Authors Posts by Brooks Robards

Brooks Robards


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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

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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.

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"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

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"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

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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

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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

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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.

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"Chilmark Store" by Ed Keating. — Edward Keating

Photographer Ed Keating, who divides his time between New York City and Chilmark, brings his Vineyard photographs to Island Images Gallery in Oak Bluffs this weekend. The Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer worked for The New York Times for 12 years and has since become a freelance artist, publishing his work in magazines such as Time, Rolling Stone, W, Interview, and New York.

A photograph of the 2013 Agricultural Fair by Mr. Keating.
A photograph of the 2013 Agricultural Fair by Mr. Keating.

A Martha’s Vineyard summer visitor for the past 10 years, Mr. Keating started photographing here this year. “For years I had a tough time photographing Martha’s Vineyard because I’m a street photographer,” he said in a telephone interview last weekend. “Up here represented something very different.”

For the Vineyard, Mr. Keating shifted to an easier-going style, emphasizing natural forms. He and his wife, Carrie Boretz, also a photographer and a collaborator with her husband, first took their work to the Chilmark Flea Market and have started doing Island wedding photography as well. According to National Geographic electronic publishing editor David Griffin, Mr. Keating’s New York Times wedding photography changed the way weddings are photographed.

For the Island Images exhibit, Mr. Keating is displaying a combination of on- and off-Island work in both black and white and color. In both cases, his photos reflect an urban sensibility. One image of a ride at the Agricultural Fair brings color photography close to black and white with its pattern of black cables and metal arms seen from the back of a woman wearing a black and white polka dot shirt and a wide-brimmed straw hat hanging down her back. In another Ag Fair shot, two children aim rifles at an unseen target.

One of Mr. Keating’s black-and-white images portrays a dog stretched out above a sign reading “No Dogs on Porch” and in front of a clutter of flower containers and a watering can on the porch at the Chilmark Store. In “Empty House, Vineyard Haven,” Mr. Keating highlights not a pretty, freshly painted, flower-bedecked building but one in which the peeling clapboards create a strong black-and-white pattern. One of his more lyrical shots, titled “Featherstone, Oak Bluffs,” depicts a pattern of bare branches bathed in sun and shadows, with the suggestion of green foliage in the background. “Pollock Floor” portrays a riot of vibrant abstract pattern of primarily orange and red spots, while “Painter, Aquinnah” creates a beautifully balanced composition of a painter’s canvas and the landscape it draws from. A black-and-white study of tourists inside the Statue of Liberty reflects a powerful union of composition, movement, and iconography.

Julian Wise, who opened Island Images Gallery a year ago next to Vineyard Vines in the former Jaba Gallery at the head of Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs, met Mr. Keating’s wife while walking his dog at Squibnocket. After Ms. Boretz told him about her husband’s work and their mutual desire to get a foothold into the Island art scene, Mr. Wise checked Mr. Keating’s website. “My jaw dropped,” he said. “He is a master of composition with a strong narrative style. His work has almost a musical quality.”

Mr. Wise said that Mr. Keating’s Island photography provides a strong contrast to his New York images. The gallery owner is considering collaborating with Mr. Keating to publish a book of his work. “He’s a funny, delightful, interesting guy,” Mr. Wise said.

“Ed Keating, Photographer,” opening reception Friday, July 18, 5 to 7 pm. Island Images Gallery, Oak Bluffs. Show runs through July 25 with selected images on view throughout the summer. For more information, visit

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— Jean Claude Lother

Two of the Island’s independent film venues are screening documentaries this weekend, and the Hebrew Center’s Summer Institute Film Series presents the French farce, “What’s In A Name.”

behind-scenes-Case-Against-8.jpg“The Case Against 8,” a narrative of the fight to rescind California’s anti-gay marriage proposition, plays on Thursday, July 17, at the Harbor View Hotel as part of The Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival’s program. After the screening, directors Ben Cotner and Ryan White will lead a discussion moderated by former Congressman Barney Frank.

The Martha’s Vineyard Film Center opens two new documentaries this week. “An Honest Liar” presents a portrait of magician James “The Amazing” Randi who seeks to uncover fraudulent psychic and paranormal tricks; and “Newburg Sting” is a new film by Islanders Kate Davis and David Heilbroner about FBI persecution of a Muslim community. Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut” comes to the Center on Tuesday, July 22, as part of the Center’s Opera in Cinema Series.

In March 2013, California passed Proposition 8, which repealed the state’s marriage equality act. “The Case Against 8” presents an incisive exploration of the campaign to restore marital equality. Mr. Cotner and Mr. White’s film follows how two gay couples — Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, Kristin Perry and Sandy Stier — committed themselves to overturn the initiative that ousted California’s same-sex marriage legislation.

By focusing much of the documentary on the two couples, their children, and extended families, the directors shed light on how similar the lives of gay couples are to those of heterosexual couples. Mr. Katami and Mr. Zarrillo wanted to marry so that if they have children, their offspring will have the same rights as those of opposite sex parents. Both Ms. Stier and Ms. Perry have sons from previous heterosexual relationships, and the film provides solid evidence for how normal and well-adjusted the lesbian couple’s children are.Case-Against-8.jpg

Another important element of “The Case Against 8” comes in its portraits of the lawyers pursuing the gay couples’ lawsuit. Both Ted Olson and David Boies had participated in the Bush-Gore 2000 election litigation brought before the U.S. Supreme Court, but were on politically opposite sides. The film calls Mr. Olson the most prominent conservative lawyer in America, an illustration of how irrelevant political leanings became to the struggle in California for same-sex marriage.

Although “The Case Against 8” provides plenty of evidence on how vicious the anti-gay marriage lobby could be, its message is primarily positive, documenting how our nation has shifted its cultural values in ways that support gay rights. Also part of TMVFF’s summer series is the children’s animated film “Frozen” playing Friday, July 18, at Owen Park in Vineyard Haven and including a pre-film sing-along. “Fishing Without Nets,” a drama about a Somali who pursues then rejects piracy, plays Wednesday, July 23, at the Chilmark Community Center, and director Cutter Hodierne will answer questions after the screening

A magician debunks magic

Tyler Mason’s documentary, “An Honest Liar” is a multi-faceted examination of one man’s efforts to use his own magic skills to uncover the deceptions practiced by a variety of psychic and paranormal figures. Along the way, the film adds a portrait of Mr. Randi’s partner, Jose Alvarez.

“I’m a liar, a cheat and a charlatan,” Mr. Randi proclaims. Unlike other magician/escape artists, though, he uses his skills to entertain. Directors Tyler Measom and Justin Weinstein use “An Honest Liar” to explore many types of deceivers, some of whom even succeed at fooling scientists from institutions like the Stanford Research Institute. One psychokinesis practitioner, Israeli Uri Geller, appears to be able to bend spoons and locate objects in a bevy of separate boxes. Faith healer Peter Popoff dupes people into filling his pockets with money by professing to cure them. Mr. Randi shows how this scoundrel gets away with his illusions.

In an interesting ancillary to Mr. Randi’s campaign against using deception to conceal instead of reveal, “An Honest Liar” follows the arrest and trial of Mr. Alvarez.

“We all spin personal narratives,” Mr. Randi says by way of explanation. “At the end of the day there is nothing to reveal.” Yet another surprising part of the film shows how many of the charlatans that Randi exposes reinvent themselves and continue to practice their deceptions.

Also playing at the Film Center next week are two Oscar-winning shorts, “Thoth,” and “Marjoe.” Filmmaker Sarah Kernochan will answer
whats-in-a-name-still-2.jpgquestions after the screening.

The Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center’s film playing this weekend at the M.V. Film Center is “What’s in a Name?” Alexandre de la Patelliere’s and Matthieu Delaporte’s farce concerns a family that announces the name for their soon-to-be-born baby at a dinner party with unexpected results.

“The Case Against 8,” Thursday, July 17, 8 pm, M.V. Film Festival, Harbor View Hotel, Edgartown.

“An Honest Liar,” Thursday, July 17, and Friday, July 18, 7:30 pm, M.V. Film Center, Vineyard Haven.

“What’s in a Name,” Hebrew Center Summer Institute Film Series, Sunday, July 20, 7:30 pm, M.V. Film Center.

“Thoth” and “Marjoe,” Oscar-winning shorts, Wednesday, July 23, 7:30 pm, M.V. Film Center, Vineyard Haven.  For tickets and information, visit for M.V. Film Festival films and for M.V. Film Center films, including the M.V. Hebrew Center’s Summer Institute film series.

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At center is Jessica Pisano's landscapes in acrylic and oil, with silver and gold leaf. — Michael Cummo

West Tisbury’s Field Gallery has brought together three very different but equally compelling artists in their latest exhibit.

Providence painter David Witbeck, who is showing at the gallery for the first time, creates oil paintings of fish, fishermen, and boats that are boldly simplified in primary colors. Jessica Pisano, who grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and now lives in Newport, R.I., has on exhibit a series of richly textured landscapes in acrylic and oil with silver and gold leaf. Chilmark resident David Geiger works in the unusual medium of glass panels, and rather than painting on glass, uses glass granules to depict such familiar Island scenes as the cliffs at Lucy Vincent Beach, the Gay Head cliffs, and the Chilmark brickyard. Ms. Pisano, who has operated galleries in Vineyard Haven and Edgartown, last appeared at The Field Gallery in 1998; Mr. Geiger has also exhibited his work there.

Three of David Geiger's glass panel pieces.
Three of David Geiger’s glass panel pieces.

Mr. Witbeck, who grew up in upstate New York, has had an attraction to salt water and fishing boats since childhood. After spending 25 years as a freelance photographer, he returned to painting. “Having been a photographer for more than three decades, the greatest joy I have as a painter is freedom from ‘reality’,” he has said. Working like a cartoonist, he enjoys twisting, stretching, exaggerating, and simplifying what he sees. A good example of how these forces work for him is in “Split Rock,” a marine scape strikingly familiar to the large rock formation off Lambert’s Cove Beach. According to gallery director Jennifer Pillsworth, Mr. Witbeck had not seen the Lambert’s Cove rock before painting his similar vision. Yet the humorous fishermen holding outsized fish that he depicts in paintings such as “Brandon” and “Orville” are portraits of actual people.

“As a young art student I took myself and art way too seriously,” he said in his artist’s statement. “I still take my art seriously, but my serious intent is to create something that’s well designed and entertaining to look at.”

"Split Rock," an oil on canvas by David Witbeck.
“Split Rock,” an oil on canvas by David Witbeck.

Ms. Pisano concentrates on trees and woodland-framed water scenes executed in a palette of warm winter browns enhanced with 23-carat gold leaf. Her work is often textured with a handmade paste she makes from marble dust that creates the illusion of gently breaking waves, as in “Deference” and “Gilded Shores.” Whether documenting the landscapes that inspire her in photographs or working plein air, this artist seeks to explore notions of time and atmosphere in her evocative work.

Mr. Geiger has written about his interest in science and in particular its artistic dimensions. He says, “From my amazement at the subtle variations in the colors and patterns of the butterflies and moths I collected as a child, or my fascination with the sculptural forms of insects, or floral segments, or the vast array of configurations found in the structures of minerals and crystals, I have always appreciated the artistry of the natural world.” His choice of glass as an artistic medium seems like a natural extension of these ideas. Fused glass that he may fire four, five, or six times allows him to bridge the gap between painting and sculpture in works like “Old Chilmark Brickyard” and “Cliffs at Lucy Vincent.”

David Witbeck, Jessica Pisano, and David Geiger, show runs through July 26, The Field Gallery, West Tisbury. For more information, visit