Galleries : Vineyard Artists Eye The City
The Arts District in Oak Bluffs, known for its variety of art and a tangible sense of community, has matured into a cultured and sophisticated neighborhood. This Saturday, August 9, coordinated with the Arts District Gallery Stroll, two galleries will vary from the Vineyard norm to depict city-inspired imagery for the second district stroll of the summer.
Michael Hunter, a native New Yorker who opened PIKNIK Art & Apparel 12 years ago, has always had an affinity for cityscapes and is excited to open his first urban show for the Arts District Gallery Stroll.
The show is a compilation of work from eight Vineyard artists, each of whom share a kinship with a city but has a unique approach to its depiction. "You can tell everyone to paint an orange and you pretty much know what to expect," Mr. Hunter notes, "but if you say paint a metropolis, you will get such a varied and wonderfully different response."
Plein air artist J. Gregory Coutinho, a Vineyard native who moved to New York in 1999, attempts to capture the constant vibration of the city streets. Nick Difonzo is an Island visitor who paints Baltimore shipping docks, while Sherry Blalock, a long-time seasonal resident, creates varied subjects. One of her featured paintings, "Rush Hour," depicts a section of a pigeon's backside running on concrete.
"It's a wonderful painting," Mr. Hunter notes, "and when you look at it, you immediately get the essence of New York City."
Ellen Liman, a Chilmark resident known for her expressive paintings of flowers and Vineyard landscapes, has never shown her urban images before.
"There's art that people sell, and art that people do for themselves," Mr. Hunter says, and notes that cityscapes tend to fall into the latter category.
Traegar DiPietro and Adam Thompson both show their Vineyard-inspired work at Dragonfly Gallery, although they are participating in Mr. Hunter's urban show. "Self-portrait" is an illustration of Mr. DiPietro walking down an empty Boston street smoking, executed in his trademark impressionistic style. Though he usually paints with oil, Mr. DiPietro uses a mixed media of charcoal, paint and collage for his urban scenes, giving them feeling of urban disorder.
Photo by Susan Safford
Max Decker, another native who has adopted New York as a second home, is known for his landscapes, but he will debut a diametrically opposed canvas of a New York bridge. Paul Norwood often paints musicians vibrantly with bold colors and arresting poignancy.
"His urban interiors are a nice foil for the skyscrapers in the show," Mr. Hunter observes.
Down the street at Judith Schubert's Periwinkle, a gallery only open during the gallery strolls, Marshall Pratt, whose focus is photography, presents the urban subject matter with a philosophical edge.
"A Vineyard Boy in Boston" is Marshall Pratt's photographic comparison of Martha's Vineyard and Roxbury Crossing. Mr. Pratt, who grew up on the Vineyard, moved to Boston almost three years ago to attend the Museum School.
Mr. Pratt explains, "When I moved to Roxbury Crossing, I realized that an island is formed whenever someone either can't or doesn't want to move from their general vicinity."
The young artist expresses his philosophy at length, using a Sharpie to write his messages on a large rectangular mirror, on which five of his photographs are mounted. Below the photographs, the last sentence: "From the island of Martha's Vineyard I came. From the island of Roxbury I came to be enlightened. Don't ever let your island sink."
The five photographs on the mirror, as well as several other works in the show, are centered on Wan Convenience and Deli, a neighborhood "bodega" the artist frequents. For Mr. Pratt, the deli is a representation of the economically depressed area of Roxbury. "Wan will have probably one of everything but no more than three of anything," he says. The photographs are evidence: one shows a single box of corn flakes alone on a shelf while another depicts a wall of empty condom boxes.
Shot with a 35 mm camera, every piece in the show is a silver gelatin print. His frames are eclectic. Some are stencils that the artist spray-painted, while others are objects he found on the street, like a rusty car part and flagpole from the Museum of Fine Arts.
"I grew up beachcombing and now I city comb," Mr. Pratt quips, "but whereas I used to collect shells and stones, now I collect junk."
While it is often easier to respond to work when the artist's intention is not made so apparent, Mr. Pratt's talent is evident.
Samantha McCoy, a student at Cornell University, is a frequent contributor to The Times.