Martha's Vineyard artists create and collaborate at Night Heron
Photo by Lynn Christoffers
A trip to the Night Heron Gallery on Main Street Vineyard Haven is like visiting the studios of a dozen different artists and artisans. It's easy to get wrapped up in one little world of creation, then turn around and find another space full of the imagination and talent of another Vineyard artist.
Last weekend, the Night Heron cooperative celebrated its third anniversary with an opening party. Many of the 11 participating artists — working in painting, print work, photography, ceramics, textile and paper arts, and jewelry — were in attendance along with an animated crowd that included a good number of local artists and others connected with the Vineyard art scene.
"It's so much fun to see what everyone's been doing over the winter," said printmaker and collage artist Beldan Radcliffe from behind the gallery's counter where she was overseeing the refreshments and ringing up purchases. Ms. Radcliffe, along with eight of the other participating artists, launched the venture in 2011. Last year, the founding members were joined by photographer L.A. Brown and Sylvie Farrington, who makes fabric handbags and pillows.
The new additions nicely round out the range of artistic media represented in the gallery. Many of the artists knew each other from exhibiting at the weekly Vineyard Artisans Festivals at the Agricultural Hall. The gallery, which is open seven days a week, gives them a space to direct Artisans Festival patrons interested in seeing more of their work, the chance to reach another audience, and a venue for selling their work that extends their selling season into the spring and fall.
"Now that we have the gallery it's really wonderful," said Ms. Radcliffe. "We share all the responsibilities and split the shifts up evenly."
Ms. Radcliffe's work can also be found at the Artisans Festivals and at the Chilmark and the Featherstone summer flea markets. Her designs, created with a collage and printmaking process called Chine-collé, feature birds, fish, and other images from nature delicately rendered against backdrops of handmade paper. The striking designs are featured on coasters, tiles, and lampshades, as well as sold as prints.
Two years ago Ms. Radcliffe turned her eye for color and pattern combinations to a new venture. She has created a line of one-of-a-kind knit garments by combining two or more sweaters to create patchworked sweater coats, sweater dresses, scarves, and arm warmers. "Because I've been a collage artist for a really long time I find it's the same process of putting colors and textures together," said Ms. Radcliffe. A rack of the unique upcycled sweaters forms an entryway into Ms. Radcliffe's corner of the gallery.
Next to this back corner is a wall that features the photos of L.A. Brown. Ms. Brown's work relies to a large extent on striking saturated color. She tends to favor rustic scenes — shooting animals and barns at farmyards around the Vineyard and details from quaint rural settings in Europe. Appropriately, Ms. Brown's photos are displayed, unmatted, in custom frames made from distressed molding from 18th and 19th century homes, which adds a lot to the look.
"Because photography is mass produced in a way, the handmade frames make the work one-of-a-kind," said Ms. Brown. The artist also offers very affordable options like unframed prints and dish towels with photos on them.
Across from Ms. Brown's photo wall is a mini-menagerie populated by the fantastical creations of painter and ceramicist Washington Ledesma. The Uruguayan-born artist creates a variety of objects — vases, tiles, "healing stones," little catch-all dishes, even jewelry — featuring his distinctive whimsical beasts and three-breasted goddesses. This past winter, Mr. Ledesma experimented with incorporating blues into his designs and two examples of his most recent work — large paintings of blue fish — overlook his eclectic collection in the gallery.
Next to the counter, find an assortment of one-of-a-kind bags and pillows made by Sylvie Farrington from vintage upholstery fabrics. The combinations of colorful bark cloth, featuring themes from florals to tropical prints to Western motifs, are embellished with rainbow-hued zippers, fun buttons, and Austrian crystals. This year Ms. Farrington has added a few new styles to her large selection. There are purse organizer pouches, little square-handled bags in two sizes, and small backpacks with multiple compartments.
Lisa Strachan's ceramics make a nice contrast to Ms. Farrington's world of bright colors. Ms. Strachan creates lovely white porcelain and sand-colored stoneware pieces with delicate raised designs featuring mostly marine themes. Recently she has experimented with combining stoneware and porcelain in a variety of ways — a process that she believes is unique to her. A large porcelain framed mirror embellished with a multitude of shell impressions presides over Ms. Strachan's display.
The work of another ceramicist, Nick Thayer, is featured in the gallery, along with his interesting black-and-white prints. The work of two painters hangs toward the front of the gallery. There are lovely soft seascapes in oil by Carolyn Warren and Vineyard-themed watercolors by Anne Howes. The center of the gallery features the unique silver and gemstone jewelry by artists Kathleen Tackabury and Diana Stewart.
At the very front of the gallery is a corner devoted to the work of Ingrid Goff-Maidoff, who creates journals, little boxes, wall hangings, scrolls, cards, and jewelry featuring fairies, flowers, and other dainty images that she describes as "celebrating poetry, beauty and spirit." She also sells decorative books of poems, reflections, and meditations, as well as CDs of her inspirational music. If you're in need of a little emotional lift, stop by this corner of the Night Heron Gallery and you could easily spend an afternoon perusing this imaginative collection.
But don't stop there. Make sure to fully explore this eclectic gallery. There are many treasures to be found within.
The gallery is located at 58 Main St. in Vineyard Haven. For more information, call 508-696-9500 or visit nightherongallery.com.