Shannon Rynd-Ray
Shannon Rynd-Ray sitting at Mocha Mott's in Vineyard Haven beneath the photo of her boyfriend Emilz Rodriquez. Photo by Ralph Stewart

Monthly art at Motts

By Tamar Russell - January 11, 2007

So, who is January?

Every month a different artist displays their work on the walls at Mocha Mott's in both Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs. Meredith Gallo and Tim Dobel bought the O.B. Mocha Mott's in June of 2001, and at that point the monthly art exhibition structure was already in effect. Now with two stores, both cafés benefit from this monthly artistic endeavor. This month Heather Jardin has her paintings in Oak Bluffs and Shannon Rynd-Ray's work is in Vineyard Haven.

Due to the fact that the waiting list for artists was so long, Ms. Gallo cut it down and tries to keep it between six to 12 months. Often artists will disappear, so she keeps other folks on the sidelines as fill-ins. This month both artists are fill-ins.

They are flexible with the artists as to when the art goes up and comes down, but generally it is the first day of the month until the last.

The only artists Mott's will accept are local artists. "We are a café for the people," Meredith Gallo said, "and we want to promote what is local." For many artists, it is their first time to display anywhere. Usually the artists do really well, selling some if not all of their work.

Some of the artists that have gone through the two cafés are Dave Miller, Nicole Friedler, Tim Johnson, Rocky Vitalie, Heather Robins, Rob J. Chaunce, and Claire Lindsey.

One of the January 2007 artists is Shannon Rynd-Ray, a 2005 graduate of Bennington College in Vermont, where she studied photography, after graduating from Martha's Vineyard Regional High School in 2001.

Her work is done with a Hasselblad camera and natural lighting. She has the film developed, scans the images to make them digital, and then has huge prints created by a company in Vermont that produces large billboard ads for New York City.

Currently Ms. Rynd-Ray is home to make some money to further her photo work in New York where she interned from January to May of 2006 with David LaChapelle, a photographer who began with Andy Warhol and who is sought out by celebrities from the Beastie Boys to Tori Amos because his photographic distortion of reality takes images to an intense surreal level.

Her goals range from artistic documentation, for example an African volunteer experience working with kids, to fashion photography. She hopes to work again with David LaChapelle or be part of the crew on a fashion magazine, like Vogue, where she knows camera crews from her time in the city plugging her own work. She is certain that working on a fashion set or again with a photographer, will enable her to expand her knowledge of lighting techniques. She is currently working up a portfolio, aiming to be a city girl again by the fall.

Last Tuesday Ms. Rynd-Ray walked into Mocha Mott's and Meredith Gallo asked if she had any work to put up since their January artist was MIA. Ms. Rynd-Ray agreed.

The body of work on display at Mott's was shown once before at Hastings in the Alley in the summer of 2004. She has also shown at Featherstone, Vineyard Lights, and with Ruth Abrams. She has a new black-and-white piece, never before shown, that will be in the Scottish Bakehouse's new establishment on Main Street in Vineyard Haven called Che's Lounge, when it opens this month.

Ms. Rynd-Ray said that since she was a wee girl of 12 she has wanted to be a photographer. She has been consistent, working to support her craft, for the past two months as a landscaper, saying she is, "determined to make it happen."

Her favorite piece at Mott's is near the cream station. It is a picture of her friend Dylan and a child named Grace. But the piece itself has no name. Ms. Rynd-Ray said she doesn't name her pieces because she wants them to "create their own story" and not give the viewer preconceived ideas based on a title.

This lack of names gives the viewer ample space to move mentally. The image on the right wall of her New York boyfriend, Emilz Rodriquez, whom she met in college, is a perfect example. With his handsome dark features and the blurriness of the rest of the image, the viewer can attach their own place, situation, and even nationality to the person in the photo and the entire image.

Her inspiration came early from Sally Mann, the Virginian photographer known for her controversial private images of her children. "I like the beauty in awkwardness, weirdness," she said when describing her work in relation to Sally Mann's. She has attempted to create that without too much planning (though the nude at the café was planned). "If I think to much about it, it usually doesn't happen." A good example of this is the first piece immediately on the left upon entrance to Mott's, also a photo of her friend Dylan that was not planned.

Her attraction to "strangeness in beauty," extracting from creepy things a feeling of beauty, happens only if one looks at things differently. This is what Ms. Rynd-Ray is all about capturing. It is apparent she has succeeded and we are able to view it all thanks to Mott's.

Mocha Mott's patrons can look forward to a month of Island student work in February.