Shaw Cramer builds distinctive identity

Handcast glass by David B. Geiger. — Photo courtesy of Shaw Cramer Gallery

With her Main Street, Vineyard Haven gallery Shaw Cramer now in business for 19 years, proprietor Nancy Cramer has built a reputation for sophisticated, high-caliber art.

A fiber artist herself whose one-of-a-kind silk pillows are sold in the gallery, Ms. Cramer is not afraid to ignore convention and go her own way. Instead of regular openings that spotlight individuals, she prefers once-a-month receptions that celebrate all of the gallery’s artists. These events not only offer the public a chance to meet and talk with the creators behind the work; they also give the busy artists an opportunity to get together. The next artists’ reception will be Friday, August 2.

“I feel strongly that it really doesn’t make a difference,” Ms. Cramer says of openings. “Sales are the same.” Instead of relying on openings to entice the public, she frequently changes the art on display in the gallery’s street-level window and moves around works in cases on the stairway to the gallery rooms themselves, where re-arrangements also take place regularly. In a sense, the changing displays re-invent the gallery collection on a regular basis

Ms. Cramer also developed a not-to-miss series of talks by Shaw Cramer artists on subjects bound to interest the serious collector and art lover alike. Coming up on Tuesday, July 23, Leslie Baker, Antoinette Noble, and Ms. Cramer will discuss artists working with galleries. On Tuesday, July 30, there is a presentation by painter Elizabeth Taft on landscapes.

A recent talk by West Tisbury artists Leslie Baker and Hermine Hull, who have painted together for years, focused on working in series. Ms. Baker spread out on the floor for the audience a group of monotypes of trees meant to be viewed together. “It focuses you on subtle changes and variations,” she said of the group, adding, “I’ve taken a leap into abstraction.”

Yet Ms. Baker considers herself primarily a representational painter. In contrast, Ms. Hull sees herself as an abstract painter, and she talked about series as a form of obsession. The paintings of the woods surrounding her West Tisbury home and studio that she presented for consideration remain predominantly representational, sometimes pushing the limits of that designation. “I feel like I could paint my woods forever,” she said, referencing French painter Pierre Bonnard, who painted scenes of his bathroom for most of his life.

Ms. Hull shows her work at Shaw Cramer for the first time this year. Also new to the gallery are West Tisbury artist Rob Hauck, who will talk about abstract art on Tuesday, August 13, and David B. Geiger, a Chilmark-based sculptor who works in hand-cast glass. Mr. Geiger, who gave an artist’s talk earlier in the month, comes to his art from a scientific point of view with an interest the biology of plant life. Los Angeles-based jewelry-maker Eric Silva completes the list of artists new to Shaw Cramer this year.

Considering Ms. Cramer’s own background in the field, fiber artists understandably make a strong showing with tapestries by Julia Mitchell and one-of-a-kind, hand-dyed wearable art — scarves and silk jackets, for instance — by Amy Nguyen and Betsy Giberson. Denise Labade has on display her nationally award-winning quilt, “Up or Down,” hand-painted and appliquéd. While they are framed like two-dimensional pieces, Peigi Cole-Jollife’s delicate constructions of fiber and collected materials suspended on bamboo pegs belong in this category.

Along with photography, painting and watercolor, texture and dimension are well represented in general at the gallery, with hand-built clay work by Heather Sommers, porcelain by Eric Jensen, sculpture by Claire McArdle, hand-woven baskets by Karl Lonning, and furniture by Bill Nash. Ruth Kirchmeier has masterful new woodcuts. Regrettably, the list of artists on display is too long to mention them all. Suffice it to say, art lovers should make regular visits to Shaw Cramer Gallery.

Shaw Cramer Gallery, Vineyard Haven. Open daily 10 am to 6 pm. Visit or call 508-696-7323 for more information.