Artist Dawn Breeze finally has an Island exhibit showcasing her mixed-media paintings

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"Winter wiki," mixed-media, oil, graphite, acrylic on paper, approximately 22 x 29 inches. —Dawn Breeze

Artist and educator Dawn Breeze had to wait 10 years to have a first exhibit of her work on Martha’s Vineyard, her native Island. In 2007 she was poised for a solo show at the former Belushi Pisano Gallery, but fate intervened when the shop where her work was being framed burned to the ground just days before the opening. “That morning I went to the framers and it was just a pile of ash,” says Ms. Breeze.

Luckily, the artist had a good outlook about the disaster. “It was going to be my first exhibit as an artist. I had done some landscapes that were more realism. Not at all what I’m doing now. I was a bit nervous about being pinned down to that style. After the fire, I said, ‘Great. I don’t have to worry about that anymore.’”

Taking the destruction of her work as a sign of sorts, Ms. Breeze shifted her focus to more abstract multimedia work, and created an entire new series of nature-based scenes. Making their public debut, the paintings are currently on exhibit at the new Island Copper Gallery on State Road in Vineyard Haven.

The paintings, all created shortly after the fire, are mixed-media and, in some cases, monoprints. Ms. Breeze used a combination of graphite, oil, and acrylics on paper to create some interesting contrasts. Not purely abstract, the forms of fields, trees, horizons, and skies are in evidence, but not in a straightforward manner. The paintings draw their attention from color and form. Since creating that series, the artist has gone on to abstracting her images more and more.

Speaking of the chance to show these older images, Ms. Breeze says, “It feels really exciting to me, kind of like a full loop. It’s the work that set the trajectory for me as an artist. When I revisited it, I noticed the patterns that have continued to show up in my work, looking at something over and over again and seeing how it changed. It was the real beginning of looking at transformation, which is one of the major parts of all my work. I’m always really inspired by the changing light and the way the environment will take something back into itself and change and evolve.”

Nature is not only the inspiration for the artist’s ongoing work, it’s also often the studio and the media itself. Ms. Breeze loves to create in outdoor environments, and she often combines traditional materials with things like seeds, flowers, plant ash, pond mud, and whatever else is on hand. The descriptions of paintings on her website offer a glimpse into the artist’s method.

A painting titled “Blið” (Icelandic for “gentle” or “tender”) is listed as including “dandelion and sandy dirt on canvas, painted on a barren rock island, protected by fierce winds, beside a tear-shaped pool.” Another, titled “Unearthing,” was created with “pond mud and iron, rubbed with rocks and ocean water on canvas. Painted on a steep cliff overlooking the gleaming Arctic Ocean.” Both of these were done during residencies in Iceland.

Ms. Breeze has shown her work in galleries and other venues all over New York State, as well as in Italy and Iceland. She currently lives in Hudson, N.Y., a mecca for artists working in all fields.

Although she still returns often to the Vineyard, Ms. Breeze found that the Island was a bit too confining for her. She likes to get in her car and drive to other idyllic spots, or make trips to New York City, where she had previously established herself in the fashion industry.

Dawn Breeze, right, and her sister and partner in Island Copper, Noavakay Knight. —Courtesy Dawn Breeze

Earlier this year, Ms. Breeze completed an M.F.A. in interdisciplinary arts at Goddard College. She is now focusing equally on creating and teaching art. In 2016 she founded an arts center called Instar Lodge, which offers artist residencies, workshops, exhibits, readings, concerts, and creative education. For the past few years she has led workshops for individuals, groups, and corporate and nonprofit clients, including Etsy and High Watch Recovery Center in Connecticut.

According to Ms. Breeze’s website, “This workshop series is about the art of creating courage, the heartwork that leads to authentic expression and living.”

These creative arts workshops use visual language as a tool for deeper self-understanding, building new communication skills, and developing personal life concepts with an emphasis on creative process rather than product.”

“Ochre hill,” mixed media, graphite, oil, acrylic, 16.5 x 23 inches. —Dawn Breeze

In many ways, Ms. Breeze’s teachings reflect her own journey as an artist. “I feel that I didn’t claim my identity as an artist until pretty late,” she says. “I had these ideas of what an artist’s work was supposed to be. Just a very limited perspective. I had always wanted to be more playful and experimental.

“I like to think of the process as an excavation, an archeological dig you keep digging. There’s always something pulling you forward. Some people can find that in one direction. Others are pulled in many directions. I think it’s important to allow ourselves to keep searching.”

The works on display at the Island Copper Gallery show the beginning of Ms. Breeze’s independence from a more structured approach to art. “I’m so happy to be sharing these landscapes on the Vineyard,” she says. “I feel these are the ones that were supposed to be shown here.”