Turpentine Gallery, new in West Tisbury

This past Sunday gallery goers gathered at the grand opening of Turpentine Gallery on State Road in West Tisbury. — Photo by Susan Safford

As he describes his artwork, it becomes clear that being an artist is not just what Mitch Gordon does; it is who he is. This past June, Mr. Gordon, who moved to West Tisbury in 1987, opened Turpentine Gallery on State Road in West Tisbury, an intimate whitewashed space filled with his driftwood sculptures and paintings — an intentionally calm sanctuary.

He hosted an opening this past Sunday, inviting visitors to view his nature-inspired work. His impressionist paintings hover on the border of abstract, with the layers of colors and gestured strokes of trees and leaves. But it is the large driftwood pieces framing pale screens that demand first attention. Although stationary, they seem to hover and dance on the floor.

“The driftwood came about as an obsession,” Mr. Gordon explains. “After years of beach combing, amassing beautifully twisted silver beams, I began playing with them, dabbling in furniture making and interior finishes but knew there was more to this resource.”

He refers to the pieces as “figurative gestural sculptures in driftwood,” adding, “There is an intrinsic energy in this material so shaped by the sea…These pieces are expressive of both their own journey and my experience of the human spirit.”

Mr. Gordon recalls the influence of his grandmother, Miriam Raulinaitis, a classical artist who worked in charcoals, oils, and in water colors in the style of the Persian landscape artist.

A native of Glastonbury, Conn., who frequented The Wadsworth Athenaeum, where his grandmother’s paintings were displayed, he moved to Boston at 18, studied at the Museum School of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and became a regular visitor at the nearby Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Mr. Gordon happily refers to himself as “a museum addict.”

“At first I shunned modern art like a true Bostonian,” he says, “but the more I painted the more I fell in love with the likes of Arthur Dove, Frank Stella, Cy Twombly, and many more. I soon found there’s a sea of amazing styles and mediums to work in…”

Mr. Gordon studied at Tepper Takayama Fine Arts in Boston and was still a student when he found representation and began selling his paintings. His talent was validated.

The former owner of West Tisbury’s Colbalt Gallery (1999 to 2002), he credits the early influence of the Vineyard’s vistas with his desire to paint landscapes. “I moved to the Vineyard, where artists also built boats, houses, stone walls….Nature is the source of inspiration for all of my work. Many of the landscape paintings are begun in the field and then continued in the studio, where I can work on them for weeks or even years,” he says.

The father of Cerina, 17, and Benjamin, 15, Mr. Gordon, who operates Indian Hill Builders, says, “I continually draw and sketch the landscape, figures, my cats, or my kids — if they will sit still.”

Mr. Gordon seems to revel in his pursuit: “While my work is largely figurative I realize that all painting is abstract by nature, I am not taking a snapshot but rather creating something that is true to itself.”

And he adds, “What I love about the creation of art is that it is the exploration of life; it is my playground.”

View the work of Mitch Gordon at Turpentine Gallery, 553 State Road, West Tisbury. 508-693-5147.