Students bring fresh ideas to Featherstone

Joseph Turney, a junior, at last Saturday's reception. — Photo by Lynn Christoffers

Every March, students of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) get their chance to shine at Featherstone Center for the Arts. This year, 15 young artists will show their work over the course of four separate week-long shows. And, judging by the talent represented in the first two shows, there’s an exciting new crop of teens poised to join the ranks of Island artists.

The first show, featuring the students of MVRHS visual arts instructor Brendan Coogan, was unveiled last Saturday at an opening and will hang through Friday, March 15. This is the first Featherstone show curated by Mr. Coogan. He took over the responsibility from art teacher Scott Campbell who retired from MVRHS last year.

Although the work on display is primarily ceramics, there are also works in glass and mixed media, as well as a selection from one teen jeweler, Meg Buchanan. Meg, a senior, is involved in a work study program mentoring with jeweler Stefanie Wolf. The pieces on display at Featherstone include wrap bracelets made from leather and various colors of gemstones, and bracelets and earrings featuring bunches of dainty sterling silver leaves ($18–$60). Meg notes that she has been selling her work since she was a freshman and now has pieces in Rainy Day and in a store in Colorado.

Among the sculptural pieces in the show is work by a number of young artists pushing the boundaries of traditional art. Three are showing work made, at least in part, from glass. Carl Gosling contributed a model of a fist punching through a book made from cast glass. Lauren Dostal has achieved some interesting effects with melted wax, creating colorful patterns on glass (as well as a drippy design on a dress form). Mariah Campbell has sculpted an interesting allegorical piece from glass clay, latex, and feathers. Her small sculpture features the figure of a man trapped among the three elements of air, land, and sea. The torso is clearly human but one leg – dipping into the sea – has amphibian characteristics and one arm has been transformed into a wing reaching towards the sky.

Stephanie Harris constructed an eye-catching piece from one volume of an old encyclopedia. Paper roses and red paint embellish the open book, which has been singed along the edges.

Among the most unusual and striking pieces in the show are works by Alice Green and Amy Fligor. Alice has transformed actual deer skulls into bizarre, colorful anthropomorphic heads using things like pom-poms, plastic flowers, hair, and fake eyelashes. With eye sockets filled with insulation material and teeth decorated with metallic paint, the skulls have taken on a macabre glam look.

Amy’s work centers around life size hands and fingers. She has taken wax molds of her own hands to create a series in plaster. Some are painted in vibrant colors, one set incorporates some metal. Another has the phrase “This is not a hand” written in French after the famous work by French surrealist Marcel Duchamp. Amy’s largest piece is made up of dozens of flesh colored fingers forming the shape of a hand and viewed behind a hand-shaped cutout in a large wooden box.

Amy plans to continue with this series, experimenting with different ideas and media. At Saturday’s opening she was enthusiastic about explaining her process to guests. “It’s definitely cool to have other people see what I’m doing and get to hear what they think,” Amy said.

The ceramics on display represent a variety of styles and display innovative approaches to shape and decoration. David DaSilva has achieved some very attractive and interesting designs in glaze, as has Julio Britto and Michael Morro. A large piece by freshman Gordon Moore looks almost like an oddly shaped pocketed strawberry pot topped off with the head and neck of a bird. There are also some more traditional styles, but all of the work is unique in some way and the results achieved by the students are very professional. Some pieces are for sale at reasonable prices.

Opening this Saturday is the first in a series of two-person shows featuring students of art teacher Janice Frame, who will retire this year.

Seniors Hannah Moore and Forrest D’Olympia recently won awards at the Boston Globe Scholastic Art competition and have parents who are in the arts. Hannah’s parents are painter Andrew Moore and artist and web designer Heather Goff. Forrest’s parents, Sioux Eagle and Paul D’Olympia, are both jewelers.

Hannah works in a variety of media. Some examples of her skilled drawing can be seen on ceramic vessels in the current show, while starting this weekend a selection of her drawings and paintings will be on display. She is a skilled illustrator and painter with a lot of imagination. Her work covers still life, portraiture, and fantasy. With the latter, she really manages to bring to life a fascinating inner world.

“I’ve been drawing pretty much since I could pick up a pencil,” Hannah said. “Before that I was painting with my hands. It’s just such a big part of our family. I picked up a passion for it.” This fall she will study art at Syracuse University.

Hannah has learned a lot about the gallery world from the Featherstone show. “It’s definitely a new experience. You get look into what it will be like. Having to mat everything and get it ready, you really get to see what cost-wise it will be using different methods. If you have to mat it or frame it, how much you have to invest in it.” Just as importantly, Hannah is learning to handle feedback. She says, “You have to step back from criticism and not take it personally.”

Forrest will showcase five Island landscape paintings and five fine line illustrations. He and Hannah were at the gallery a week before their joint show taking measurements and plotting their installation. Like Hannah, Forrest is looking forward to the opportunity to show his work.

“I’m really excited to get it out in the community and for people to see what I’ve been working on,” he said. “I put a lot of passion into it and I hope people like it.”

Reception for Forrest D’Olympia and Hannah Moore, Saturday, March 16, 4–6 pm.

Reception for Aoefe Estes and Samantha Valley, Saturday, March 23, 4–6 pm.

Receptions at Featherstone Center for the Arts, Oak Bluffs. Free admission. 508-693-1850;