Galleries : At The Pequot : A show of community
Interestingly enough, the annual art show at the Pequot Hotel - like Frida Kahlo's painting career - can trace its origins to a broken back.
Ten years ago Jacquelyn Brickman, the show's co-curator, fell off of an eight-foot scaffolding wall while painting a mural on a graffiti-strewn underpass in Albany, N.Y. The public-arts project she had masterminded - a community effort to cover the defaced wall space with dozens of murals - would win accolades, nearly clinching the New York State Governor's Arts Award. Ms. Brickman, however, was bedridden for months, and eventually she accepted the invitation of a neighbor to go to Martha's Vineyard to recover.
Ms. Brickman arrived at the Pequot Hotel as a guest, but ended up staying on for the summer as an employee, painting murals on the hotel wall and working at the front desk in exchange for lodging. She was organizing a solo show for herself at the hotel when she saw coworker Laura Coggeshall's seascapes, and insisted that these paintings be included in the show also. The Pequot Hotel Art Show was born.
Nine years later, the un-juried show will include the work of 21 artists. It has expanded by perpetuating the spirit of inclusiveness and artistic camaraderie that was present at its conception. Any artist who wants to is welcome to show their work. The result is a show that is refreshingly casual for the professional artists involved, and an unparalleled opportunity for emerging ones.
Over the years, a special bond has developed between the artists who show at the Pequot each year. As they come together and share their work, and then pack off to different parts of Martha's Vineyard and the world, a fiber of attachment stretches though the intervening year. This winter a beloved member of the impromptu artist's family, Betty Boyd, died of cancer, and the show this year is being dedicated to her memory with one tenth of the proceeds going to the Oak Bluffs Library in her name.
For Ms. Brickman, Ms. Boyd typified the principles of encouragement and mutual artistic empowerment that the show has at its core. "Some people can be guarded, and sometimes there's competition between artists," Ms. Brickman said. "Betty wasn't like that at all. If she saw someone who was good, she would walk up to them and say, 'Hey, that's good work. You should put it in our show.' She got what it was about right away."
Photo by Ralph Stewart
Ms. Brickman says it is hard to believe that Ms. Boyd will not be coming to the show this year. "It was one of those relationships where you just pick up from the last sentence - the last word even, even though a year had passed."
This year's show promises to contain, as always, an eclectic mix of work. From Julian Robinson, whose photograph of a cow and calf once graced the cover of the Massachusetts Agricultural Calendar, to J. James Steele, whose new paintings are based on designs found on Northeastern Persian rugs, the artists enjoy total freedom in choosing which of their pieces to show. "They don't try to push you in any one direction," Mr. Steel said of the curators, adding that he likes this show specifically for its loose structure and the liberality of the curators in extending creative control.
Photo by Susan Safford
To Ms. Coggeshall, hanging the work of emerging artists alongside the work of artists with international reputations acts to "break down boundaries." Giving artists the confidence to begin showing their work is one of the main goals. "We're all about encouraging people to be creative, and to give people who might be shy an opportunity to show their work. Having your work shown for the first time publicly gives you a little ego boost. It can be transformative."
Ms. Coggeshall and Ms. Brickman now live in different states but they get together often over the course of the year. They are tied, for one, by a mutual aesthetic attachment to the Martha's Vineyard landscape - the attachment that brought them together in the first place. Ms. Coggeshall says she took the job at the Pequot expressly so that she could paint the surrounding shoreline and Ms. Brickman proclaims, unhesitatingly, "Martha's Vineyard is to me the most beautiful place on earth. If there's a heaven, that's where it is."
Courtesy of Jacquelyn Brickman
Their partnership as curators works so well because they possess complimentary skill sets. "Jackie's really great socially, chatting with all the people at the opening, and I am more the business mind," said Ms. Coggeshall. Ms. Brickman agrees. "I have exactly what she lacks and she has exactly what I lack," she said.
Opening reception, Pequot Hotel Art Show, 6-8 pm, Saturday, Oct. 4. 6-8 pm, 19 Pequot Ave., Oak Bluffs. Wine and refreshments will be served.