Galleries : A Different Stroke
It could be the opening scene from a movie: An attractive woman sits on her porch and gazes across her Chilmark yard where the family's Icelandic horses graze. Pausing between thoughts, she absent-mindedly chews on an ice cube from her lemonade, an expression of reverie on her face.
But there is no pretense about Brooke Adams. The actress who gained recognition early in her career for her roles in the films Cuba (1979), the Dead Zone (1983) and Gas Food Lodging (1992), among many others, exudes warmth and affability. After a brief hiatus from acting in the early 90s, Ms. Adams returned to the screen for the 2002 film "Made-Up," directed by her husband, actor Tony Shalhoub ("Monk").
For Ms. Adams, acting and painting fulfill similar needs. She enrolled in art classes 14 years ago, after taking a break from acting to raise her two daughters, Sophie Shalhoub(14), and Josie Lynn Adams (19). "I needed something to replace acting, and I became obsessed with painting," she says. "But I also always thought, 'I just don't want this to become something that's about ego, or about selling, or any of that. I just want to do it for the love of it. I think of it as a type of therapy."
Even though Ms. Adams says that she still doesn't quite "feel like an artist," her oil paintings have garnered recognition and praise. Island artist and gallery-owner Kara Taylor debuted Ms. Adams's paintings in her 2006 show, "Artists You Should Know." The Hamilton Gallery in Santa Monica, California, also featured the artist's work in two successful shows last year. Along with the giclee nature prints of collages by Peggy Turner Zablotny, Ms. Adams's work will be featured in a show that opens on Sunday at the Dragonfly Gallery in Oak Bluffs.
Holly Alaimo, owner of Dragonfly, was introduced to Ms. Adams through artist Stephanie Danforth, who also shows at the gallery.
"Both artists' works are colorful and strong," Ms. Alaimo says. "It's very important to me to feature artists whose work is different but complementary." She describes Ms. Zablotny's work as "very dramatic - beautiful, large pieces," and of Ms. Adams's work: "very in the moment." She notes, "each piece tells a story."
Photos by Ralph Stewart
Ms. Adams's presence is apparent in each of her paintings, which are executed realistically but infused with sentiment. In "The Goodest," a portrait of singer Kate Taylor, Ms. Adams paints Ms. Taylor in profile, hair braided and cheeks rosy. The singer is looking down, smiling as if deep in thought. Ms. Adams color-blends the tones of Ms. Taylor's skin with the pink of her blouse and light purple in the background. It seems evident that the artist relates warmly to her subject, and is expressing something personal about her, all of which helps convey an intimacy to the viewer.
"Portraits are a lot like acting," Ms. Adams says. "I spend time with the face and I try to read what the different expression means and what it reveals about emotion. In acting, it's the same thing. I find if I'm painting someone with a certain look on his or her face I adopt that look on my face. You have to get into it to know what that look is saying. There might be an irony in a particular smile, and you need to feel it."
The artist begins her paintings using a photograph of the subject, which allows her to create what she calls, "cinematic scenes." She believes the color tone she works with is the most important feature of the painting, and determines how the painting will unfold.
Each of Ms. Adams's paintings in the show at Dragonfly is Vineyard-related. Most are portraits of her friends. One painting depicts Kate Taylor's kitchen, highlighting a cracked window above the kitchen faucet. Small trinkets in the painting like a small red cowboy boot on the window ledge, or whimsical magnets stuck on the refrigerator door give the painting tangible intimacy.
"Beach Breakdance" depicts two boys captured playing on the beach. One sits on his knees watching the other do a back bend into the sand. Their dark skin gleams against the light from the aqua-colored sea.
Ms. Adams describes her Chilmark summer home as a haven for creativity. While here, she frequently visits with her sister, Lynne Adams, who recently finished writing a play, "Over Mother's Dead Body" (a reading of which was performed at the Playhouse last Monday).
She jokes, "I feel as though I live in an art camp."
Opening reception, Brooke Adams and Peggy Turner Zablotny, Saturday, August 23, 4 to 7 pm at Dragonfly Gallery, Dukes County Ave., Oak Bluffs. Show runs through August 31. For more information, call 508-693-8877 or visit mvdragonfly.com.
Samantha McCoy, a student at Cornell University, is a frequent contributor to The Times.