Art : Heartfelt art at Featherstone
Francine Kelly, director of the Featherstone Center for the Arts, has a smile on her face - even in February. Discussing the upcoming Featherstone show, she says, with typical cheerfulness, "This is an exciting time to get something started for the year. Those of us who live here year-round need something fun to do in February." The something fun she has in store for us is a Valentine-themed show titled "Kiss Kiss Hug Hug - The Art of Love" which will open Sunday with a reception from 4 to 6 pm.
Reprising a theme from 2007, Ms. Kelly has invited Island artists to participate in the show by contributing work that reflects themes of love and romance. At least 15 artists have committed to furnish appropriate pieces in a variety of mediums, and quite a few more are expected to show. Ms. Kelly reached out to her mailing list of artists who have some connection or history with Featherstone and also advertised a call to artists for the group show. She notes that a few new artists responded to the ad and will make their debut at the gallery.
John Holladay, who teaches painting at Featherstone, came up with the name for the Valentine's show. The subject of a one-man show at the gallery last February, he has contributed the acrylic painting that will grace the entry. The 30- x 40-inch piece, also titled "Kiss Kiss Hug Hug," conveys romance with a huge bunch of zinnias. Mr. Holladay created the piece specifically for the show, using a primarily red palette. He will also show another large painting and four smaller ones, all stunning florals.
"Flowers are like hugs and kisses." he says, adding, "It's amazing the subjects that people come up with. Some are hearts and cupids, and some are just things that they love."
Patricia Carlet will also exhibit a large acrylic painting titled "Nudes on Red," which she just completed three weeks ago. Though not conceived specifically for the show, she chose the abstract work as a good match for the theme. The former Edgartown School librarian returned to painting, her first vocation, after she retired five years ago.
"I'm finally doing what I was trained to do years ago." says the 72-year-old. "It's my whole life now. I'm in heaven when I'm at my easel painting."
The contribution by Featherstone instructor Nancy Blank will represent the whimsical side of the holiday. The painting and pottery teacher has lately been crafting dolls, since acquiring a doll's head ceramics mold. For the show she has fashioned a character named Miss Kiss, a feathered, spangled and bejeweled Valentine's lady with flaming red hair whom she likens to an icon of romance, "Like Miss Piggy she's over the top," notes Ms. Blank with a laugh.
Multiple media artist Valerie Sonnenthal offers a piece, which she conceived and began a while ago and which has evolved into a love-themed installation. Ms. Sonnenthal purchased two glass terrariums a couple of years ago with the idea of creating a piece with them. She notes that she has always had a fascination with containers. Since Ms. Sonnenthal is also a writer, she decided to incorporate words and phrases into her creation, although the nature of the literary part of the project has refocused. "The concept changed over time, as many things do, and just like love changes over time. I'm in a better place at this time than I was when I began on this." The terrarium will now be adorned with writings about love hanging from the top and littering the bottom of the glass enclosure.
The show will also include some gift items and lower priced pieces. Lynn Christoffers will offer photo cards of her beloved cats. John Robert Hill has contributed some red and white wine stems and thumb cups. Ms. Blank has some heart-shaped pins for sale.
Wendy Weldon has contributed four pieces that she refers to as "very silly Valentine's cards." She says that she had a lot of fun making them and that she is always happy to participate in Featherstone shows. "It's a remarkable and inspiring place. For all the artists who work there it's a place of love that makes us want to share."
A good sampling of that shared love will be on display for the rest of this month and the beginning of March, as Featherstone spices up the winter and brings some much-needed warmth and color to the Island.
Appropriately, the Sunday reception will feature a CD of love songs compiled by Leslie J. Stark, a variety of red and pink foods and beverages, and heart-shaped cookies and chocolates by Cakes by Liz. "Kiss Kiss Hug Hug Revisited - the Art of Love" will run through March 5, and the gallery is open daily from noon to four.
Gwyn McAllister is a frequent contributor to The Times.