Authors Posts by Brooks Robards

Brooks Robards

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Lucia McBath fights for justice following her son's death in "3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets."Photo courtesy Participant Media

The Island’s independent film venues are offering two interesting documentaries plus a fiction film based on a true story this week. Take your pick from the conclusion of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center’s Documentary Week with “The Galapagos Affair: Satan Comes to Eden,” about murderous goings-on on the Ecuadorian archipelago, with a Q & A featuring directors Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine.

Or view 2015 Sundance Special Jury prizewinner “3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets” at Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs on Saturday, August 8, including prescreening cocktails, with parents Ron Davis and Lucia McBath and Island summer resident and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. Journalist Caroline Clark will moderate a discussion with Jordan Davis’s parents after the film. As part of the Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival, this film examines Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law.

Last but hardly least is the Hebrew Center’s Summer Institute Film Series screening of “24 Days: The True Story of the Ilan Halimi Affair,” on Sunday, August 9. This compelling tale, winner of the Lia Award at the 2014 Jerusalem Film Festival, narrates the real-life kidnapping of a Jewish Parisian.

Anyone who has visited the idyllic Galapagos Islands can understand why Charles Darwin studied their unique fauna, and many call them a paradise. As interviewed in this intriguing true story from the 1930s, today’s Galapagos residents dispute this claim. The multipart “Galapagos Affair” begins with the tale of how Dr. Friedrich Ritter and Dore Strauch left their respective spouses in Berlin in 1929 and moved to the uninhabited island of Floreana to escape a “corrupt society.” Both were reclusive types, and Dr. Ritter sought to pursue his Nietzsche-inspired philosophical musings. Although international media described them sensationally as “Adam and Eve in Paradise,” scientists who visited on the research vessel Velero concluded that was not a valid description. Part II, “The Intruders,” describes how another German couple arrives on Floreana, also seeking isolation, and sets up housekeeping. Next comes the self-proclaimed Baroness Von Wagner, who shows up with two lovers in tow and antagonizes the others by announcing she plans to build a hotel for millionaires. In Part III, “The Drought,” friction develops among the island’s residents as they cope with excessive heat and a lack of water. One mysterious disappearance or death after another occurs, and current residents still speculate on what actually happened.

‘3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets’

In 2012, Jordan Davis, a 17-year-old African American who lived in suburban Jacksonville, Fla., made the fatal mistake of ignoring a request to turn down his music at a gas station. The request came from Michael Dunn, a middle-aged white man returning from a wedding where he had been drinking heavily. Although this documentary by Marc Silver is unduly slow-paced, it has an important message to deliver about the criminal justice system and racism in modern America. In 2005, Florida was the first of 22 states to pass a “stand your ground” law. This statute allows an individual to use deadly force without retreating to protect one’s life against a perceived threat. A similar ordinance, a “castle” doctrine, applies in 45 states in respect to standing one’s ground when one’s home is attacked.

Defendant Michael Dunn insisted that Jordan Davis had a gun, although there was no evidence that was the case. Mr. Davis was sitting in an SUV with three friends, playing rap music that one of his friends initially turned down at Mr. Dunn’s request. The murder victim insisted on turning the music back up, and Mr. Dunn pulled a weapon out of his glove box, shooting through the car 10 times and killing Mr. Davis. Suspense builds during the prolonged court case, which leads to conviction on lesser charges but a mistrial on the crucial charge of first-degree murder, followed by a nail-biting retrial.

‘24 Days: The True Story of the Ilan Halimi Affair’

Director Alexandre Arcady’s fiction film about the kidnapping of a Parisian youth (played by Syrus Shahidi) is a harrowing tale of brutality and anti-Semitism, based on an account co-written by the actual victim’s mother, Ruth Halimi. Using an attractive young woman as bait, a brutal gang headed by Youssouf Fofana (played by Tony Harrison) from the Ivory Coast lures the young man to the suburbs of Paris, where they kidnap and torture him.

The Parisian police seem unable to mount an effective offensive or rescue Ilan from the group of bungling brutes, who call the Halimi family with varying demands and move their victim repeatedly. The Halimi family is gradually torn apart by the kidnapping and the resistance of authorities to admitting that it is an anti-Semitic act. Ilan’s mother Ruth (played by Babou Breitman) holds her ground against police inaction, and speaks to the press, saying, “I want his death to sound an alarm.”

“The Galapagos Affair: Satan Comes to Eden,” Friday, August 7, 7:30 pm, Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, Vineyard Haven. For tickets and information, see mvfilmsociety.com.

“3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets,” Saturday, August 8, 7:30 pm, the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival at Union Chapel, Oak Bluffs. For tickets and information, see tmvff.org.

“24 Days: The True Story of the Ilan Halimi Affair,” Sunday, August 9, 7:30 pm, the Hebrew Center Summer Institute Film Series at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, Vineyard Haven. For tickets and information, see mvsummerinstitute.com or mvfilmsociety.com.

 

"Elizabeth," oil, 12" by 15". Art by Elizabeth Langer
"Holding On: Auschwitz—1,300,000," acrylic and chalk, 30" by 30". Art by Elizabeth Langer
“Holding On: Auschwitz—1,300,000,” acrylic and chalk, 30″ by 30″. Art by Elizabeth Langer

The Chilmark library hosts West Tisbury summer resident Elizabeth Langer through August 14 with an exhibit of her generative work in multiple media. “I work with an image in many different formats,” she says. “I get an image that feels right to me. Because of digital printing, I can make it into a print.” From there, the original drawing or painting may become a paper lithograph, an intaglio or relief print from a solarplate or a photo etching (often from a drawing), offering entirely new insights through the transformation.

Ms. Langer explains how she employs these very sophisticated processes with a photograph she took of bare trees in her West Tisbury yard at sunset. “I was working with the medium of paper lithograph, which has only one color,” she says. “But you can combine it with a monotype, so it goes through the press twice.” The artist created an entirely new work by painting on Plexiglas with etching inks and reversing the image. The print became a monotype, then the addition of the etching inks turned it into a multicolored work. “You can even see the brush marks,” she says.

“I don’t throw things away,” she explains. “I reinvent. It’s artistic recycling.”

“Sometimes I get some of my best results from accidents,” adds Ms. Langer, an admirer of Vineyard Haven artist Rose Abrahamson. “There’s no risk. You can play with it and get your best results.” An illustration within the library exhibit is a portrait of the artist’s son, called “Sam.” In the version on display, the work — which started out as a drawing — ends up as a photo etching. She explains that you can actually etch a photograph on a plate. Another one of the techniques Ms. Langer uses is on view in “William,” an intaglio solarplate. Here she exposed a printing plate through light, curing it with water instead of acid. The original was a drawing done in charcoal at Featherstone, where she is a longtime member of the Tom Maley drawing group. “When you work with charcoal on its side, you get these wonderful textures,” she says. “I took a brush and highlighted some of the lines.” Ms. Langer uses papers with texture, including types called “laid, handmade” and the Canson brand of Mi Teintes.

In addition to her portraits, the artist is exhibiting several collages. “I love doing collages,” she says. “Collages are happy. My figure work is very intense, and sometimes I need a break.” Collages loosen her up and let her focus on color and composition. With this medium, she worries less about getting it right. “But I find the older I get, the less I want to get it right,” she says, laughing. She wanted to include her collages in the library show because she thinks the variety makes for a more interesting exhibit.

“The way you curate an exhibit is very important,” Ms. Langer says. An observer will note that the artist has arranged her work in a sequence of yellow palettes. “I try to vary sizes and make groupings,” she says. She also wanted to show art she hadn’t shown last summer.

Ms. Langer came to art as a full-time occupation in 2008. As a lawyer she founded the Women’s Rights Law Reporter, and worked with Bill Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass on the Chicago Conspiracy trial, as a legislative assistant to Bella Abzug, and as a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, in Washington, D.C. She was called to art after being inspired by artist and teacher William Christenberry, who was a juror in one of her trials, and decided to trade her law office for a studio. Ms. Langer studied with Mr. Christenberry at the Corcoran School of Art and at the New York Studio School and School of Visual Arts. After retiring from the law she moved to New York, where her husband, Richard H. Chused, teaches at New York Law School. Her work has been on display in New York at the National Arts Club, among many other venues.

In addition to the 19 works at the Chilmark library, a second Langer solo show, “Juxtapositions,” will appear at the Vineyard Playhouse starting August 22.

“Blue Tuesday,” Elizabeth Langer, Chilmark library, 522 South Road, Chilmark, through August 14. For additional information on the artist, visit elizabethlanger.com.

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Comedian Will Noonan performs at the Strand Theater in Oak Bluffs on Wednesday, August 12. Photo courtesy M.V. Film Society

Films are far from the only events scheduled this month at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center.

“We have always tried to have an eclectic program,” says Film Center Director Richard Paradise. “People are not necessarily going to come to the Film Center two nights a week for films. Including other types of events helps diversify our audience.” Once its first annual Documentary Week finishes up over the weekend, the Film Center will sponsor a Filmmaking on Your Smartphone camp Monday, August 10 through Wednesday, August 12. And in addition to the variety of live events scheduled at the Film Center, both the recently renovated Strand and Capawock Theaters have been designed to accommodate live performances as well as films.

Standup comedy comes to the Strand Theater in Oak Bluffs on Wednesday, August 12. Showtime’s Best Comic, Tom Hayes will join Will Noonan of the Oddball Comedy Festival to entertain audiences. Both comics perform at Boston’s Headliners Comedy Club.

Jazz and R&B vocalist Vivian Male takes the stage of the Strand Theater on Thursday, August 13. Photo by Joe Henson
Jazz and R&B vocalist Vivian Male takes the stage of the Strand Theater on Thursday, August 13. Photo by Joe Henson

Jazz will be in the air at the Strand on Thursday, August 13, when vocalist Vivian Male brings her musical talents to the stage. A native Bostonian, Ms. Male has been inducted into “Steppin’ Out’s” Hall of Fame. Her CD, “Our Day Will Come,” is considered a classic. Ms. Male has sung for the New England Emmy Awards, and performs regularly at Scullers Jazz Club in Boston. Accompanying Ms. Male will be her music director Rollins Ross on keyboards, Lakecia Benjamin on saxophone, Daniel Day on bass, and David Fuller on drums.

The following week brings a variety of special events to the Film Center in Vineyard Haven. A New York Film Critics premiere of “Digging for Fire” screens Wednesday, August 19. Director Joe Swanberg’s domestic comedy features Rosemarie DeWitt and Jake M. Johnson playing parents of a toddler who find themselves on the verge of nervous breakdowns. The director and members of the cast will participate in simulcast interviews after the screening.

Vineyard summer visitor, theater and film director Julie Taymor will discuss her movie version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in a postscreening interview at the Film Center, conducted by Robert Brustein, Island summer resident and founder of the Yale Repertory Theatre as well as Boston’s American Repertory Theatre. This live event takes place on Thursday, August 20. The documentary “What Happened, Miss Simone?” follows on Tuesday, August 25, with director Liz Garbus attending for a post-screening Q & A. This film includes never-before-heard recordings, archival footage, and signature songs by the singer, known as the “High Priestess of Soul.” Playing Wednesday, August 26 at the Film Center and Thursday, August 27, at the Strand is Aviva Kempner’s new film, “Rosenwald.” This documentary relates the story of the late Jewish philanthropist and Sears president Julius Rosenwald, who helped build over 5,300 schools for African-American children in the Jim Crow South during the early 20th century. A frequent Vineyard summer visitor, Ms. Kempner is also the director of “The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg,” about the Jewish baseball player, and “Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg,” about ’50s TV star and broadcasting pioneer Gertrude Berg.

Live theatre comes to the Film Center for the first time on Monday, August 31, with “Wild and Precious,” a monologue by Steve Cadwell. A Boston psychotherapist, Dr. Cadwell will bring to the Vineyard stage issues of gender, sexuality, and shame, using poetry, storytelling, costumes, song, photos, and dance. He has performed in Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Provincetown, and Woods Hole.

 

For tickets to and information on these special events, see mvfilmsociety.com.

 

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Painter Marston Clough poses in front of his work. Photo by Emily Drazen

Vineyard Haven resident Marston Clough joins Eva Cincotta, Sheila M. Fane, and Edgartown residents Debra M. Gaines and Warren V. Gaines for a group exhibit at Edgartown’s Old Sculpin Gallery. All five are members of the Martha’s Vineyard Art Association, home of the Old Sculpin.

"Wave Roll" by Debra Gaines. Photo courtesy Old Sculpin Gallery
“Wave Roll” by Debra Gaines. Photo courtesy Old Sculpin Gallery

Mr. Clough has recently been working primarily in oils, after years of drawing, etching, and printmaking. His oil landscapes, “Clearing Over Cliffs” and “Emergence,” display imposing gray skies over salt marshes and marinescapes, sometimes highlighted with unexpected flashes of sunlight-inspired color. “I like colors and the horizon, and the way the light changes, and skies, and reflections, and the sea,” he says in his artist’s statement.

Ms. Cincotta, a Melrose resident, summers on the Island, teaching painting at the Featherstone Center for the Arts and the Old Sculpin Gallery. In addition to landscapes, she has on exhibit a charming collection of chickens in individual, oil-painted snapshots, which surround “Mud Snooze,” a portrait of a reclining pig, comically reminiscent from the backside of Manet’s famous “Olympia.” Ms. Cincotta calls her paintings colorful and spontaneous interpretations made possible by understanding the underlying structure.

“All the art works in this show are visions of Martha’s Vineyard,” says Ms. Fane, a Hartsdale, N.Y., resident who summers in West Tisbury. Landscapes have been the longtime focus of this artist, and she works in a variety of media. She has worked for many years as a printmaker, and has recently begun to make her own paper for use in her prints. “Working at Seastone Papers has enabled me to broaden my creative options and technical skills in both printing and papermaking,” she says. “The paper has now become a medium on its own for me to create ‘painted’ images and sculptures.” On display at Old Sculpin are a striking series of images constructed from Vineyard grasses on handmade paper, including “Young Bamboo,” “Yellow Sky & Earth,” “Earth & Sky,” “Vineyard Sunset,” and “Blue Sky.”

Exhibiting together are husband and wife Warren V. Gaines and Debra Gaines. Mr. Gaines, who works as Edgartown’s shellfish constable, has on view landscapes and Menemsha scenes in pastel. “My goal is to express and present the beauty of the ever-changing scenes surrounding us that many people have not seen, are not familiar with, or yearn to be near when they are removed from this peaceful environment,” he says.

Ms. Gaines, whose studio, Debra M. Gaines Fine Art, is located in Edgartown, is a photographer. Particularly imposing are two of her large-scale photographs, “Wave Roll,” and “Breaking Through,” which vividly capture the multiple colors of ocean and surf. Her work also includes several handpainted photographs, “Main Street 02539 Autumn,” “Main Street 02539 Spring” and “Main Street 02539 Winter.” New work this year includes a series called “Affirmations.” She says, “This is a sharing of insights, experiences, observations, awarenesses, and growth I have experienced over the past few years while feeling areas of my life come full circle.”

Marston Clough, Eva Cincotta, Sheila M. Fane, Warren V. Gaines and Debra M. Gaines, Old Sculpin Gallery, 58 Dock Street, Edgartown, through July 31.

Rosalie Ripaldi Shane, Ned Reade, Paul Beebe, and Janis Langley will show from August 1 through August 7. For information, see marthasvineyardartassociation.org.

 

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Photo courtesy MV Film Center

The Martha’s Vineyard Film Center launches its first annual Documentary Week on Monday, August 3, with the riveting “The Wolfpack.” In addition, the Hebrew Center’s Summer Institute will screen a poignant drama, “The Art Dealer,” on Sunday, August 2, and the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival will play Oak Bluffs summer resident Stanley Nelson’s powerful new documentary, “The Black Panthers.”

Martha’s Vineyard Film Center (MVFC) Director Richard Paradise says of the newly created Documentary Week, “the MVFC hopes to show how documentary films have become the conscience of the nation, providing a deeper study of contemporary and historical, and often unnoticed, issues.” Running through Friday, August 7, the series will host filmmakers in discussions with viewers about the making of their films and their social impact.

First up is first-time director Crystal Moselle’s “The Wolfpack,” the story of the six Angulo family brothers who grew up on the Lower East Side of New York City with their parents Oscar and Susanne, almost never leaving their apartment. Their father is the only one with the keys to the front door. The boys, given Sanskrit names by their Peruvian father and Midwestern mother, entertain themselves by watching movies almost nonstop. Their mother, a licensed teacher, homeschools them, and they are comfortable and articulate in the film’s interviews. The world of movies — they make top-30 lists of their favorites and re-enact many of them — feeds their imaginations. Perhaps in coordination with their identity as a wolf pack, the boys are not readily identified by name. Interviews with the filmmaker, the first person allowed into their world, are interlaced with earlier home movies of the boys and their developmentally disabled sister, as well as their parents. One of them estimates that the six have seen 5,000 movies.

At 15, Mukunda, the third oldest, unlocks the apartment door and, wearing a mask, enters the outside world while his father is out getting food for the family. He walks two blocks before someone calls the police, and he is eventually taken to Bellevue Hospital Center. That episode dramatically changes the family dynamics, and all of the boys begin to explore the outside world. As one of them says, “Most people would go insane to experience a life like that. (We didn’t.) I think it was because of my mom. She kept our sanity.”

While Oscar’s control of his children seems monstrous, interviews with the parents demonstrate that their reclusive lifestyle is governed predominantly by fear of the dangers of urban life. “My power is influencing everybody,” says Oscar. “Think about that — and this piece of shit where we are living.” Susanne says, “What I really wanted — that they would be growing up in a place with green fields — it didn’t happen.” “The Wolfpack” won the 2015 Sundance Grand Jury Prize.

Other films playing as part of Documentary Week include “Diplomat,” “Best of Enemies,” “Unbranded,” and “The Galapagos Affair.”

‘The Art Dealer’ and ‘The Black Panthers’

“The Art Dealer,” directed by Francois Margolin and playing Sunday, August 2, at the Film Center as part of the Hebrew Center Summer Institute Film Series, narrates the story of Esther, a young woman who seeks to discover what happened to her family’s art collection after the Nazi invasion of France during World War II. The story unfolds like a French version of “Woman in Gold,” the film starring Helen Mirren as a Jewish refugee seeking return of the Gustav Klimt portrait of her aunt appropriated by the Austrian government. In the case of “The Art Dealer,” family members prove to be as villainous as the French government, and before she uncovers the truth, Esther loses her job and alienates her art dealer husband.

Playing Monday, August 3, in a Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival special screening is Oak Bluffs summer resident Stanley Nelson’s “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution.” Mr. Nelson will lead a post-screening discussion with Emory Law School Professor Kathleen Cleaver, and Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. will introduce the event. The latest entry in the growing canon of black history by triple-primetime-Emmy winner Mr. Nelson proves to be a remarkable historical document. Relying on interviews with a variety of former and current Black Panthers, including Ms. Cleaver, “The Black Panthers” focuses on three of the political party’s most prominent leaders: Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, and Eldridge Cleaver. The film begins with the formation of the party in Oakland, Calif., where Mr. Newton starts to carry loaded weapons, as much an anti-police public relations device as a real threat, according to the film. More than just a militant organization, the Black Panthers provided services to black communities nationwide, sponsoring a free-breakfast program for black children and health services. More shocking than the group’s ’70s militancy were the efforts of FBI leader J. Edgar Hoover to quash it through infiltration and arrests, and in at least one case by encouraging the murder of one of its charismatic leaders. This film belongs in the curriculum of our nation’s public schools as a counter to the silent racism that too often pervades them. Go here to watch the trailer

“The Wolfpack,” Documentary Week at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, Monday, August 3, 7:30 pm. mvfilmsociety.com.

“The Art Dealer,” Hebrew Center Summer Institute Film Series, Sunday, August 2, 7:30 pm, Martha’s Vineyard Film Center. mvfilmsociety.com; Ticketsmv.com.

“The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution,” Monday, August 3, 8 pm, Tabernacle, Oak Bluffs. tmvff.org.

 

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In "The Hidden Life of Conch," Islander Shelley Edmundson shares groundbreaking research about the conch. Photo courtesy MV Film Center

The Sustainable Vineyard documentary shorts series returns to the Chilmark Community Center this

Claire Lafave, Rebecca Sanders, and Emily Palena of Island Grown Schools and The FARM Institute at a seed-sharing event earlier this year. Photo courtesy Martha's Vineyard Film Center
Claire Lafave, Rebecca Sanders, and Emily Palena of Island Grown Schools and The FARM Institute at a seed-sharing event earlier this year. Photo courtesy Martha’s Vineyard Film Center

Thursday, July 30. Three films that played at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center on Earth Day last April will screen: “The Secret Life of the Conch,” “Goatscaping,” and “The Story of Seeds.” Created by filmmakers Liz Witham and Ken Wentworth, the films focus on environmentally visionary Islanders and the issues impacting the Vineyard that they are exploring.

“It’s important to us to involve the seasonal community here,” says Ms. Witham. Each film will be followed by Q & A sessions with local experts, and Ms. Witham and Mr. Wentworth will also discuss their latest film, now in production, about the threatened Northern Long-Eared Bat.

The subject of “The Secret Life of the Conch,” also known as the channeled whelk, comprises the Island’s largest fishery. University of New Hampshire doctoral candidate Shelley Edmundson will share her research on this sparsely documented species. A $6 million Island industry, most local conch are sold in Hong Kong. Ms. Witham has proposed that local chefs should develop menu items featuring conch.

“Goatscaping” points out that invasive shrubs and plants which proliferate on the Island — like bittersweet and poison ivy — can be controlled by goats. These voraciously hungry animals provide a

"Goatscaping" explores the use of goats to remove invasive foreign shrubs and woody plants. Photo courtesy MV Film Center
“Goatscaping” explores the use of goats to remove invasive foreign shrubs and woody plants. Photo courtesy MV Film Center

viable alternative to toxic pesticides, and Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation has used them at Cedar Tree Neck to clear the conservation area of bittersweet. Kristen Fauteux, director of stewardship at Sheriff’s Meadow, will lead the post-screening discussion with Rebecca Gilbert of Native Earth Teaching Farm.

“The Story of Seeds” premiered last March at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival. This film examines three different areas important to local seed production. Representing Polly Hill Arboretum are Executive Director Tim Boland, Curator Tim Clark, and Horticulturist Ian Jochems. They will discuss the importance of native seeds and their Martha’s Vineyard Wild Type program. Noli Taylor, director of Island Grown Schools, will describe the new seed library underway on-Island. Melinda Rabbit DeFeo will illustrate the crop based on a heritage corn seed that she grew with students as part of the Edgartown School Garden Program. Wildlife biologist Luanne Johnson, director of Biodiversity Works, and Assistant Director Elizabeth Baldwin will also participate in the program.

Ms. Witham and Mr. Wentworth will show still images and an overview of their newest episode in the Sustainable Vineyard series on Northern Long-Eared Bats. This species, which lives on-Island, is in danger of extinction. The filmmakers will explain how to identify them, why they should not be killed, and whom to contact when the bats are sighted. Another subject for the series will be ticks like the Lone Star, which are carried by mice as well as deer. Ms. Witham and Mr. Wentworth will premiere three new series episodes in October at the Living Local Harvest Festival. The Sustainable Vineyard event is a fundraiser for the film series.

Tickets and more information are available at Film-Truth.com.

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"Fire," by Colin Ruel.

In a new show at the Field Gallery, painters Wendy Weldon and Colin Ruel are joined by metal sculptor Charles Gibbs. In addition to her characteristic barn paintings, Ms. Weldon is exhibiting an abstract series inspired by a month-long visit this winter to the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. She has titled the collection “Color.” A Menemsha native, Mr. Ruel debuts at the Field Gallery this season with a series of evocative landscapes. Mr. Gibbs’ whimsical work on display employs found metal in wall pieces and small sculptures.

"Phnom Bakheng Arch," by Wendy Weldon.
“Phnom Bakheng Arch,” by Wendy Weldon.

Ms. Weldon’s “Color” series is well named. Her vivid, muscular acrylic paintings often incorporate a gold finish for added sheen. “East Gate of Angkor Thom” and “Phnom Bakheng Arch” illustrate how the artist employs scarlet shades of red to powerful effect in works that feel both architectural and abstract. Barns have long inspired Ms. Weldon, who exhibited at North Water Street Gallery for a number of years before moving to the Field Gallery. She combines round rock forms with rectangular, gabled shapes in “Imaginary Barns Near the Pond,” and in “Night Sky,” a red-roofed green barn seems to float in a reddish landscape that includes another smaller red structure in the background.

A musician who once toured with islander Willy Mason, Mr. Ruel now devotes his time to painting; he shares a studio with his wife, jeweler Nettie Kent, also a native islander. He often uses ink in Vineyard-inspired landscapes like “Blue Fire Mirror” and possibly “Orange Mirror Shore,” where a thin white line marks the transition from water to foliage. Several of his serene landscapes surprise with white, geyser-like eruptions, as in “Fire Mirror Shore” and “Fire.” Although Mr. Ruel, who makes his own frames, uses acrylics, he works on birch panels, thinning his paint to an almost watercolor consistency so that the wood grain of the panels participates in the composition, adding subtlety and texture.

"Steamliner," by Charles Gibbs.
“Steamliner,” by Charles Gibbs.

Also showing is Berkeley, Calif., native Charles Gibbs, who started making sculpture when he was 15 years old, using the junk metal he found in his father’s workshop. After moving East, Mr. Gibbs settled for a while outside Boston in a house where he discovered a basement filled with machine parts. His charming sculptures, employing gears, knobs, and other metal parts, resulted.

“I do two types of work — stylized animals, birds, and fish, and more abstract pieces that often feature wheels, boat hulls, and house forms,” the artist says. He is primarily self-taught, and benefits from his experience repairing cars and houses. “I usually work with found metal — I love the patinas and distress of the scrap metal I find on the road, and the gears and levers from discarded typewriters — but also new metal stock (especially for new outdoor pieces), and frequently include pieces of wood, bone, and other found materials,” he says. He resides with his wife, painter Charlotte Andry Gibbs, in Pepperell.

 

Wendy Weldon, Colin Ruel, and Charles Gibbs, Field Gallery, 1050 State Road, West Tisbury, through August 1. For information, see fieldgallery.com.

 

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rachel_baird_bookIn her new collection of poems, “Valentines and Other Tragedies,” poet and former Martha’s Vineyard seasonal resident Rachel Baird contradicts the sweeter sides of love with a darker, less sentimental view of romance.

The Feb. 14 holiday Valentine’s Day began simply as a saint’s day, but by the time Geoffrey Chaucer was penning “The Canterbury Tales” in the Middle Ages, and courtly love came into fashion, sending tokens of love — elaborate valentine cards in particular, and valentine keys — to one’s inamorato/a, the holiday had turned into an occasion for romance. Valentine keys were in the news recently in Paris, when the Pont des Arts pedestrian bridge was covered with 45 tons of lovers’ locks, the keys to 700,000 of which lay below in the Seine River.

Ms. Baird’s view of valentines differs. Poems like “all this time I lay in your arms,” which starts the section titled “Valentines,” explore the sensual side of love, and tie it to the natural world, where “In dark the fawns sleep.” Even when love is celebrated, the prospect of separation often lurks in the shadows. At other times, the poet conflates herself with nature, as when she describes herself and her putative lover as “Us, the walking trees with red stained-lips,” in “the heart.”

Ms. Baird has a knack for bringing the reader up close to the love object. In “another,” she begins with “The taut corner/Where your lip curls,” and describes “the soft noise of your voice in my ear” in “go ahead.” In “landscape,” she writes, “The landscape of your softened face” becomes “A mouthful of heaven.” Loss is the motif, however, in “going west,” with “nothing left but trails of song,” and “All the spent days/ I cannot gather back” in “spent.”

In “Other Tragedies,” the second 25 poems in Ms. Baird’s collection, the poet prepares the reader for battle, asking, “Who will end up bloodied?” in “amor.” Yet love can still provide consolation, and she closes “nightfall” with the reminder that “Each other is all we have.” The same physical intimacy that characterizes the work in “Valentines” appears in “Other Tragedies.” Exploring the connections between passing clouds and the pain of love’s disappointments, “night and day” suggests “Synapses fire up an electrical storm,/ Frontal cortex recollections/ Forming void of course.”

Missing most often from these poems are narrative and declarative exposition, so it comes as a surprise when “wailing across my white stone flesh” begins with the simple statement, “I still cry when I am sad,” and later continues with “And who we care for, we make them cry, too.” Midway through this poem the narrator declares, “My first ten years were full of rain.” Occasional grammatical lapses like “Laying down in the tall grass of Colorado” suggest that “Valentines and Other Tragedies” might have benefited from more rigorous editing, but readers will find themselves savoring the poet’s gift for joining unusual and unexpected images.

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Ian McKellen stars as Sherlock Holmes in “Mr. Holmes.” – Photo courtesy BBC Films

Sherlock Holmes has been entertaining detective story enthusiasts since the first of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels about the legendary figure was published in 1887. The latest cinematic entry, “Mr. Holmes,” plays this weekend at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center. “Very Semi-Serious,” a documentary about the New Yorker’s celebrated cartoons, plays Friday, July 24, at the Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center in Oak Bluffs as part of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival.

In “Mr. Holmes,” the year is 1947, and Sherlock, played by Ian McKellen, has reached his 90s. Now retired, he lives in the Sussex countryside, cared for by a crusty housekeeper, Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney), and her son Roger (Milo Parker). Roger, an avid fan of the master detective, helps him care for his bees, which are mysteriously dying off. Sherlock’s memory has deteriorated, and he obsesses about his final case, and the visit he has just made to Japan — a devastated Hiroshima in particular — at the end of World War II.

With Roger as our surrogate, we learn that Sherlock never wore a deerstalker hat or smoked a pipe. Those were literary inventions of his colleague Dr. Watson. We are seeing Holmes not so much as the fabled detective but as a solitary, lonely figure struggling with end-of-life decline. The final case from many years ago that haunts Holmes concerns a woman (Hattie Morahan) who plays the glass harmonica and who, Holmes thinks, is planning to kill her husband. Young Roger finds a lady’s glove in Holmes’ room that helps the detective begin to piece together what he poignantly got wrong about that final case.

In the meantime, through more flashbacks, we see Holmes travel to Japan in search of prickly ash, a tonic he hopes will restore his memory and vigor. There he meets with botanist Masuo Umesaki (Zak Shukor), who discovers the tree in the bombed-out wasteland that Hiroshima has become. Umesaki questions Holmes about Umesaki’s father, who abandoned the botanist’s family and whom the detective knew.

Director Condon challenges the audience to understand the potential and symbolic connections among these plotlines. “Mr. Holmes” is not an easy, feel-good film about the popular detective, but its complexities, aided by Mr. McKellen’s superbly nuanced performance, prove a satisfying addition to the legend surrounding Sherlock Holmes.

The New Yorker and its cartoons

In her documentary, “Very Semi-Serious,” director Leah Wolchok explores, with enjoyable thoroughness, the history and place of cartoons in the nation’s foremost literary magazine, the New Yorker. She ties together the film by following the career of cartoon editor Bob Mankoff. “Imagine yourself on another planet,” Mr. Mankoff says to explain the perspective a cartoonist takes. “It is just having fun.”

very-semi-serious-logo_thefoxisblack.jpgEvery Tuesday cartoonists, hoping to sell their work to the magazine, show up at Mankoff’s office. The editor sorts through some 1,000 entries to select the 15 that will end up being published. Editor David Remnick has the final say, and assistant editor Kelly Stout, considering the cartoonists’ gender, diversity, and age, picks the mix for the week.

The audience meets many of the cartoonists whose work appears in the New Yorker, including veteran Mort Gerberg, and Roz Chast, one of the few and first women (she now has published 1,231 cartoons), and hears about celebrated figures like Charles Addams and Peter Arno. Viewers learn about the long-gone golden age of cartoons, when many different magazines published cartoons. Particularly interesting is to learn that cartoons have been an important component of the New Yorker since its beginnings.

“They’re how I process what’s happening to me,” explains one cartoonist. Mr. Mankoff suggests, “What it wants is a grain of truth,” and adds, “Being funny is like being awake. You’re in the world and you’re out of it.”

“Mr. Holmes,” Friday, July 24, Saturday, July 25, and Tuesday, July 28, 7:30 pm. Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, Tisbury Marketplace, Vineyard Haven. For tickets and information, see mvfilmsociety.com.

“Very Semi-Serious,” special Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival screening on Friday, July 24, 7:30 pm, Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School Performing Arts Center, Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road, Oak Bluffs. For tickets and information, see tmvff.org.

 

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"In My Father's House" chronicles the relationship between Che “Rhymefest” Smith and his father, Brian Tillman. – Photo courtesy tribecafilm.com

Che “Rhymefest” Smith grew up in the hood in Chicago without a father. After building a career as a Grammy-winning songwriter with his teenaged friend Kanye West, and Oscar-winning co-songwriter for Glory in “Selma,” he set out to find his father, who had abandoned him as a child. Directors Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg narrate the story of their developing relationship in “In My Father’s House.” The documentary plays Monday, July 20, in Union Chapel, Oak Bluffs, as part of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival’s summer series. Che will perform before the screening, and he, along with his wife Donnie Smith, his father Brian Tillman, and the directors, will lead a post-film discussion.

in-my-fathers-house-poster-2.jpg“In My Father’s Houseacquired its title from the fact that the rapper decided to try and locate his homeless, alcoholic father after purchasing the Chicago house that had belonged to him. The film opens with listings of the grim statistics on fathers’ absence from the family: single-parent households have tripled since 1960; fatherless youth make up 60 percent of youth suicides; fatherless youth are 71 percent of high school dropouts; and fatherless children account for 90 percent of homeless and runaway children.

Che’s father Brian is a likeable derelict, whom Che meets up with at a Chicago library. The singer quickly takes his dad under his wing; he gets him to stop drinking, finds a home for him, and brings him into his household. It’s a story of almost miraculous recovery and the fulfillment of a dream for Che of a reunited family. But dreams are not the same as reality, and Brian fails to sustain his son’s ambitious plans for him. The story, however, does not end there.

“In My Father’s Housenarrates a compelling story of how this successful singer reaches into his past to rebuild his relationship with his father and repair his family. It is a powerful story, the significance of which reverberates well beyond Che “Rhymefest” Smith and his father Brian Tillman.

 

“In My Father’s House,” Monday, July 20, 7:30 p.m. The M.V. Film Festival, Union Chapel, 55 Narraganset Avenue, Oak Bluffs. For information and tickets, see tmvff.org.