Martha’s Vineyard teen artists show a variety of strengths

Samantha Valley stands next to her painting, "An Old Man and a Butterfly." — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Teen artists have had the chance to strut their stuff this month at Featherstone Center for the Arts.

Four shows featuring work by Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) students have graced the walls of the Virginia Weston Besse Gallery since the beginning of March.

The annual student showcase started out with a group show featuring ceramicists and other three-dimensional artists. For the remaining three weeks of the month, the gallery has been dedicated to works in drawing and painting.

The last couple of two-person shows feature work by four young women who have all studied for four years with Janice Frame. Ms. Frame is retiring this spring after a long run teaching art on the Island – 30 years – spending half of her time at the West Tisbury School and the last 14 years at MVRHS. She was a very popular teacher who instructed many talented teens. Some went on to art school and, in some cases, art related careers.

Samantha Valley works in ink and watercolor, using lots of detailed lines and highly stylized images. Two mixed media pieces feature birds drawn in black with a yellow watercolor wash. Swirls and curlicues ornament the birds. Similarly, a triptych combining trees and flowers with a written message has an art poster feel with lots of intricate detail. The decorative font and swirling bold lines give the work an Art Nouveau aesthetic with shades of Aubrey Beardsley. Samantha also contributed a couple of pieces in a simpler style combining drawing and blended dripping watercolors.

Aoife Estes also favors lots of motion in her work and similarly draws on nature themes. A piece called “Roadkill,” done with ink, watercolor, and acrylic, intertwines multiple images of a deer and a distraught woman in a forest. “I did this right after I hit a deer with my car,” said Aoife. “It’s a really emotional piece.”

Another acrylic painting, called “Spirit Body,” features a female form entwined with branches. The background was designed by dragging a fork through a rainbow of acrylic colors.

For a striking piece called “Spring,” Aoife covered a large piece of wood with a combination of wood stain, acrylic, latex paint, and bits of flowers and stems. The various elements blend into a multi-layered, textural design with a tree and its roots in the center.

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The two artists whose work makes up the final student show both focus primarily on portraiture.

Ella Mahoney creates remarkably lifelike, emotional portraits in oil. A depiction of Ella’s grandfather Luther Madison, the late Wampanoag medicine man and former selectmen of Aquinnah, captures the man’s strong features and intensity. Dressed in traditional Native American garb, the figure is set against a vibrantly brush-stroked background.

Two other works evoke dream worlds. “Wish Upon a Fish” shows a woman transformed into an aquatic creature. “Metamorphosis” features a running girl leaving a stream of butterflies and long flowing hair behind her. There is a spiritual quality in all of Ella’s work, including the portraits.

Ella settled on oils after experimenting with other mediums and she is proving to be very adept. She credits Ms. Frame with encouraging her efforts. “She’s helpful everywhere,” said Ella. “I think mostly more than other art teachers she helps you discover concept in your art.”

Victoria Sadowsky’s portraits come strictly from her imagination. “I try to challenge myself and not use references,” Victoria said. There’s a fantasy element to many of her works and some of the pencil drawings have a pop of color like the bright crimson eyes of a woman wrapped in flame-like swirls. Victoria combines pencil, colored pencils, and watercolors in her work.

Ms. Frame praises each of the students for their individual strengths and for the growth they have exhibited as artists.

“Basically I’m a structured teacher who is focused on skill,” Ms. Frame said. “I just believe in skill and giving kids the facility to create. I’m a really discipline based art teacher. I don’t let them just do what they want. Now they have a command of oil, acrylic, all kinds of drawn medium, they have the expertise to see what they can do with it.”

Judging by the work on display this month at Featherstone, Ms. Frame’s students have all followed unique and interesting paths.

As far as how Ms. Frame will be exercising her own creative muscles now that she has some free time, she said, “I’ve been working on fiber and textiles – a series of African dolls. Now I’m going back to drawing and painting, and traveling. I started teaching right out of college.

“I’ll miss the kids,” Ms. Frame said. “That’s going to be the hardest part for me. I’m very attached to them. But it’s time to move on. You know when it’s time.”

Opening Reception for MVRHS Drawing and Painting Show, Saturday, March 30, 4–6 pm, Featherstone, Oak Bluffs. Show runs through April 5. 508-693-1850;