Granary Artists: Mix of Styles, Mediums

Alison Shaw and David Moore
Alison Shaw (left) and David Moore discuss Ms. Shaw's photographs. Photos by Danielle Zerbonne

By Brooks Robards - July 12, 2007

New work by three regular Granary artists, Kenneth Vincent, Alison Shaw, and Anda Styler, is on display for two weeks at the West Tisbury gallery. Native Islander Mr. Vincent has a year's new work, more than two dozen landscapes and marine oil paintings. Ms. Shaw, who has made the Island her home since 1975, is exhibiting over 20 black and white and color photographs and giclée prints, and Ms. Styler, who lives in Sherman, Conn., but visits the Island frequently, has 15 new acrylic paintings of Vineyard houses, landscapes, and seascapes.

"This has been a big year for finding new directions," Mr. Vincent said at the reception for the group show on July 8. He works most often in large blocks of primary color, often with astonishing impact. In "Brooks Brothers," three white sheep graze in front of a sweep of burnished red foliage, and the painting's field and trees fill the composition with movement.

Hung nearby is "Storm Tractor," where the artist has wielded his paints to develop a sense of perspective that moves the viewer's eye into the red tractor and hay rolls at the center of the work, backed by blocks of trees and a cloud bank. In "Spring Front, Cedar Tree Neck," both the painting's colors and its composition work to keep it from becoming static.

Phoebe Lewis and Kenneth Vincent
Visitor Phoebe Lewis (left) talks to artist Kenneth Vincent about his work.

While most of Mr. Vincent's landscapes and seascapes are devoid of human figures, "October, Menemsha Pond" depicts a single, green-shirted figure wearing a blue bill hat and standing in a dinghy. Behind this deftly painted fisherman loom generalized rocks or ochre-shaded trees - it's hard to tell which -- in a deeply satisfying composition. Other seascapes with figures include "Only Keeps" and "The Old Man and the Sea," with its echoes of Hemingway's archetypal novel.

Mr. Vincent usually employs a powerful palette. "Hay Bales, Flat Point Pond" incorporates yellow hay rolls, green grass, brown fence posts and bare trees with black-edged limbs, pink clouds and blue sky to create a vibrant effect. In some paintings, strong colors are used as accents. Such is the case in "The Yellow Slicker," with its three fishermen whose backs are turned. Only one wears the eponymous yellow raincoat, which is compositionally balanced by a vivid red, triangular jetty marker.

Some of Mr. Vincent's work has the unevenness of a young painter who is still experimenting and growing. The overall impact of his work, however, is exciting and successful. He is an Island painter to watch.

Alison Shaw has delighted Island residents and visitors with her compelling photographic images for many years. Now that she has opened her own gallery in Oak Bluffs, fans have two sources for her work. The new images go on exhibit first at the Granary, however, even if a photograph carries a date that indicates it was shot some time ago. The Granary print is always the "first edition."

Three large, abstract images of water reflections offer an example. The top one, "Reflections, Red & Green Boat 1990," has already been on exhibit at the Granary, but the giclee print is new and was included because it fit well as a series with "Reflection, Red, White and Blue Water 1993," and "Reflection, Red & Yellow Boat 1997," neither of which has been exhibited before.

Granary Gallery
A beautiful evening brought out large crowds for the opening.

Similarly abstract are three smaller black and white images of boat objects. Ms. Shaw is a master at reducing what she sees to its essentials. With great compositional confidence she has grouped "Sail, Edgartown Harbor 1993," "Rowboat & Bowline 1993" and "Oars & Rowboat, Menemsha 1996" like three nautical still lifes.

Ms. Shaw usually avoids romanticizing her seascapes, preferring vividness and sharp contrasts, but she comes pleasingly close in "Atlantic Ocean II 2006." This subtle composition portrays a vast, horizontal expanse of blue where the water angles slightly toward the right and a thin line of light hits the water near the horizon. In recent years, Ms. Shaw has also experimented with blurred images. This technique works especially well in "Lucy Vincent Beach II 2006," with its whites and clean blue surf.

Ms. Shaw also uses photography to convey the sensual pleasures of paint-covered objects in a series drawn from the studios of Island painters. Two in this series come from the studio of Tisbury conceptual artist Cindy Kane. "Brushes and Paint, Jeanne Staples Studio, Edgartown" offers not just the luscious colors of the implements but an intriguing composition, since two of the five brushes are blurred.

Anda Styler tries to uncover the hidden spots visitors to the Vineyard might not find on their own. Perhaps capitalizing on her outsider's eye, she does not simply create replicas of the scenes she paints. "Court House, Edgartown" looks at that building from School Street, turning it into a much larger byway than it is, and the courthouse's bricks turn a more vivid red. In "Harbor View, Vineyard Haven" she fills her composition with buildings that seem to spread out towards a more distant harbor.

Vivid sunsets are a Styler signature, and one her most handsome paintings, "Vineyard Haven," captures the afterglow of sunset reflected in both sky and water, with an arc of houses along the horizon. The pink and purple clouds of "Old Boat House, Vineyard Haven" could come from the palette of an 18th-century painter.

The current show continues through July 21. The Granary is open seven days a week, from 10 am to 5 pm and 11 am to 4 pm on Sunday. For more information, call 508-693-0455.

Brooks Robards is a contributing writer to The Times.