Last month, the A Gallery in Oak Bluffs featured small works by a variety of local artists. In contrast, for the final show of the season, the spacious modern gallery will spotlight large scale paintings by two of the foremost Vineyard artists, Rez Williams and Allen Whiting.
Mr. Williams, who was just last week honored by the Permanent Endowment Fund for Martha’s Vineyard with the 2013 Creative Living Award, is known for his vibrant, massive paintings of New Bedford fishing trawlers. Mr. Whiting, who has painted Vineyard landscapes for more than 40 years, has rarely shown his larger works and only — occasionally — singly at his Davis House Gallery in West Tisbury.
“I’m really doing this just so I can see what they all look like lined up,” said Mr. Whiting, who will display 8 to 10 of his four-foot or longer paintings. “One of the joys is seeing a painting from 20 feet — or 40 feet away — if possible.” His balance of impressionistic and painterly styles make his work suited to both the long view and closer inspection.
Born and raised in West Tisbury, Mr. Whiting has painted professionally for almost half a century. His work has graced a number of galleries around the Island and on Newbury Street in Boston among other places. He is one of the most collectable artists on the Vineyard, whose work is unmistakably his own.
His milieu is the sparsely settled up-Island area, his muse is the wild windswept vistas of ponds and fields and deserted beaches.
“For some reason I’m fascinated by landscapes,” he said during a recent visit to his home/gallery/studio in West Tisbury. “While working on the farm I’m in its presence all the time.” The Whitings — Allen, his wife and three children and his extended family who share ownership — all take part in the work of the 57-acre farm, which has been in the Whiting family for more than a dozen generations.
The artist grew up surrounded by the unique untamed beauty of up Island. “My earliest inspiration, other than other artists, is this scene,” he said. “The row of trees that’s going off in the distance towards the beach. It was something I was staring at when I was nine, not knowing what it was that interested me. That’s my muse. That’s dictated what I’ve painted.”
The landscape of the Vineyard, with all of its rough-hewn beauty, agricultural roots, and unique geography is so much a part of Mr. Whiting’s heritage and experience that he is probably as much a man of the land as any Vineyarder. He prefers not to paint from photographs, instead spending time painting and/or sketching on site. It’s the subtleties of the landscape that gives it its beauty, and standing in front of one of the artist’s canvases one feels the power and mystique that continues to draw people to the Island.
Brushstrokes add the motion of the breeze, surf, and tides, while with texture and glints of light he interprets the landscape around him.
Mr. Whiting manages to capture those almost irreproducible colors – the palest peachy pink in the sand of Lucy Vincent reflecting its clay source and mirrored in the russet tones of beach scrub, the unusual murky turquoise of the ocean that is so often commented on by Vineyard visitors, the spectrum of hues found in the changing Vineyard skies, and the rugged quality of Island vegetation that speaks of a hardiness born of surviving salt air, wind, and temperamental New England weather.
These are not picture postcard scenes of the Vineyard, but vistas that make one stop and reflect, marvel at the wildness of the Island and imagine a time before Martha’s Vineyard became a popular tourist destination and people lived more with nature.
The large scale canvases are an opportunity to step into one of these scenes and, for a moment, stand at a West Tisbury roadside and admire the true Vineyard — not necessarily the one that attracts visitors to the Island, but the one that causes many to stay and make it home.
Opening Reception: Large scale paintings by Rez Williams and Allen Whiting, 5–7:30 pm, Saturday, Oct. 12, A Gallery, Oak Bluffs. Show runs through Thanksgiving. For more information, visit agallerymv.com.