Menemsha scene anew

The way it was: Heather Neill captures a view of Menemsha Basin as it looked before last week's fire.
File photo by Courtesy Granary Gallery.

The way it was: Heather Neill captures a view of Menemsha Basin as it looked before last week's fire.

Heather Neill, best known for her imagery, her sharp wit, meticulous detailing and her ability to create stunning images, may have just outdone herself with her latest effort.

With remarkable timing, Ms. Neill captured a long view of Menemsha Basin as it appeared before last week’s July 12 fire that left the Coast Guard boathouse, pier, causeway, private boats, and a truck destroyed. With astonishing facility and skill, Ms. Neill has preserved the scene in oils. “Menemsha Basin,” a long view of the scene, is recreated in all its glory. Under a dramatic sky, the Coast Guard House sits prominently at the end of the busy pier. The fishing shacks, boats, barrels, rigging, and all the working paraphernalia of the fishing dock are rendered with percision.

The masterwork painting, more than seven feet long and three feet high, captures the mood and drama of the scene.

In her artist notes, she recounts her gratitude that the fire did not cost lives, and writes: “For most of the winter the shacks and boats and birds and scenery of Menemsha were my companions as I took care to faithfully render the rigging and shingles and horizon full of houses.”

She writes about the impact of the changing light on the scene, and admits to preferring “the somewhat grittier side of the working aspects of the place. The way the detritus of the commercial fishermen, their boats and gear and comings and goings, make for a constantly evolving composition. Lobster pots and long lines, buoys and traps, pulpits and netting all get tossed around by the wind, the tides, and the human hands that haul them to bring in the catch of the day.”

And referring to the Coast Guard Station she concludes: “And this year, sadly the final portrait… it is the first building to catch the full morning sun at the far right of the painting and, weighed down by the gaggle of seabirds, it serves as an anchor.

“Sadly, today there is a new horizon…”

The Pennsylvania-based artist, made news with her $75,000 painting “Strider’s Surrender,” of the Quitsa Strider fishing boat — a subtle comment about the decline of the regional fishing industry. It was bought and gifted to the Martha’s Vineyard Museum.

Ms. Neill admits to being invested in her subjects, particularly the up-Island sea and landscapes of the Vineyard. With a commitment to realism, she infuses her work with a distinctive point of view.

It is surprising to realize that the 52-year-old artist had her first show as recently as 2001. Before she became a successful artist, she worked as a farmhand, bookbinder, chair maker — whatever it took to be able to afford art supplies.

The Granary Gallery is hosting an artists’ reception Sunday, July 25, 5 to 7 pm, for Heather Neill, Alison Shaw, and Carol Maguire.