Rhonda Hershey
A close-up of an organic piece by Rhonda Hershey. Photos by Danielle Zerbonne

Art on the outside

By Danielle Zerbonne - October 4, 2007

The leaves, attached to the shingles of e'kaya gallery with thorns earlier this summer, have curled and dried, and many have fallen away. The bamboo structures that had been assembled into different forms in the field have warped and bent with time and weather.

"Seasonal Transformations," an outdoor installation by textile artist Rhonda Hershey that premiered at the beginning of the summer, was recently given a touch-up for an updated showing, and it is available for viewing through late fall. At first the bamboo was green and limber, and the leaves and other organic matter used was still pliable.

"I wanted to play with flexibility," says Hershey. "I just got the materials and started to play with them." A summers-worth of outdoor weathering, predictably, changed things dramatically. "Some have snapped, some haven't. The teepee feel over the weekend after the [first] opening." Other pieces changed for the better, like a towering piece that developed an appealing twist when it toppled in a breeze.

E'kaya gallery is the perfect spot for such a project. The building evokes a cozy summer cottage, with a rustic charm that is immediately noticeable once you walk down the little hill past the Scottish Bakehouse. In fact, "e'kaya" is a Xhosa word that means "little hut" or "house".

e'kaya gallery
e'kaya gallery is currently hosting the outdoor art show, "Seasonal Transformations."

Founder Tanya Augoustinos, originally from South Africa (where many speak the Xhosa language), conjured the name after taking one look at the building.

"Put a thatched roof on this thing and it could be e'kaya," she remembers thinking. Like many small art galleries, it's a labor of love made possible by many people. "Everyone here works full time," says Augoustinos, who does landscaping and graphic design when she isn't directing her energy into the gallery.

e'kaya is wrapping up its third summer, which showcased the work of 17 different artists. Next season, they're aiming to have music, performance art, and dance. The focus on contemporary and emerging artists lends itself to an overall feeling of accessibility. "People want to meet the artists," Augoustinos says. "I once overheard someone say, 'Oh, you actually get to meet the artists there.'"

That immediacy appeals to the artists as well. Camilla Westby is a painter who has shown at e'kaya and appreciates the casual, comfortable feel of the place. "A lot of galleries on the Island feel quite stiff," she says. But most artists are drawn to show their work to others. "Why are we going to sit here alone and not get any feedback? I need someone to take a look at this. I want to have a dialogue with other artists."

Augoustinos seconds the sentiment. "It's becoming a little community around the space. We help each other with our shows. This is not a money-motivated project." The gathered artists chuckle among themselves at this last statement.

Rhonda Hershey
Sunlight hits Rhonda Hershey's artwork, hung outside the gallery.

David Tierney, an artist whose textured, colorful work evokes an alluring blue-green calm, showed his work at e'kaya for the third time this summer, a testament to his opinion of the place. "You don't find too many people who come down here who aren't pleasantly surprised," he says.

There are artistic treats to enjoy without even having to step inside the building. Braided rope artwork done by Rhonda Hershey will be available for viewing through the winter. The thick ropes loop in circular designs, hanging from trees and coiling on the ground amongst fallen leaves.

"It's called an off-loom sculpture. It's like a big crochet," explains Hershey. She is looking forward to seeing and perhaps photographing the rope covered in a dusting of snow.

For those who haven't ventured to e'kaya yet, there is still time to enjoy a pleasant surprise before the gallery is closed for the winter. e'kaya's last weekend of the season is Columbus Day weekend, and there are plans for an art sale the week before Thanksgiving.

e'kaya gallery, 977 State Road, Vineyard Haven, open Friday, Oct. 5, and Saturday, Oct. 6, 11 am to 5 pm, and by appointment. For more information, call 917-378-0662.