Authors Posts by Brooks Robards

Brooks Robards


"Bike Rentals," an oil on linen by Jeanne Staples. — Jeanne Staples

Edgartown painter Jeanne Staples brings a medley of landscapes, figurative paintings, and other subjects to her new show at West Tisbury’s Granary Gallery. Joining her are award-winning Vineyard photographer Bob Avakian and jewelry designer Ross Coppelman. Their show continues through August 30.

Photographer Bob Avakian poses in front of his work on display at the Granary Gallery.
Photographer Bob Avakian poses in front of his work on display at the Granary Gallery.

Ms. Staples’s landscapes are distinguished by the frequent inclusion of houses and other buildings. Combined with evening settings that include brightly lit window squares, her recent work often recalls Edward Hopper. “Nightfall at Flying Horses” hangs a big sky over the oversized Oak Bluffs shed. Even in those paintings that are pure landscape, this artist’s work evokes the absence of people. Paintings such as “Path to Sengekontacket” and “Salt Grass” emphasize strong and pleasing patterns of light and shade. Stone walls serve as strong compositional elements in “Stone Fence,” “Stonewall,” and “Stonewall to Stonewall.” It’s also interesting to note that for her painting “Up-island Forsythia,” Ms. Staples chooses not to depict the signature yellow of this springtime shrub.

Some of Ms. Staples’s handsome larger paintings articulate the unusual combinations of light that are so characteristic of the Vineyard. In “Weather from the South–Southwest,” the reddish-purple color of clouds is reflected in the siding of the houses in the painting. “Workboats at the Reading Room” uses the water surface and light-colored skiffs to echo the region’s powerful light.

Ms. Staples, who studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Arts and is a member of the Copley Society of Art in Boston, includes “Mutoscope #114,” an anomalous piece of vintage peep-show machinery that the artist collaborated on with Chilmark woodworker Andy Palmer.  The Mutoscope is a variation on the kind of flipbooks and nickelodeons that create the illusion of motion and predate the motion picture. In addition Ms. Staples has created a series of 14 paintings of the equines from The Flying Horses. “Andy is part craftsman, part artist, and part crazy inventor,” Ms. Staples says in her artist’s statement. “It was a joy to work with him.”

Jeweler Ross Coppleman, here with Janice McBride, showed off his wares during the three artist showing at the Granary Gallery.
Jeweler Ross Coppleman, here with Janice McBride, showed off his wares during the three artist showing at the Granary Gallery.

Vineyard photographer Bob Avakian uses his camera to make powerful images that fit well with Ms. Staples’s oil paintings. He has put on exhibit a series of photographs shot at night that often pay tribute to star-studded skies without over sentimentalizing them. “A Cape Cod Night” depicts its large evening sky predominantly in dark yellow with stars that are small streaks of white. In “Night Mist,” stars are blurred stripes of light in a dark sky that dominates the photograph, while a bank of mist hangs low above a field and the house next to it. The stars in “My Back Yard” are bright dots in the night sky.

Strong lights dot many of this photographer’s compositions, usually executed in a square format, but it’s not always clear what their source is, as in the case of “Into the Light.” “King of the Hill” depicts the silhouette of a horse, his neck arched and tail swirling, as if caught in the act of prancing. It comes as a surprise and helps the viewer appreciate the solitary nature of most of Mr. Avakian’s compositions.

Harvard-trained jewelry artist Ross Coppelman says, “I use traditional materials in a nontraditional way. My designs travel in time between Egypt and the year 2000.” Mr. Coppelman has on display a variety of bracelets and bangles in 18-carat gold or sterling silver, necklaces, and earrings, many studded with precious and semi precious stones, including diamonds, turquoise, onyx, and aquamarine. Mr. Coppelman draws for inspiration from Roman, Aztec, and Byzantine art, as well as Egyptian design elements. One of his most striking creations is a tidal flats ring made with hematite and diamonds. He trained with Cape Cod jeweler Bernie Kelly and has a showroom at Sunflower Marketplace in Yarmouth Port. Up to almost half of his jewelry is one of a kind, with the rest produced in limited editions.

Jeanne Staples, Bob Avakian and Ross Coppelman show, Granary Gallery, West Tisbury. Show runs through August 30. For information, call 508-693-0455 or visit

— Matt Lankes / IFC

Director Richard Linklater’s new film, “Boyhood,” opens at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center this weekend. One of the superstars from the 1990s Indie movement, Mr. Linklater is probably best known for his trio of films about a couple, played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, who meet on a train in Europe and fall in love in “Before Sunrise,” (1995); renew their romance nine years later in “Before Sunset,” (2004); and, most recently, continue their seasoned relationship after 20 years together in “Before Midnight” (2013).

A highly versatile director, Mr. Linklater has produced comedies like “Bad News Bears” (2005), “School of Rock” (2003) and his breakout film, “Slacker” (1991); as well as documentaries including “Fast Food Nation” (2006). Linklater fiction films tend to take place over 24 hours and be set in Texas, where the director was born, grew up, and returned after working on an oil rig.

In “Boyhood” the director tries a new approach, following the life of Mason  Jr., played by Ellar Coltrane, from the age of five to 18. Mason lives with his mother, played by Patricia Arquette, and his sister Samantha, played by the director’s daughter, Lorelei Linklater. Mason’s dad –– divorced from his mom –– is played by frequent Linklater cast member Ethan Hawke. Viewers will enjoy the remarkable experience of watching not just Mason Jr., but the actor who plays him, grow up before their eyes, since the film was shot over 12 years.

Mr. Linklater masterfully depicts the messy but loving dynamics of a Texas-based, Middle-America family. Mom runs through three marriages, gets an advanced degree and a job teaching psychology, and moves the family numerous times over the course of the movie. Viewers will watch how Mason Jr., a dreamy, sensitive boy, reacts to the life-changing experiences thrust upon him and his sister Sam by their parents. His father, Mason Sr., plays an important role in Mason Jr.’s life, as do his mother’s other husbands and the stepsiblings who move in and out of his world.

As Mason Jr., moves toward adulthood, the viewers see him struggle with his responses to his experiences and to the decisions that arise over the 12 years covered by the film. Shooting from 2002 to 2013, Mr. Linklater brought the cast together annually, and, in effect, first created a series of 10 to 12 short films, each representing another year in Mason Jr.’s life and that of his family. Amazingly enough, the entire film was shot in 39 days over 12 years’ time. Rather than rely on the conventional Hollywood melodrama formula, “Boyhood’s” two-and-a-half hours unfold in an episodic format. As such, the movie establishes the deeply satisfying kind of intimacy that comes from the serial nature of the best TV shows.

“Serendipity: The Story of Tony Hussein Hinde,” Thursday, August 21, 8 pm, The Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival, Harbor View Hotel, Edgartown. For tickets and information, visit

 “Boyhood,” Friday, August 22; Saturday, August 23; Monday, August 25; Tuesday, August 26, 7:30 pm, M.V. Film Society, Vineyard Haven. $12; $9 members; $7 under 14. For tickets and information, visit

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

Hatmaker Xavier Blum of Artesano. — Brooks Robards

Michael Hunter, who built a following in the Island art scene for mixing wearable art with more traditional art forms at his gallery PIKNIK Art and Apparel in the Oak Bluffs Arts District, has brought together seven out-of-the-ordinary artisans this week for Propaganda, an Invited Artisanal Expo, at his new Edgartown location.

Now called Mikel Hunter, his gallery and store also includes paintings and art by Dan VanLandingham, Lauren Coggins-Tuttle, and Terry Crimmen. The Expo runs through Thursday, August 14.

Seattle-based designer Seth Damm creates striking Neon Zinn necklaces out of organic cotton rope from Pennsylvania. After dyeing the rope, he ties and twists it into unique, one-of-a-kind shapes.

Michael Hunter, left, wearing Hardenco jeans with Josh Westbrook of the Brothers Crisp and his handmade shoes
Michael Hunter, left, wearing Hardenco jeans, with Josh Westbrook of the Brothers Crisp and his handmade shoes

Joshua Benjamin Westbrook of The Brothers Crisp specializes in handmade shoes, some models of which have been designed especially for Mr. Hunter.

Hardenco is the trade name for Luke Davis’s Hartford Denim Co., which transforms blue jeans into idiosyncratic aesthetic statements. Mr. Davis grew up summers on Abel’s Hill in Chilmark.

Xavier Blum represents Artesano, an Ecuadoran collective that produces hand-made hats of Carludovica palmata. Known as Panama hats because they became popular in that country in the 19th century, these creations are Ecuadoran. Many models take months to create, and Artesano partners with the nonprofit organization Techno to fund workers in communities across 19 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean from a portion of the cost of each hat.

Located in the Oak Bluffs Arts District, Kenworthy Designs is displaying its clothes from Studioshop – Flowers and Fashion.

Laura Wass of WXYZ, who makes metal sculpture, headpieces, and leggings as well, has jewelry on view, as does Stash Style.

Mr. Hunter emphasizes that the artisans at his Expo are not normally found on the Island, and their goods provide examples of “real things not made in China.”

Propaganda: Invited Artisanal Expo, Mikel Hunter Gallery & Store, Edgartown. Show runs through August 14. For more information, visit

Norfleet. Raccoon&Car

Defenders of Wildlife executive Michael Senatore will speak Sunday, August 10, at a Gay Head Gallery reception featuring the work of artists Jennifer Christy, Enos Ray, Barbara Norfleet, Matthew Smith, and John Nickerson Ahearn. Mr. Senatore is Vice President for Conservation Law at the Washington-based organization.

In The Abstract Wild: Wilderness Lost?, each of the featured artists will donate a portion of sales from their work to Defenders of Wildlife. This is the second year Aquinnah’s Gay Head Gallery has sponsored a Defenders of Wildlife fundraiser.

Mr. Senatore’s areas of expertise include federal environmental and natural resources law, endangered species and wildlife law, biodiversity conservation, water and marine resources, federal lands, administrative procedure, and federal legislation. He has been a public interest environmental attorney for more than 15 years, and he will speak on environmental policy and regulation.

The title for the new show comes from nature writer Jack Turner’s book “The Abstract Wild,” in which the author suggests that our overall contact with wilderness is endangered and that ecosystem management is a sham. He also argues that control of grizzly and wolf populations is at best a travesty.

Each of the artists in the gallery’s new show presents work that relates in some way to wilderness. Chilmark’s Jennifer Christy’s large-scale, abstract acrylic paintings draw inspiration from the natural world. In her artist’s statement on her website, she writes, “I have, from the beginning, been drawn to following the contours of the shoreline, the patterns of the wind on the water surface and the silhouettes of vegetation and cliffs, ancient hills and glacial rocks.”

West Tisbury painter Enos Ray draws from his experience with jazz musicians and the landscapes of the South as they express wilderness. One of his most striking paintings in the exhibit shows the antics of fishermen cavorting on the shores of a river with a spray-painted overlay of mist.

Photographer and Island summer resident Barbara Norfleet displays her dramatic images of Vineyard swamps and wildlife, and Mr. Smith, his copperplate etchings of marine wildlife. Mr. Ahearn’s meticulous detailed landscapes will be on display, as well as Vineyard Haven painter Rose Abrahamson’s abstract painting of birds, “Loud Thing Cuckoo.” The exhibit runs through September 2.

The Abstract Wild: Wilderness Lost? reception and talk by Michael Senatore, 5 to 7 pm,  Sunday, August 10, Gay Head Gallery, Aquinnah. For more information, call 508-645-2776.

"Sengekontacket" by Mark Zeender. — Mark Zeender

Washington-based painter Mark Zeender brings a stunning palette of burnt sienna, tangerine, and amber to his handsome abstract landscapes now on display at Cousen Rose Gallery in Oak Bluffs through Friday, August 1.

“I’m a modern painter,” he said. “I’m not concerned with the ‘lie of depth.’ I’m concerned with the picture plane and the texture of the surface.” Many of his oil paintings display a band of midnight blue water at their base, then open up to orange skies with subtle variations of texture and color in, for example, a painting titled “Everything Has the Color of Dawn.” Inspired by Impressionists Turner and Whistler, Mr. Zeender both celebrates and re-invents the Island’s unique light with his unusual choice of palette. The works of Pierre Bonnard and Mark Rothko from the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C. have also inspired him.

Other paintings by this artist utilize a blue palette that enriches the artist’s compositions of sky, land, and water. “Prelude” variegates its blues, executed in oil on arches of paper, a medium usually reserved for watercolor. This artist excels at both smaller canvases such as “Sengekontacket” and “Sepiessa with Moon” and large-scale paintings such as “Prelude.” His larger works flood the eyes with color, offering a welcome break from the green palettes of so many Vineyard landscapes. “Belle Isle,” with its delicate build-up of light pigments, conveys the illusion of city lights ranging above the water. Also on exhibit are some of his still lifes of flowers, resonant with color.

Wanda Wiggins, Ekua & Denmark open on August 2

Arriving at Cousen Rose on August 2, artist Wanda Wiggins will display her mixed media work next to collages by Ekua Holmes and James Denmark.

In celebration of Cousen Rose’s 35th anniversary, Anne Palmer, author of “The Gifted Trap: Emerge from Gifted to Great” will discuss what it means to be gifted at the gallery’s Saturday, August 2 reception. “As the daughter of a Tuskegee airman, I take great pride in perpetuating my father’s legacy of claiming greatness,” Ms. Palmer has written. “For 35 years Zita Cousens has been contributing to the rich history of Martha’s Vineyard by hosting a diverse collection of artists through the years. I am honored to be one of the 35th anniversary season’s featured artists.” Ms. Palmer will sign her book at the August 2 reception from 7 to 9 pm.

“Mark Zeender: Oil on Canvas,” through Friday, August 1.

Meet the Artists Reception with Ekua Holmes, James Denmark, and Wanda Wiggins, 7–9 pm, Saturday, August 2.

Author’s Book Signing, Anne Palmer, 7–9 pm, Saturday, August 2.

All events at Cousen Rose Gallery, Upper Circuit Ave., Oak Bluffs. For more information, visit

"L'Etang du Chene Maule" by H. Claude Pissarro. — Christina Gallery

Already the Island’s go-to gallery for European as well as American Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art, the Christina Gallery in Edgartown has added substantially to its collection of art from this period. New works on display include a series of 10 original lithographs by French painter Maurice Utrillo, and additions to the gallery’s already extensive holdings of oils, pastels, drawings, etchings, and charcoals by four generations of the Pissarro family.

"Genevieve" by Paulemile Pissarro.
“Genevieve” by Paulemile Pissarro.

“We’ve been developing this collection for 15 to 20 years,” said gallery owner Christina Cook. “It’s important for people to realize you can own a work of a very famous painter. We’ve kept them at a very comfortable price level.” A lot of the works on paper at the gallery, which conventionally are less costly than oil paintings, also appear at retrospectives of these artists.

Ms. Cook and her mother, Liz Cook, visit Paris in the off-season in search of new acquisitions. In the case of Maurice Utrillo, a post-Impressionist French painter famous for his renderings of Montmartre, they were able to acquire the complete series of 10 original lithographs of which the gallery had previously shown three or four. The series ranges from lively views of Montmartre’s famous church, le Sacré Coeur, and the iconic “Musée du Louvre,” to “Notre Dame de Paris, vue de la Seine,” and a winter scene titled “Moulin de la Galette.”

Over the years, the Cooks have developed a working relationship with members of the Pissarro family. Camille Pissarro, the patriarch in four generations of artists, is considered by some art historians to be the dean of French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, influencing Paul Cezanne, Paul Gauguin, Vincent Van Gogh, and August Renoir.

Pissarro suffered from the climate of anti-Semitism in France generated during the Dreyfus Affair (1894-1906), a scandal in which a French artillery officer who was Jewish and Alsatian was falsely accused of treason and imprisoned. Because Pissarro was also Jewish, he avoided appearing in public during this period, often painting scenes from his window. “Café Caracas,” a pencil drawing on paper by Pissarro, is one of Christina’s new Pissarro acquisitions.

New works by five of Pissarro’s sons are also on display. An etching, “Children,” by Lucien, the oldest of the five Pissarro sons, although not new to the gallery’s inventory, has an appealingly compact composition. New to the gallery’s holdings is a striking charcoal, “Grey Cat,” by Georges Henri Manzana Pissarro, offers allusions to Asian art. Yet another strong work is the etching “Two Horses Grazing” by Felix Pissarro, who died at age 23. It represents the first work the gallery has acquired by this artist and is executed from the unusual perspective of the horses’ backsides. Ludovic-Rodo Pissarro’s “Honfleur” is an oil on canvas of sailboats moored in the port city near Le Havre.

"Montmartre Le Sacre Couer" by Maurice Utrillo.
“Montmartre Le Sacre Couer” by Maurice Utrillo.

Ludovic-Rodo’s younger brother Paul-Emile has on exhibit “Fleurs,” an oil-on-canvas still life of flowers from the daisy genus, and “Genevieve,” a powerful portrait of a seated woman dressed in green skirt and top. Camille Pissarro’s grandson H. Claude Pissarro is represented by a richly textured and colored 1935 pastel, “Le Pommier en Fleurs.” Recently sold was “La Foret d’Otilia, a pastel by Camille Pissarro’s great granddaughter Lelia.

“Some of these Pissarros are just not getting the recognition post-death that you would expect,” Ms. Cook said. As a result, their prices remain more accessible.

Other works of note in the Christina Gallery’s Post-Impressionist collection include Mary Cassatt’s “Looking into the Hand Mirror,” a dry-point etching so delicately rendered that it looks like a pencil drawing. Because dry-point etchings do not make a deep grove, fewer copies are printed. Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s “Femme nue Assise” is a soft-ground etching, a technique that conveys the illusion of a drawing

The work by Utrillo and the Pissarro family will remain on display through September 15.

On Thursday, August 7, Christina Gallery present “An Evening with Marjorie Mason,” a new exhibit titled “Vineyard Landscapes – New Works.”

The Christina Gallery, 32 North Water St., Edgartown. For more information, visit

Stroll past a horned man made of wood and covered with foliaged along the way. — Michael Cummo

A downpour one Sunday evening didn’t make “The Message of the Butterflies,” currently on exhibit at Polly Hill Arboretum in West Tisbury, any less magical. Potter Bill O’Callaghan and storyteller Robin Tuck have collaborated for the third time to animate the Arboretum’s natural beauty with a modern-day fairy tale narrated through words and sculpture.

Three small dragons in a nest are one of the many things to be found in the Polly Hill art walk.
Three small dragons in a nest are one of the many things to be found in the Polly Hill art walk.

Visitors are invited by Mr. O’Callaghan and Mr. Tuck to follow a “butterfly trail” through the Arboretum. Strategically placed placards tell the story of a special little girl wounded by the mockery of a group of other children. A butterfly named Morfamy guides the girl on a journey of discovery populated by the whimsical sculptures of Mr. O’Callaghan, also known as the Mad Potter, with the Arboretum as their setting.

Inside one thicket of trees, visitors will find a nest of painted clay owls. Elsewhere, trees in the Arboretum are filled with little people, open spaces with troubadours, and Trees of Joy to help the girl forget her sorrow. The story told on the placards, which visitors find by following butterfly ribbon-topped arrow signs, encourages her — and visitors as well — to write their woes on pieces of paper and put them in a special nook that is part tree and part cupboard, which can be opened with a brass key. Inside is where the Secrets of Sorrow are kept.

Part of the story involved castles full of flowers, dragons, and people.
Part of the story involved castles full of flowers, dragons, and people.

As her journey continues, the little girl sprouts wings like a butterfly in a dream-like transformation facilitated by a magic nectar potion in a ceramic cup set on a sculpture table. With help from her Virgilian guide, she comes to understand that life contains times of joy and of sorrow that come and go. Mr. O’Callaghan and Mr. Tuck make inspired use of the Arboretum’s flora to help tell the tale of this little girl’s journey. It is a story to be enjoyed by both children and adults.

“Message of the Butterflies: A Walk Through Imagination,” through August 15, at Polly Hill Arboretum, West Tisbury, open sunrise to sunset. $5 donation encouraged; free for members and children under 12. For more information, visit


Whistling is an art whose time has come, suggests Kate Davis and David Heilbroner in their film, “Pucker Up: The Fine Art of Whistling.”

These filmmakers, who summer in West Tisbury, have two new films playing at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center. In addition to “Pucker Up,” their most recent documentary, “Newburgh Sting,” about an FBI sting operation targeting a New York Muslim community, is currently on HBO and has also played at the Film Center. International World Champion whistler Geert Chatrou from the Netherlands will attend the Thursday, July 24, screening of “Pucker Up” and answer questions.

If “Pucker Up,” seems too odd or not a terribly interesting documentary, nothing could be further from the truth. The world of whistlers is intriguing and entertaining. The film introduces viewers to many interesting whistlers and a variety of whistling genres. Bird whistlers, for instance, understand and imitate the songs of our avian friends with great accuracy. One Long Island whistler retired from the advertising business after 35 years to become a full-time whistler.

“My lips are getting so fat I will no longer be able to puckulate,” bemoans a Key West whistler named Tom.

The narrative structure of “Pucker Up” is built around the 2004 International Whistling Convention held in Louisburg, N.C., and interviews with six of its competitors. Interspersed with them is footage of Elvis Presley whistling in one of his movies, as well as Bing Crosby. And, of course, there are the seven dwarfs from “Snow White.”

“Pucker Up” suggests that whistling was, of necessity, the first musical instrument. In Los Angeles and Detroit, where it’s used as a code for gangs, it is against the law. There are whistling corsairs, whistling arrows, and whistling torpedoes. Whistling techniques include use of the hands, fingers, tongue, lips, throat, and palate. A double whistle reproduces the “ooga” sound of a car horn.

Viewers learn about the Golden Age of Whistling in the 30s and 40s, when people relied more on themselves for their own entertainment. “It’s just this pure wave,” explains one whistler interviewed in “Pucker Up.” “Sound is pressure waves sent through the air.” Many cultures around the world depend on whistling to communicate, and whistling sounds carry well because they occur in a different sound register. As an expression of pure feeling, whistling is a good cure for depression, states the film.

Also playing this week at the Film Center are “Detropia,” a documentary about the woes of Detroit by Heidi Ewing, who will attend the screening, and “Last Days of Vietnam” with director Rory Kennedy in attendance, about the fall of Saigon and subsequent end of the Vietnam War.

TMVFF schedules three documentaries

Chilmark’s Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival will screen three new documentaries this week at a variety of locations. Playing at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown on Thursday, July 24, is “To Be Takei,” about the quest of “Star Trek” actor George Takei for life, liberty, and love.

In a special event at the Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center on Friday, July 25, the Film Festival will show “Fed Up,” the Katie Couric-inspired and summer Vineyarder Laurie David-directed film about the nation’s epidemic of childhood obesity and reliance on sugar products. The following week, Judy and Dennis Shepard, director Michele Josue, and producers Liam McNiff and Arleen McGlade will attend the screening of “Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine,” about the Wyoming gay student who was tortured to death, at the Chilmark Community Center.

The M.V. Hebrew Center’s Summer Institute does not have a film scheduled this weekend.

“Pucker Up: The Fine Art of Whistling,” Thursday, July 24, 7:30 p.m., M.V. Film Center, Vineyard Haven. For tickets and more information, visit

“To Be Takei,” Thursday, July 24, 8 p.m., with TMVFF, Harbor View Hotel, Edgartown. For tickets and more information, visit

“Fed Up,” Friday, July 25, 8 p.m., M. V. Performing Arts Center, Oak Bluffs. For tickets and more information, visit

One of Kara Taylor's oil on panels in the Hull show, 29 by 40 inches. — Kara Taylor

Now in her second summer at the former studio of the late Stanley Murphy, the prolific and protean painter Kara Taylor investigates the boat as a visual metaphor in her latest exhibit, “Hull: In Memoriam.”

Ken MacLean discusses one of the paintings on display with Stephanie Mashek.
Ken MacLean discusses one of the paintings on display with Stephanie Mashek.

Ms. Taylor lost both her father, Bob Taylor, and her grandmother, Geraldine Cronig, over the past year, and the deaths of these two Islanders touched the artist deeply. In her first show of the season, “Altar,” she concentrated on taking objects apart. “I had to deconstruct in order to reconstruct myself,” she wrote about “Altar.” “I have collected many objects in my lifetime, keepsakes that I never planned to part with, but like many things in life, you have to let go, and I began letting go in every way possible.” In doing so, she says she has tried to memorialize the sacred in composite pieces of art.

She described her relationship with her father as a complicated one. Mr. Taylor grew up summers in Hines Point, Vineyard Haven, and as an adult wintered in West Tisbury, working for the Hy Line Ferry Company and living on the Cape in the summer. “He was a real free spirit,” Ms. Taylor said. “Boats are an expression of who he was. He was like the weather, the wind, the ocean — always changing.”

Ms. Taylor’s new exhibit, “Hull,” represents the first time she has painted boats. Since closing her gallery on Main Street in Vineyard Haven, she has occupied a studio that overlooks the Gannon and Benjamin boatyard behind the Tisbury Marketplace. “I started looking at the bodies of these boats,” she said in an interview last weekend. “I started seeing them as coffins, as preserving of the body and its essence,” she said. “A boat is such a beautiful shape. When you get close, you see how complex the shape is.”

While the work Ms. Taylor produced for “Altar” is more about taking things apart and reconstructing them in a new way — about healing and transformation — she suggested, “The boats are more about crossing over. I’ve never felt prouder of a series because it’s so close to my heart.”

She has painted some boats indoors, others outside, and some as suspended without their supports, “so they have this floating feeling of being lifted up,” she explained. Each painting conveys a different feeling. Some are wrapped as if in shrouds. The predominant colors Ms. Taylor employs are earthy greens and a reddish burnt sienna, a palette that reflects what she saw looking at the boatyard near her studio.

One of Ms. Taylor's oil on panels in the Hull show, 22 by 30 inches.
One of Ms. Taylor’s oil on panels in the Hull show, 22 by 30 inches.

Other paintings in the “Hull” series include ropes, which the artist sees as reflecting the tension she felt in her relationship with her father. “They’re also about protection and preservation,” she said. “Boats are covered up in wintertime, and as springtime came around, they were uncovered, so they [my paintings] are about processing grief and impermanence.”

In the eulogy Ms. Taylor gave for her father, she said, “My father was not an artist, but he had this creative genius. He taught me through witnessing the polarity in life…My dad’s quest for truth is my same quest, to merge the intelligence of mind and the intelligence of the heart. These are the lifelong gifts my father has given me.”

Now in her 14th year running a gallery as a Vineyard artist, Ms. Taylor decided to give up her location in Vineyard Haven because she felt her work was suffering from the challenge of keeping the gallery open year-round. “This winter was the first one where I had a studio where I could just paint,” she said. “I think it made a difference. It’s taken a while to figure out the equation of being a gallery owner and an artist — how not to exhaust myself. It can be really tiring exercising both sides of my brain.” Ms. Taylor’s “Hull” exhibit will remain on view until August 17.

“Hull: In Memoriam,” Kara Taylor Gallery, Chilmark. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 11 am to 5 pm. For information, visit or call 508-332-8171.