For the next few weeks, down-Islanders don’t have to travel to Chilmark to enjoy the views of one of the Island’s most renowned beauty spots. The latest show at Featherstone Center for the Arts in Oak Bluffs features more than 50 works by painters and photographers, along with a couple of three-dimensional pieces, with one common subject – Chilmark’s picturesque town beach.
Lucy Vincent Beach has long been a mecca for artists, especially during the off season when the Chilmark town beach is accessible to all and the cliffs, dunes, glacial boulders, and surf can be appreciated with nary a sign of life.
The artists showing at Featherstone have captured Lucy Vincent from many angles and in various light. There are sunrises and sunsets, snow scenes and sunny vistas, views of the surf, of rocks, a few of people, and lots of the rugged cliff that defines the famous beach.
Last October, Hurricane Sandy ripped violently at Lucy Vincent’s shoreline and left a huge bite mark in the cliff. The works at Featherstone show the beach pre-Sandy, post-Sandy and, in one case, during Sandy. Cynthia da Silva managed to snap an impressive photo in the midst of the storm showing a park bench completely surrounded by frothy, swirling waves. That bench, according to Ms. da Silva, is now gone, like many scenes that survive only through photos and paintings.
Artist Linda Zeigler suggested the theme to the Featherstone staff. “I went to Lucy Vincent after Sandy and saw how it changed. I kept looking and saying, ‘I have pictures of this stuff that’s gone now.’” She assumed that other artists throughout the years had preserved for posterity the beach as it once was. She was right. Featherstone received a record number of submissions for the show. So many, in fact, that they could only hang about two-thirds.
Although the colors — russets and golds — remain pretty constant throughout the show, the media and styles vary. Pre-and post-storm depictions are evenly represented and the contrast is striking. Stepping into the main room of the gallery, the first two pieces on the left hand wall are small before-and-after oil paintings by Barbara Leiner. The charming abstracts were done with a palette knife, creating lots of texture. One shows the cliff as it was; the other the same view as it appears today – split in two by Sandy.
A huge photorealism painting by James Langlois is an eye catching standout featuring the cliff with the cleft that now gives it a unique silhouette. The same view interpreted by Sarah Moore is a cubist abstraction. She used simple blocks of red and two shades of blue to create the image. To the right of Ms. Moore’s piece is a wonderful impressionistic interpretation in oil by Elizabeth Taft, of the same cliff before last fall’s damage.
There are a number of stunning photos, including a haunting black-and-white nighttime scene by Christopher Wright showing the ocean lit by a full moon. Hanging next to it is a dramatic red sunset photo by Bob Avakian, along with the aforementioned bench photo, which drew a lot of attention during the opening reception on Sunday, April 21.
The back room houses a few images that include figures. Capturing a unique aspect of Lucy Vincent history are two photos by Susan Copen Oken featuring clay-covered beach goers. Renee Balter was the only artist daring enough to depict something else Lucy Vincent is famous for. Her fine line pen and ink drawing of dozens of nude bathers adds a nice touch of whimsy to the show. Sharing a corner with these works is a wonderful monochromatic photo of grainy rocks by Ula Kloss in subtle brown and pink tones. Appropriately, the artist framed her piece in driftwood with a little shelf holding beach stones.
Frank Creney chose an unusual media to depict the show’s theme. Using a method called bonkei (tray landscape) he created a 3D representation of the cliffs made of clay and earth topped with moss to mimic the scene’s vegetation. Colored sand is used to create the beach and ocean, and next to the sculptural piece, Mr. Creney included the tools of the trade and a brief description of the technique.
Taxidermist Janet Messineo contributed two pieces including a mounted fish leaping from a piece of Lucy Vincent driftwood.
Ms. Ziegler, the artist who provided the inspiration, chose to include some less typical views. Her two lovely watercolor scenes show the path to the beach and the ocean as viewed from the road beyond a picturesque field. “I knew there would be plenty of beach scenes so I wanted to bring in another view,” she says. Her pictures lead the viewer into a scene that, despite many changes over the years, will always remain an iconic Vineyard landmark.
The Lucy Vincent Beach Art Show will be on exhibit through Wednesday, May 8. Featherstone is open every day from 12 to 4 pm. For more information, call 508-693-1850 or visit featherstoneart.org.