Vineyard Haven is decked out for the season. From window boxes overflowing with blossoms and enticing window designs, to “Now Open” signs, there’s no mistaking the good news that summer is here.
Gallery owner Louisa Gould dived into the spirit with her upbeat and colorful “Summertime” exhibit opening last Saturday, June 28. Four artists, each with a very personal style, offer their unique interpretations of summer. Michael Haydn’s guitar tunes set a festive mood, and light refreshments were served.
For Kate Huntington, summertime is beach time — and none would disagree. The Providence artist presents beach scenes marked by energy, color, and spontaneity. She captures the seashore sights so precisely that one can experience other sense perceptions too…the smell of salt air (and even Coppertone), sounds of surf, children’s giggles, the delicious sensation of cold water after hot sun.
Striped beach umbrellas in red, white, blue, seem to shout, “Hooray, it’s summer!” while shading flocks of active beachgoers. This quintessential Oak Bluffs seashore scene is complete with chairs, coolers, blankets, and two determined bathers.
“Best Friends” in bright bathing suits sit together in the sand, sharing pail and shovel. Lifeguards on their tall wooden perch watch over a cavorting crowd at South Beach. A young girl sits in cool shallows, digging. A little boy scuffs along water’s edge, yellow bucket in hand. When swimmers brave the surf we feel it sting our skin, hear it roar.
And what would the beach be without a dog or two. “Black and Yellow,” a matched pair on red leashes, gaze out to sea, predictably soggy and sandy.
John Holladay — the only full-time Vineyarder among the four artists — works in a small corner of his home in a quiet Vineyard Haven neighborhood, but he paints the wide-open spaces. His most striking canvas is a view of the Keith Farm in Chilmark, a spectacular sight familiar to anyone who drives up Island on Middle Road.
The antique, lichen-covered stonewall is in the foreground. Across the gently rolling green meadow we see a quiet pond, the barn with its bright red door, a distant farmhouse, the ocean far beyond. The sky is light blue, clear; grasses grow high along the wall. All suggest the quiet heat of midsummer in Chilmark.
There are other up-Island farm scenes and for a true, iconic image of summer, Mr. Holladay paints the cliffs at Lucy Vincent Beach, sculpted by erosion.
Mr. Holladay, who has been a celebrated sports cartoon artist and a teacher, is a dedicated landscape painter these days, something Vineyard art lovers can celebrate.
Maya Farber’s paintings portray a trio of subjects: barnscapes seen in three seasons, three still lifes, and three floral portraits.
Born in Romania, Ms. Farber resides in Manhattan and upstate New York. She has a distinguished resume of studies and exhibitions in Europe and the United States. Yet she knows her simple, homey subjects intimately — the barn, fresh eggs, fruit, garden flowers — and portrays them with modest grace.
Her still lifes offer summer with a quiet, rural feel. Here, three empty glass containers — Coke bottle, Ball jar, Mason jar — sit on a table beside a painted bowl heaped with eggs, each shell a different shade.
There is the serene feeling of coming indoors on a summer day, the dim room cool, while outside it is hot and sunny. Sculpted fruit — a green pear, plump plum, clustered grapes evoke the same country kitchen feeling.
There are brilliant blue hydrangeas; loose bouquets of lilies in china vases, so real looking their perfume seems to scent the air.
Ms. Farber enjoys still life painting and wrote that the women’s movement allowed her to explore self-expression using this “female” imagery to her “great personal satisfaction.”
Ms. Farber paints a stolid white barn with twin silos seen across the seasons, snow-covered, under a blue summer sky, with cows in autumn. The scenes have a familiar, intimate feeling: little wonder, for the Farbers raise beef cattle here.
For Peter Batchelder, a prolific New Hampshire artist who once wrote art reviews and operated a gallery on the Vineyard, New England’s coastal and rural landscapes provide inspiration and raw material for his paintings.
“I take creative license with locations,” he explained. “I don’t always want the pieces to be literal.”
He paints a building’s actual shape, but alters surroundings, adding grasses, removing trees for an ocean view. He may pluck a structure from its own environment, show it in a new setting, simplify the design’s elements.
Mr. Batchelder creates scenes so familiar we feel we must have driven by them recently. Or, we wonder, was it a dream or a childhood memory? But whether or not they look like Chilmark, Cape Cod, or the New England woods is not the most important. These canvases are visually arresting, breath-taking, their spare compositions of buildings, trees, fields depicted with lush, over-the-top, super-saturated colors that are far from spare.
Embodying the Summertime theme, Mr. Batchelder’s scenes are dramatically enhanced and defined by the intense light of high summer. He believes a sense of place is “as much about color and light” as it is the location. In love with color, he may pick the color he wants to use before choosing the scene.
A field of tall grass is washed in the thick yellow gold of twilight; a peaked roofed house on a hillside is bleached by white-hot noonday sun; a big barn glows bright red. Contrast is intense: deep purple shadows, vibrant turquoise sky.
Should a visitor crave more summertime views there is plenty to see in the gallery, highlighted by Ms. Gould’s photographs of sailboats in many waters, dynamic ships under sail by painter Frauke Klatt, and works by other maritime and coastal artists. This show continues through July 16. “Colorburst,” featuring five artists, begins July 17.
Louisa Gould Gallery is located at 54 Main Street in Vineyard Haven. For more information, call 508-693-7373 or visit louisagould.com.