Artist sees Vineyard light

Gloria Burkin
Gloria Burkin's "Sky."

By Pat Waring - May 24, 2007

Gloria Burkin is showing landscapes and seascapes, "Vineyard Light," at the Chilmark Public Library through the end of this month. She has invited everyone to a reception this Saturday, May 26, from 3 to 5 pm.

Her oil paintings are all spring and summer scenes with what she calls the special Vineyard light shining through, an integral element in all of her work. Her views of Lucy Vincent Beach and Squibnocket capture all the variants of blues and greens and grays in the swells and depths of the ocean and the reflections in the overarching skies. A viewer can feel the elemental connection between the sea and the shoreline. Her landscapes of the Keith Farm and roadside fields are quieter and evocative of the beauties of rolling stretches of land populated only by cedars and myriad forms of wildlife. And her views of the Gay Head cliffs make their own statement.

When I first met Gloria Burkin about 15 years ago, she and her husband Henry were making the transition from being summer residents to becoming Chilmark year-rounders and were beginning to see their life on the Island with new eyes. "I thought I'd teach myself to paint," Gloria said then, and very tentatively led me down to her basement studio where two enormous easels were set up, each bearing an enormous canvas with an embryo outline of the Gay Head cliffs, whose future looked a little uncertain. That was then.

Today, there is nothing tentative or uncertain about her work. Her decision to study drawing, painting, and color at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has clearly paid off. Bold and decisive brush strokes depict the power and majesty of the Vineyard shoreline and the wild roaming beauty of the countryside with a certain elegance, somewhat reminiscent of another Vineyard artist, Bill McLane. She has had a number of shows locally, as well as at venues in Boston and Brookline. In 2004 she won a blue ribbon at the Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Fair art show for her painting "Little Lady."

"I paint every day," she says, "In the mornings the light is precious and in late afternoon, it's gorgeous." She does all of her painting outdoors, at the scene, and over the years has become a close observer of the changes taking place, especially the shifting, eroding sands and the apparent re-arrangement of the boulders at many of the up-Island beaches. The changes in the cliffs, of course, are marked. "My paintings are documents, in a way," she says.

"The whole process of making a painting is exciting - mixing the colors, experimenting with different combinations, alternating thick brush strokes with thinner strokes. I love oil paint; the colors are so much richer. I use a golden underpainting to reflect the wonderful Vineyard light." Mrs. Burkin describes herself as a cancer survivor - "And I'm proud of it! I think I was spared for a reason and maybe that was to share with others my feelings about the Island - the most beautiful place in the world!"

What sets off her landscapes and shore paintings from those of the many other landscape and seascape artists on the Vineyard? "I feel the beauty, and the painting just pours out of me, an emotional response to life. The beauty we live with every day gives me utter joy and hope for tomorrow. I try to incorporate that in my painting, capture the moment. I love to have people take a painting home, and, I hope, experience something of what I felt making it."

As a certified and trained child psychologist and social worker, Gloria is familiar with other aspects of Island living and worked during one summer at Community Services as a therapist. Later, she became director of Big Brothers/Big Sisters for a time.

But as a painter, she's here to stay. And her studio has moved up from the basement to the solarium just behind her dining room.

"Vineyard Light" art show at Chilmark library, South Road, through June 1. Opening reception, Saturday, May 26, 3 to 5 pm.