A resplendent goldfinch among lush flowers, by Dennis Witnauer. Photos by Ralph Stewart
A resplendent goldfinch among lush flowers, by Dennis Witnauer. Photos by Ralph Stewart

Bird song at Dragonfly

By Pat Waring - September 21, 2006

A flock of fanciful birds landed at the Dragonfly Gallery in Oak Bluffs last weekend, filling the intimate space with a lighthearted feathery spirit. In works by Chilmark artist Jackie Mendez-Diez and Dennis Witnauer from New York, the colorful creatures soared, perched, and pecked, exuding pronounced personality. Ms. Mendez-Diez paints birds with attitude - feisty, plump, bright-eyed beings that stare at the viewer, making a silent statement, or hover on powerful wings. A vibrant bluebird sits motionless, the bright red berry in his beak echoing the shape of his jet black eye. A dark raven-like bird hunches mysteriously; another, a dramatic golden cedar waxwing strikes a no-nonsense pose. Others seem soft and cuddly. She uses oil paints on wood panel with generous brush strokes, molding the birds so one can nearly feel the soft layers of feathers and the quick heartbeat within.

Dennis Witnauer painted this trio of songbirds. Photo by Ralph Stewart
Dennis Witnauer painted this trio of songbirds.

Mr. Witnauer's are far more lyrical, more realistic and detailed, yet far from being everyday portraits. His birds become design elements, their shape and color part of an overall pattern. In a unique pairing, the aritst uses specially treated print fabric as his background, painting the birds on the intricate designs of branches, flowers, even plaids. A robust cardinal is surrounded by roses, a delicate young robin perches among pastel pink branches.

Unfortunately the exhibit contains only a handful of the young artist's works, as nine pieces were lost in the mail. He is anxiously hoping they will be retrieved.

Echoing the bird theme were whimsical ceramics by William O'Callaghan. Lanny McDowell hung a trio of gleaming acrylics including a burst of seabirds above the surf, and tiny birds in silhouette flying across a super-saturated blue night sky. The show continues through Sept. 24.