The magic of history and art at Ashley Medowski Gallery

The magic of history and art at Ashley Medowski Gallery

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A painting of squid by Ashley Medowski. — Ashley Medowski Gallery

After 12 years as Saltwater Gallery, Ashley Medowski has changed the name of her establishment on Lambert’s Cove Road in West Tisbury to reflect her own name. She held a reception for New Mixed Media: Menemsha, Boats & Sea Life, in the newly named Ashley Medowski Gallery on August 10.

A mixed media piece of The Captain Flander’s House in Chilmark.
A mixed media piece of The Captain Flander’s House in Chilmark.

“I pride myself on being original,” Ms. Medowski said in a recent telephone interview. The original name came from “Salt Water in my Veins,” a book of her great-grandfather Captain Norman Benson’s stories, set down by his friend Dr. William Peltz.

“I don’t think people realized all the artwork was my own,” Ms. Medowski said, offering another reason for changing the name of her gallery. It is housed in the 1869 building that once was her great-grandfather’s fishing barn, adjacent to the family house built the same year.

An artist with a deeply ingrained appreciation for Vineyard history, Ms. Medowski lost her grandmother Mabelle Medowski and her aunt Alma Benson last November. “My grandmother was born and died in that house,” she said. Both of these relatives worked for many years at E. C. Cottle’s lumber yard in West Tisbury. Ms. Medowski describes her grandmother as a historian. “I hope I can continue her legacy,” she said. As an extension of that legacy, she has acquired permission to reprint her great grandfather’s book of stories. The author, Dr. Peltz, sat with Capt. Benson at the Lambert’s Cove Beach gate where the captain served as gatekeeper.

“I was the fourth-generation gatekeeper at Lambert’s Cove,” Ms. Medowski continued. “I wasn’t born here, but I’m the 13th generation to live here. We all could use a dose of the past.”

Jellyfish, by Ms. Medowski.
Jellyfish, by Ms. Medowski.

Much of Ms. Medowski’s new work is small in scale. The size reflects the considerable detail that goes into her painting and her desire to keep her work affordable. Good examples of this year’s work are “Moon Jellies” and “North Atlantic Squid,” marine portraits that benefit from the focus their small size provides. A collector of wood and antique objects such as the tricycle parked in front of her gallery, Ms. Medowski has framed another acrylic painting, “Shenandoah,” with wood from one of her great-grandfather Benson’s old eel pots.

“Sometimes pieces take me a year,” she said. A commissioned painting, “The Captain Flanders House” is an especially fine example of the artist’s talents. It is an historic rendering of the Flanders house in Chilmark, including the windmill on the property that was built in 1934 and lost its original vanes in the 1938 hurricane. Two quintessential touches by the artist are a stone fence made of real pebbles and a miniature Capt. Flanders House sign. The acrylic painting will eventually hang on the mantel in the inn.

In addition to the paintings on display are giclée prints of some of her favorite new paintings, including the magnificent and subtle work, “Summer Flounder.” She calls this painting her study in pointillism, and she has depicted the sand camouflage surrounding this bottom-feeding fish by using an old toothbrush to flick paint into the background. The painting is framed in Brazilian hardwood given to her by an Island carpenter.

Examples of her more whimsical older work include “Humphrey – The Oak Tree Wizard,” and “Squishy & the Magic Grape Shoe.”

While she hasn’t been making much jewelry lately except on commission for her regular clients, Ms. Medowski has examples of her sea-glass jewelry on display. Also on view is her charming, older painting, “Pink Elephant,” inspired by a stuffed animal Ms. Medowski had as a child and an embroidery of a pink elephant done by her grandmother. One of the works the artist was putting the finishing touches on last weekend is a portrait of the Cuttyhunk Coast Guard station that was moved by barge to Menemsha in 1952. It became Coast Guard Station Menemsha, which that now sits on the hill behind the Home Port Restaurant.

Ashley Medowski Gallery, 367 Lambert’s Cove Rd., West Tisbury. For more information, visit ashleymedowskigallery.com.