Dragonfly Gallery bursts into bloom

Dennis Lucas
A bank of high-spirited forsythias painted by Dennis Lucas proclaims "Springtime!" with a joyful shout. Photos by Ralph Stewart

By Pat Waring - May 17, 2007

Spring is always slow to come on Martha's Vineyard and by early May, tantalized and tricked by occasional sunny, warm days in the midst of rain and bluster, Islanders are yearning for the sight of flowers. Holly Alaimo feels that way too, thankfully, and for the past 12 years she has packed her Dragonfly Gallery with blooms of all descriptions and invited the public in. One of the best and brightest flower art shows we can recall, the current exhibit at the Dragonfly offers uniformly high quality and a great variety of media and technique. Best of all, the intimate gallery looks like a garden! While some past shows have shown a number of pieces with a pastoral look, flower-related scenes like garden gates and meadows, this year's offering is really all about flowers. There are big ones, tiny ones, blowsy bursting sensual ones and innocent reserved ones. Some nestle together in bouquets, some stand alone. They soar up from vases, lie quietly on tabletops, flutter in the breeze, and some are even found on quilts and pillows.

Traeger diPietro
Traeger diPietro's exuberant poppies greet guests as they enter Dragonfly.

"The first show is so exciting," said Ms. Alaimo of the season-opening exhibition, still exuberant Sunday afternoon as she strolled through the gallery commenting on her many, many favorites. "It feels so good to be opened."

Ms. Alaimo invites all artists to submit work for the flower-themed show and always receives more than enough. She carefully assesses the work and makes the final decision about which pieces will appear, adjusting the show to her liking. By the time the exhibit is complete, every bit of wall space, beams included, is filled and some pictures even find a home on the floor. Abundance is the watchword.

A quintet of canvases by Traeger diPietro greet viewers when they enter, jaunty flowers popping out like butterflies, swirling and dancing.

"He's bursting with color, he's full of energy," said Ms. Alaimo who will host a show for the artist later this season.

On a far wall, in a more serene mood, are luminous water lilies painted on copper by Nora Charney Rosenbaum. Nearby stands a large watercolor by John Holladay, a tin vase of summer zinnias rendered in fine detail with an illustrator's perfection, and beside it Ellen Lyman's canvas of oversized summer blooms in sunny shades.

Tom Porter
Honeybees would be tempted to dive right into Tom Porter's glowing tulip photo.

Capturing this reviewer's sense of spring to a tee is oil painter Dennis Lucas, whose vivacious forsythias dance, reaching frilly golden branches all this way and that, the trees around it quietly bare with only a hint of buds. In a second, smaller canvas, Mr. Lucas's lilac in bloom evokes the feeling of an old-fashioned country yard, the flowers cascading near a picket fence.

Ted Hewett exhibits a series of rarely seen studies for painted wooden chests. He paints bold, graphic designs in oil on the small wood panels, incorporating flowers in the symmetrical, two-dimensional patterns which combine cool modern definition with friendly antique charm.

Sunflowers are growing everywhere, rowdy ones gathered by Susanna Cerni Price in a coppery ceramic vase with burnished peaches beside it, others sensual and robust, waving beneath a deep blue mid-summer sky in two textural acrylics by Daniel Cooney. And one artist leads viewers to a sunny bed of mini-sunflowers.

Vivian Pratt
A delicate iris by Vivian Pratt, a photograph printed on vellum.

While some images are robust and full of life, others are serene and subtle. Julie Y. Baker Albright paints small flower-centered still lifes with the delicate touch of an old master, the light limpid, the shading feather-light, each detail articulated. Nancy Noble Gardner's photos exude a meditative elegance, monochromatic and subtly toned patterns of satiny petals. Her "Wild Iris" stands unencumbered, straight and unpretentious as a young ballerina. Harvey John Beth's photo print on canvas, "Bird of Paradise," is regal and haughty, its colors perfectly true to life. Tiny bell-like flowers peep from a forest of leaves in Harriet Reasoner's black-and-white "Lilies of the Valley."

Marianne Neill, known for her quintessential Vineyard T-shirts, offers two light-hearted gouaches, a meadow abloom with lavender, another sparked with perky yellow blossoms.

In a particularly unique process, Vivian Pratt presents larger-than-life portraits of irises, photographs that are printed on see-through vellum then suspended behind glass for a translucent effect, showing tissue-thin petals in pink, orchid, and crimson. Also dramatic is Stephanie Danforth's lush orchid painted in large close-up and Barbara Ellen Scharpf's "Spring Confetti" vase of multi-colored flowers is a visual celebration. Nina Gomez Gorden paints a fetching portrait of her little niece surrounded by bouquets.

Carolyn Daniele
Carolyn Daniele shares a close-up view of this golden hibiscus.

Judy Campbell's flowery inspiration takes the form of an intricate quilt and Jeanne Hewett's plush pillows glow with floral designs and velvet. Ms. Campbell even submitted soft, bear-shaped neck pillows and adorned them with flowers to fit the theme.

The lure of flowers and the first official art opening of the season drew throngs to the reception Saturday evening and the gallery stayed busy right through Mother's Day. The flowers will continue blooming this weekend too, offering a springtime spirit lift to all visitors.

Flower Art Show, Dragonfly Gallery, 91 Dukes County Ave., Oak Bluffs. Through May 20. Hours Thursday through Sunday, 12 noon to 7 pm. 508-693-8877.