his studio suggests differently: More than a dozen small landscape paintings hang in an array of subtle atmospheric colors.
It is easy to associate with paintings that speak so vividly of an Island locale while boasting coral skies and light green clouds.
"His work gets more finely tuned each season," Mr. Hunter observes, "I attribute it to him letting himself work in other realms [of painting] and then bringing back new facets to his landscapes."
Mr. Decker admits that despite its difficulties, he enjoys the "schizophrenic lifestyle" of switching back and forth between painting genres and adds, "The paintings influence each other more and more as I get better jumping between the two. It's interesting putting it all together."
He continues, "I have to have some connection to the places that catch my eye." Once inspired, he returns and sketches shapes, filling them in with paint. He tries to avoid adhering to a predetermined vision, instead allowing the painting to reveal itself. After returning to his studio, the artist touches up the paintings, occasionally introducing a completely new palette to them in order to keep himself intrigued.
Though Decker finds his paintings are, he says, "never as good as you want them to be," his audience seems to believe differently. Mr. Hunter has already scheduled a second Max Decker show for August 23, because he usually sells out of everything from the first show: an impressive accomplishment for an artist who has just begun to make his mark on the art world.
A show of the paintings of Max Decker opens Saturday, July 12, 4-7 pm with an artist's reception at PIKNIK Art & Apparel, Dukes County Ave., Oak Bluffs. 508-693-1366.