PIKNIK comes to Edgartown
Photo by Ralph Stewart
Edgartown has a new gallery, and it's unlike any other in town. Michael Hunter's second Vineyard venture, an offspring of his 15-year-old Oak Bluffs-based business PIKNIK Art & Apparel, features an attractive co-mingling of fashion and art.
The new gallery/boutique opened its doors May 1, a scant two weeks after Mr. Hunter took over space formerly occupied by Bluefish on Winter Street, next to Nevin Square. But one would never guess the shop had sprung up virtually overnight.
The space is beautiful, very tastefully arranged and full of fun, retro detail — a testament to Mr. Hunter's background as a fashion stylist and a vintage wares purveyor. While the original PIKNIK in the Oak Bluffs Arts District consists of two separate buildings — a street-facing shop and a backyard barn that houses a gallery — for his Edgartown sequel Mr. Hunter has combined the two into one two-room space that is worth visiting for its aesthetic appeal alone.
"The caliber of fashion and design of my apparel is art in and of itself," Mr. Hunter said. "They [art and fashion] support each other equally."
Artfully displayed on the walls is a potpourri of paintings by both locals and artists that Mr. Hunter has discovered through his associations in New York City and elsewhere. It's an eclectic mix of style and subject matter, encompassing both Vineyard and city scenes, abstract and realist.
The work ranges from Paul Norwood's large, stylized oil paintings of kids jumping off the Big Bridge on Beach Road in Edgartown and Carrie Mae Smith's simple still life and grape-cluster paintings, to Anne McGhee's Boston building pictures and Dan VanLandingham's stark, industrial landscapes.
The punch of color provided by Tom Stephens's series of electrically charged cityscapes dominates the room. Mr. Stephens, from Sarasota, Fla., uses a unique approach, mixing oils and acrylics to create a textural web of fun color and activity.
Mr. Stephens's work has a certain design element to it, just as the range of women's fashions that Mr. Hunter carries has definite artistic appeal, and the juxtaposition of art and wearables works marvelously in the shop. A huge, standing birdcage displays a line of chunky beaded necklaces in bright colors that pick up the hues in Mr. Stephens's work. Resin-molded handbags featuring swirls of colors — almost like a rainbow-hued slice of agate — look like museum pieces.
The women's clothing from European and American boutique lines exhibit a cosmopolitan flair but are suitable for the casual Vineyard lifestyle. One corner of the gallery houses menswear — upscale country chic from design houses like the Portland collection for Pendleton. There are also surprising finds tucked here and there: gourmet pickles, Pendleton blankets, books by local authors.
This is not the first time Mr. Hunter has taken over a space and made it truly his own on short notice. Almost on a whim last fall, Mr. Hunter opened a pop-up shop on Charles Street in Boston. The Boston version of PIKNIK, open November and December, was a huge success and proved that Mr. Hunter's style was as appealing to urbanites as it has been to Vineyarders. The Beacon Hill Press gave the shop a glowing, full-page write-up, and the Improper Bostonian is interested in featuring the store if Mr. Hunter continues his Boston experiment this winter.
This spring Mr. Hunter inquired casually about space in Edgartown after he heard about the availability of the Winter Street shop. His Boston experience encouraged him to take another leap of faith, and he grabbed the space without a lease – the building's owner is considering doing a major rehab at some point. The shop maintains the vibe of the original PIKNIK with a slightly more Edgartown aesthetic. "It's a cleaner, crisper look," he said.
The space features white walls, ceilings, floors, and showcases and whitewashed curios like a retro trike. Clothing is displayed on antique cast-iron industrial racks.
Mr. Hunter believes his gallery will add another dimension to the Edgartown art scene. "I think galleries are like tools in a garden shed," he said. "Each one has its own purpose."
The Oak Bluffs PIKNIK hosted two very unique shows for many years — one featuring abstract art and one, urban scenes. Many of the artists included in those yearly shows are represented at the new Edgartown space, but there is also a variety of other styles, including work by folk artist Carl Respiani whose vivid interior scenes give a nod to Van Gogh, and popular Vineyard landscapist Max Decker, who has returned to the Island after a two-year hiatus pursuing a music career in Brooklyn, N.Y.
"You create a client base that comes to expect a certain vision," said Mr. Hunter. "But I'm not afraid to take risks with stuff that I respond to. There's something here for everyone.
"In the beginning I was very much into larger, group shows. It's evolved from that to where I'm settling into relationships with artists. It's kind of like I've gone from the dating stage to the full-on relationship stage. It makes sense for me to concentrate on fewer people. I can go deeper into their work. But there's always room for Jell-O pudding. I'm always willing to test the water."
So far, the Edgartown waters have proved welcoming. The store has enjoyed a steady stream of shoppers – both loyal fans of the original PIKNIK and lots of new faces.
For more information, visit piknikmv.com.