Galleries : A Treehouse With Charm
Artist and antiques dealer Ruth Adams is open for business at the Treehouse Studios, now opposite the West Tisbury Post Office at 472 State Road. Her sign is out, and objects for sale dot the store's front yard. Still settling in, she hasn't had time yet for a grand opening at her new location, about a mile down-Island from her previous gallery in North Tisbury, where she'd been for seven years. Her annual Nancy Luce show is scheduled for next month.
The original Treehouse Studio was located across the road from the original Humphreys. There, people wandered over from the bakery to browse. But Ms. Adams has almost forgotten that she used to depend on Humphreys for business, since patrons of the old location have flocked to the new one.
"This building sort of called my name. It was empty, and I do like empty spaces," says Ms. Adams of her new location. The new building, which serves as both her living and work space, is larger, and sits on more land.
"My challenge here is to make it charming," she says. Charm should be an easy task for a woman who has a knack for arranging an eclectic assortment of antiques, art, and oddities.
Those who wander in cannot help but spend time browsing through the store's contents. Prominently displayed on a table with an assortment of other books is "Old Bear on Martha's Vineyard," penned and illustrated by the artist herself. Nearby are Old Bear tee-shirts, and on the wall, an oil portrait by the late Stan Murphy, a noted Island painter. Edgartown artist Rose Treat's seaweed collages hang from other walls, and a portrait of West Tisbury's storied 19th-century chicken lady, Nancy Luce, by Ruth De Wilde Major leans against a piece of furniture.
"I'm inspired by Nancy Luce," Ms. Adams says. "There's a lot of us like Nancy Luce, creating some little thing to sell."
The store has no particular theme, but it is evident that Ms. Adams favors folk art. Because of her background as a teacher, she is also drawn to the work of untrained artists. A large, primitive painting by Bill Bowers is one example.
Photos by Lynn Christoffers
Each item has a story to tell. She enjoys talking to the people who come in. "You find out their life stories," she explains. "People are on vacation and have time to talk, and I seem to have time to listen. Yesterday people were telling me about their mothers."
She points out a large striped bass and a bluefish of painted wood and copper by Angel Quinonez. Mr. Quinonez appeared at the Treehouse one day late in the season. Ms. Adams liked his work and displayed some of his paintings outside along the road.
The Treehouse also shows her own work, which ranges from paintings and photographs to sculpture and decorated tile boxes. Last winter she expanded her repertoire to include political cartoons, which were published locally. Ms. Adams intends to turn them into posters. "There's always something that grabs me," she says.
It's a place of surprises: A Buddhist altar was brought in on consignment.
"I'm basically ad-libbing my way through life," Ms. Adams says. Her first year out of college, she left Minnesota with a new pair of shoes and went to work writing for the children's pages of a Chicago magazine, "Together." Thirty years later, she opened up a book of children's poetry and read a random selection to her class of second-graders in New Hampshire. The daffodil poem she happened to pick was one she had written for "Together."
Brooks Robards reviews art, film, theater, and books for The Times.