Oceans roll in at Featherstone and Pathways

Island artists capture the sea.

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Ann Smith, executive director of Featherstone Center for the Arts, introduced guest curator Marianne Goldberg of the Pathways Projects Institute. — Photo by Siobhan Beasley

Updated April 23

When two great art emporia join forces, the result can be truly amazing. The first emporium: Pathways, brainchild of salon doyenne Marianne Goldberg, inhabits the two-story chamber of the Chilmark Tavern throughout the winter, a place where the lights glimmer through dark forest and citadels of snow, and indoors, at least twice a week, poets read new works; musicians fiddle, plink, and blow; playwrights try out new scenes; dancers spin; filmmakers show video clips; and displayed around the high walls, newly conceived paintings and photographs fill out the final dimension of the space.

The other emporium embraces that other season, the warm one: Featherstone Center for the Arts, off Barnes Road, in operation for decades, provides a haven over its sprawling woods, cow paddocks, and flower gardens for artists of every stripe. This year, Featherstone artistic director Ann Smith received a summons from Ms. Goldberg: Why not combine forces for the latter’s annual art installation of the past five years, “Oceans Wilderness”?

A call to artists went out, soliciting sea-themed work. A total of 43 artists met the challenge, and their pieces now preside in both the Chilmark Tavern and Featherstone’s main gallery. This past Sunday marked an opening reception at Featherstone, accompanied by glorious weekend weather — still a bit chilly, but blue and gold and limned with bright sparkles — a reprieve that kept all Islanders from carpooling to the Gay Head cliffs and jumping off like lemmings.

To give an idea of the sumptuous display, here’s a pastiche of work that caught the eye of this reporter amid rolling waves of color, size, texture, and content:

To the right of the entrance is a diminutive acrylic by Ed Schuman, “Old Ocean Seaport,” a tiny masterpiece in tones of white and gray, of a mythic harbor as seen through a mist of snowy fog. Nearby hangs a large oil canvas by 90-year-old painter Doris Lubell: In a maelstrom of waves too big and smashing even for the most intrepid of surfers, pale shades of turquoise clash with a golden globe like a submerged sun — simply stunning.

In the main room, resting atop a white pillar, sits a carousel cutout of purple seahorses by artist and master papermaker Sandy Bernat. Celebrated Oak Bluffs painter Harry Seymour depicts, in his signature egg tempera, a father and two small sons nestled in an apricot-and-blue beach at sunset. Above and to the right, there’s a clever painting by an imminent graduate of MVRHS, James Lawson — an overhead arc of whale and an underneath mirror-arc of sea framing a V formation of dark birds.

Artist and Pathways coordinator Scott Crawford provided a photograph of a stunning “Menemsha Sunset,” and nearby are two elegant photographs of beachscapes by Alida O’Loughlin, one of a piece of driftwood the size of the Loch Ness monster that washed ashore in the nick of time for Ms. O’Loughlin to snap a shot of it.

Drew Kinsman went underwater for two striking photos, one of yellow and orange coral, another of orange bulb-shaped kelp. Also on the photography front, Laura Roosevelt is doing something wondrous with digital media. Her present piece, “Thunderbolts,” is a design of white, black, and pale green images like shimmers caught on the surface of ruffled water.

Jeffrey Canha is working with a Japanese method called gyotaku; the one at Featherstone is a study of two highly refined charcoal-gray fish. Ms. Smith explained these were dipped in a color medium and rubbed on canvas, to which a nearby viewer said, “And afterward they’re released back into the water?” Teresa Yuan and Jack Yuen — the latter graduating this June from MVRHS and considering Rhode Island School of Design — displays work side-by-side, Ms. Yuan’s an abstract of a choppy red and gray waters, Mr. Yuen’s a representation of a mythical sea nymph.

Three masterful works of clay by Francis P. Creney, all with eels and other marine creatures popping out unexpectedly, grace a corner of the main room. And in another corner lurks something fresh and new: Husband and wife artists Jerry Messman and Patricia Albee collaborated on a single work, Ms. Albee supplying an abstract quilt of turquoise-and-indigo ocean textures, Mr. Messman a sharply detailed rendering of an Island ferry at the center.

In the far porch room, a bright acrylic by Victoria Haeselbarth presents a seagull hovering over an empty red dingy on a gray-green sea. Nearby, “Saffron Sunset,” by Mark Norwood, also catches the eye.

So that’s just a sampling: A thorough viewing of the artwork is highly recommended, not forgetting that the same artists — Goldberg and Smith made certain all participants received equal exposure in both galleries — are on display in Chilmark. The Featherstone show runs through May 6, after which it gives way to the annual Flower (remember flowers?) Expo, curated by Holly Alaimo, and kicked off by the similarly traditional Fashion Show under the big tent. Pathways will keep its Oceans Wilderness on tap through April 25, Mondays through Saturdays, dark on Wednesdays, from noon to 4 pm.

At the end of the reception, Ms. Goldberg read a poem composed as a tribute to this new joint venture, and she sent this special message to The Times: “It is a special thrill to collaborate with Ann Smith in expanding Pathways fifth Annual Ocean Wilderness festival to open jointly at our Living Room Gallery in Chilmark and at Featherstone — to welcome so many artists celebrating oceans on-Island as a treasured wilderness space with a sense of sanctuary.”

Mission accomplished.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly referenced Jack Yuen and Teresa Yuan as mother and son, they are not related. It was also stated that Jack Yuen will be attending Rhode Island School of Design after graduation, he is considering the school but has not yet made a selection.