Galleries : On display: Senior talent at IEH
Every year new young artists emerge on the Vineyard art scene, providing the community with a wellspring of creative talent. Often overlooked, however, are those Island seniors who continue to create unique and beautiful work in a variety of mediums. This Sunday the public will have the opportunity to get a glimpse of some of the creative output from residents of the Island Elderly Housing (IEH) community at the second annual Artist's and Craftsmen of IEH Show and Sale.
Ann Baird, service coordinator for IEH, says, "We have so many talented people here that we want the public to have a chance to see their work."
Among the exhibitors will be B. Jean Silva. A woman of many artistic talents, Ms. Silva will be showing paintings, illustrations, miniatures, dolls in 18th century clothes, and even a large fiberglass sculpture. Ms. Silva is unique in that she had a full career as a professional artist after graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design. She worked on the Island as a potter and then, for 35 years, as an architectural draftsman. Before that, Ms. Silva was a commercial illustrator, doing drawings for covers of the Worcester Telegram's Sunday Supplement, and designing ads. Her illustrations will be on view at the show along with her other creations.
Ms. Silva explains that doing architectural plans fostered her love of miniatures made to scale. "I've always been interested in dollhouse things," she says, " but I'd see something I wanted and I couldn't afford it, so I'd make it." Her dollhouse items will be displayed as small room settings.
Ms. Silva will display one of her stand-out pieces from last year's show: a four-foot-high Madonna and child she made as a Christmas decoration for the Edgartown National Bank. She explains the complicated process she went through in completing the piece, including making her own mold from newspaper, freezer tape, and canning wax, then laying on starched fabric and finally fiberglass - all skills she learned along the way.
The similarly diverse work oft Rhoda Tappan will also be shown. Ms. Tappan grew up in Peru where she started doing needlework when she was eight years old. "Some people in the States don't even know how to put on a button," she says. Ms. Tappan is adept at the multiple crafts she's pursued throughout her 85 years, and will be showing a variety of work - doll's clothes, embroidery, and floral appliques stitched onto woolen squares and two handmade rosaries.
Perhaps her most gratifying accomplishment as a craftsman is the crocheted bedspread that she will be displaying. "I started it in 1954," she says, "Then I fell in love and got married and had to go to work and I didn't have time to do it." She carried the unfinished piece around with her through various moves and finally, half a century later, she decided to finally tackle the project, which she completed in 2006. "I laughed when I finished it," she says proudly.
Ms. Tappan's neighbor, Mary Haigazian is also skilled with a needle. The two women are both part of a rug-hooking group that meets weekly at the Edgartown senior center. Ms. Haigazian was encouraged to take up the craft by her daughter when she moved to the Island in 1998. She also takes a rug-hooking class once a week at the home of Rosalie Powell.
Ms. Haigazian will display her wall hangings and pillow squares, lovely meticulously crafted pieces with a number of different themes. Included in her collection are two hangings that won ribbons at recent Ag Fairs. Last year's first place winner, one of Ms. Haigazian's own designs, is a large square made up of colorful quilt-style panels with a red heart in the center.
Two Woodside residents who will be exhibiting watercolors got their start in the medium through attending classes at local senior centers. Irene Baugh has an easel set up in the bedroom of her light-filled Woodside apartment where she paints a variety of peaceful landscapes with a focus on dramatic skies. "It's a passion. It's something that I really enjoy," she says, adding, "When you get involved in it the hours just go by."
The work of Barbara Dugan is in a very different vein. Drawing from a fertile imagination, Ms. Dugan has created a series of surrealistic works that she refers to as her "fun paintings." Characteristics of a number of different animals are in evidence in Ms. Dugan's brightly colored, almost amorphous creations.
She explains that she starts with a series of brush strokes, then adds the eyes and a creature evolves from there. Ms. Dugan will show a number of more traditional paintings that brought her positive attention last year. She says, "People came up to me and said, 'I didn't know you had all that talent.'"
Fashion design will also be represented. Jean Searle, a lively 90-year-old, studied fashion design and merchandizing at Carnegie Mellon, and through the years has made many of her own clothes, as well as her daughter's (Georgia Morris), including the latter's prom and wedding gowns.
The immaculately dressed Ms. Searle still sews all the time and she obviously derives great pleasure from her creations. "My husband and I traveled the world and I always bought fabrics. I went crazy in Hong Kong. I get the fabric first and then dream up something wonderful to make with it."
Although artists and craftsmen make up the majority of the exhibitors, the work of a couple of writers will also be included. Florence Bruder is contributing a book of poems and Eleanor Petricone will be selling her cookbook, "Kids Love to Cook." Ms. Petricone wrote the book two years ago to raise funds for the Martha's Vineyard High School's culinary arts program. She explains that it includes about 20 fun and easy recipes for kids with photographs by Bob Schellhammer.
Ms. Petricone, 90, attended the Museum School in Boston. She has plans to write and illustrate another book. Ever effervescent, she is determined to keep busy and to enjoy herself fully. "I love life. I just adore it. I think it's a blast. It's just great to be here."
Artists and Craftsmen Show and Sale, Sunday, Oct.11, 1-4 pm, Island Elderly Housing, Woodside Village II, Oak Bluffs. Show of Island Elderly Housing residents' art.
Gwyn McAllister is a freelance writer living in Oak Bluffs.