Galleries : Posting their art on the web
With increasing frequency, Vineyard artists are turning to the Internet to display their work and communicate with customers. The route they take most often is to set up their own website, but other avenues, like Facebook and MySpace, are becoming increasingly popular as well.
Heather Goff of Oak Bluffs was ahead of the curve. She started out as a tilemaker who took a class online so she could learn how to build her own website. Living in Mattapoisett then, she loved it so much she went back to her alma mater, UMass/Dartmouth, and studied programming. That was 12 years ago. Now Goffgrafix.com, formed in 2000 when she moved to the Island, is a booming enterprise that designs websites for artists and small businesses.
"My niche is making them for sites that need to swap out content," Ms. Goff says. "It's so important for artists to have an interface that allows them to upload new work." She has designed a content management system specifically for artists that allows them to manage their own website without knowing anything about website design.
"The creativity really appeals to me," Ms. Goff says. "It's very fulfilling because it's always changing." Her husband, painter Andrew Moore, specializes in oil paintings of Vineyard flora and fauna so finely detailed that it usually takes him three years to create enough work for a show. The week before one of his openings, his wife can post his new work on the website she designed for him (agmoore.com). Although he's never sold an original painting there, clients have been known to reserve a painting in anticipation of seeing the real thing after viewing its reproduction online. Customers also buy giclée prints of his originals from his website.
"On a website, you can provide lots and lots of information," Mr. Moore says. "In the past, if someone was interested in my work, I had to rely on old information, and I was limited in what I could offer." Citing a recent phone call from a woman in Texas who wanted to comment on his work, Mr. Moore says, "For me, it's just the enthusiasm." He stays away from more recent Internet phenomena like Facebook, explaining, "I'm fairly private. For me it's time away from painting."
Vineyard Haven painter Cindy Kane calls websites "a wonderful tool." Several of her recent shows have come about through her website (cindykane.com). "I really don't know how artists navigate the art world without it," she says.
More and more is being asked of artists in terms of marketing their work, according to Ms. Kane. "Artists have been around the block with that long before writers," she says.
Ms. Kane points out that artists can adjust their websites to their own aesthetic temperaments. As valuable as gallery websites are for individual artists, they are not really designed to focus exclusively on the work of individuals. Gallery websites also may not be as quick to update an artist's work, since their primary goal is to sell what they have on hand.
Ms. Kane's website was designed by her sister, Maureen Moss, who runs a bed and breakfast inn in Virginia. They worked together to create the feeling of pages in a book, with chapters. "My website is kind of a family labor of love," she says.
A commission came to Ms. Kane from a woman in California to combine the musical notation from Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" with bird images. "I don't know how she found my website," she says.
Ms. Kane recently joined Facebook and reports some good things have also come of it. A small museum from Nebraska contacted her and learned about her installation called the Helmet Project. "I use it only for politics and art," she explains. "It's really great to post an event on it."
Barney Zeitz, a metal and stained glass sculptor who lives in Tisbury, has had a website (bzeitz.com) for nearly nine years. Like many of the artists interviewed, he feels he should spend more time updating his website, which was designed by Ms. Goff.
Mr. Zeitz's son, Elliot Vecchia, is a student at Massachusetts College of Art, where he has been working on a video about his father and his work for a senior project. Mr. Zeitz hopes to include the video on his website when it is finished. He thinks it will be a valuable educational tool for people to see how he constructs sculpture through welding. "If you go to someone's art show, you don't see 37 years of work," he points out. "I have work on my website that dates back to 1972."
Oak Bluffs photographer Alida O'Loughlin has had a website (aolphotography.com) for three years. Hers is not a selling website since it doesn't have a Paypal link, but simply a statement about her work. "Technically I'm challenged," she says, adding that she wants to make her site more interactive.
Ms. O'Loughlin thinks Internet fluency is partly a generational thing. "It will not replace galleries and shows," she says. "You can go on the website, but it's not an immediate emotional response to the piece, even though we have a generation used to multi-tasking."
The technology introduces art objects to the public, and it legitimizes them at some level, according to Ms. O'Loughlin. "If you're on the web, you must be good. You're part of that world."
Eighty-eight-year-old Tisbury painter Rose Abrahamson has a website (roseabrahamson.com) designed by her Aquinnah friend Kathy Newman. But she also has a video interview on a new Island website, Vineyardvoice.org, which has set itself up as a nonprofit Internet magazine. The interview also appears on Facebook.
"One of my abilities is not with the computer," Ms. Abrahamson says. "These days it's like having one hand if you can't use the computer."