Festival of the Senses gathers artists from all over the world

Festival of the Senses gathers artists from all over the world

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Sally Taylor shows her mother, Carly Simon, the details of one of the exhibits at Consenses. — Michael Cummo

The Grange Hall in West Tisbury was the scene of a unique three-art event, August 18–20. Consenses, a group show of artists from all over the world, paired photography, painting, sculpture, music, dance, poetry, the written word, and even perfumery and tea blending into a multi-installation, multi-themed journey through the senses.

Consenses paired all types of art into a multi-installation, multi-themed journey through the senses.
Consenses paired all types of art into a multi-installation, multi-themed journey through the senses.

The project, begun in 2012, was the brainchild of artist and musician Sally Taylor, whose idea was to invite artists to draw inspiration from each other — translating a song into a painting, a poem into a sculpture. A total of 140 artists, selected by Ms. Taylor from among her friends and associates and through research on the web, participated. Among them were the famous, including Jimmy Buffett, Wes Craven, and Ms. Taylor’s parents, Carly Simon and James Taylor (along with other members of the Taylor clan), the locally renowned, such as Alison Shaw, Alan Whiting, and many others who have achieved success in their fields but who will be unknown to most visitors to the temporary gallery space.

A visit to the Grange Hall show was like exploring a museum with multiple installations. There were eight in all, each laid out by a different designer, and each featuring an individual theme and evoking a very specific mood. The chains – as they are called – were created by asking individual artists to execute a work in their medium inspired by the work of the previous participant. Each chain began with a photo of the Vineyard, which was used by a songwriter whose work was then interpreted by a dancer and then passed on to a painter, etc.

Artist Mark Cooper, who contributed to Consenses, watched a piece in a separate exhibit.
Artist Mark Cooper, who contributed to Consenses, watched a piece in a separate exhibit.

The installation event is called Festival of the Senses and it is a true multi-sensory experience. Visitors are invited to view artwork, listen to music through headphones, watch videotaped dance performances, read poetry and prose works, sniff scent samples, and sip specially brewed herbal teas — all part of the art experience. Each artist provided a short explanation of their creation process.

Consenses is a full-immersion experience that can best be appreciated by taking time in each space and simultaneously experiencing two or more creations at once. One can listen to a beautiful James Taylor instrumental piece while watching a set of intricately designed paper wings flap in an inspired feat of engineered sculpture. Or watch a hypnotic dance involving a large hoop while sipping a spicy tea blend. Each viewer’s experience will be different depending on how they approach the installation, and viewers were invited to add their thoughts on sheets hanging on the wall near each exhibit.

The eight complete installations are part of a 19 chain series. The others were represented in the show by interactive digital displays that allowed guests to scroll through and view or listen to the various works. The Vineyard event also included a series of performances and artist-led workshops at satellite venues.

Teacher Sara Baumrin interacted with one of the exhibits, which asked how the viewer interprets the art.
Teacher Sara Baumrin interacted with one of the exhibits, which asked how the viewer interprets the art.

The current exhibit marks the first time that the works have been displayed together. From here, the show will move to the Boston area where the entire collection will be on view in two separate locations.

This is also the first time that the artists have been able to experience the work of the other participants. Eight-six of the 140 artists were on hand for the premiere of the show here. One unfortunate note, the first of the painters who was recruited for the project — an artist named Henk Gringhuis — died of cancer just months before the installation. Ms. Taylor explained that he was one of the most enthusiastic participants and that she had developed a close telephone relationship with him. She has dedicated the exhibit to Mr. Gringhuis, whose wife and brother-in-law, visiting from Canada, stayed with Ms. Taylor.

Painter Gosia from Toronto was among those who made the trip to the Vineyard for the show. She was provided with a song by Isaac Taylor on which she based a beautiful fairytale-like painting of a woman partly submerged in the ocean, her hair becoming one with the waves, a tiny ship floating beside her. “I found it really easy,” she said. “I already use music as my inspiration.”

From left: Carly Simon, Peter Simon, and Consenses creator Sally Taylor.
From left: Carly Simon, Peter Simon, and Consenses creator Sally Taylor.

Gosia, a young woman who has enjoyed success as an illustrator, painter, and sculptor, was impressed with the exhibit. “I was a little surprised,” she said after viewing the multiple installations. “I thought there’d be more of a disconnect.”

In many cases, although each participant was only given access to one work of art, the entire chain seems to have maintained a consistency.

Ms. Taylor was thrilled to witness the culmination of her two years of work as curator. “This is better than I could have envisioned it,” she said Monday, standing outside the hall where a few works were displayed on the porch. She explained that from the beginning she had planned to launch the exhibit on the Vineyard. “All of the photos are of the Vineyard. This was my starting point — my elephant,” she said, referencing a fable that in part inspired her ambitious interpretation experiment.

Next to Ms. Taylor, her father, James, was admiring a textile piece. Asked for his reaction on the final stage of a project in which he played a part, he said, “I’m knocked out. I’d only seen little bits and pieces before. Man, it’s beautiful.”

He added, “Like any great exhibit, you want to devote some time to it. To feel the connection. To get into the chain of events.”

Hundreds of people did just that, taking time out from a string of picture-perfect beach days to experience a unique artistic collaboration.

To find out more about the project and the artists and check out future locations, visit consenses.org.