In a show that will run until Sunday, Sept. 9, Kingston, New York artist Chris Gonyea brings the forests of the Hudson Valley to the walls of the garage-turned-music-venue and gallery space, The Pit Stop Workshop in Oak Bluffs. The show is the second residential art exhibit for The Pit Stop.
Mr. Gonyea is connected to the Island through Pit Stop owner Donald Muckerheide’s musician daughter, Nina Violet, whom he met during her concert tours in his hometown. Over the past decade she brought her music to Mr. Gonyea’s gallery, The Livingroom, in Kingston’s historic district. Like The Pit Stop, The Livingroom acted as both a gallery and performance space for music and live poetry readings, making his Island transition a natural fit.
Primarily an abstract landscape painter, Mr. Gonyea received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and has since shown his works at galleries in New York City and State. His work reflects his Hudson Valley surroundings, focusing on the tall pines and vast skies of the Catskill Mountains and forests.
“Trees had become my motif for finding the energy and abstraction that exist in nature,” Mr. Gonyea said in a phone interview with The Times.
Mr. Gonyea’s abstraction comes from his extension of branches to the edge of the page and through his depiction of light in deep reds, oranges, and greens.
In 2010 Mr. Gonyea was invited to contribute to an exhibit titled “SOot” at Kingston’s Oo Gallery. Each piece of work had to focus on or be created from soot, and this forced Mr. Gonyea to adapt to a new technique, one which he continues to use today. While sticking with nature as his inspiration, Mr. Gonyea dropped his paints and created his new medium with a piece of paper, a blowtorch, and some erasers.
“I tape off the edges of the paper, light the torch, place the paper over the torch, and allow the soot to collect on the paper,” he said. The result is a charcoal-colored, smoky mass covering the page.
With eraser in hand, Mr. Gonyea coaxes the shapes and patterns of trees from the soot. “The idea of doing eraser drawings is an old exercise in art school,” Mr. Gonyea said, “since it helps you pay attention to negative space.” The addition of negative space creates soft forest landscapes with an ethereal quality. The branches and clouds seem to move in the smooth way of smoke flowing through the air.
“At first glance people might see something they recognize, but if they stay with it for a minute, it will take them to another plane. People will see things in the branches. There is room for interpretation,” said Mr. Gonyea of the works done in his new technique.
A majority of the exhibit at The Pit Stop, titled “From Pines to Vines,” contains pieces from this ongoing body of work. At the moment the collection focuses on the pines of upstate New York, but Mr. Gonyea plans to add depictions of trees native to the Island, like its beeches and oaks.
Mr. Gonyea will return to Martha’s Vineyard for a reception and to present his new Island-themed works during the September Arts Walk on Saturday, Sept. 8, from 5 to 8 pm at The Pit Stop. For information, call 508-693-4219 or visit thepitstopworkshop.org.