Dragonfly Gallery shows Martha’s Vineyard in pastels

Vibrant colors are a hallmark of Marilyn Ruseckas' Menemsha pastel in this week's exhibit at Dragonfly Gallery. — Photo courtesy of Dragonfly Fine Arts Gallery

This weekend the Dragonfly Gallery in the Oak Bluffs Arts District will spotlight two artists who have made a career of expertly using pastels to create gorgeous, rich landscapes that incorporate water and natural light to full effect.

Pastel artists, those who utilize a powdered pigment stick and drawing — as opposed to painting — techniques, are not always the most widely represented in galleries. Though the effects produced in this medium can have a complexity and depth equal to that in works in oil or watercolors, painters invariably outnumber sketch media artists in gallery and museum exhibits.

Despite their shared themes and choice of media, all other similarities between these two artists end.

Cape Cod pastel artist Ed Chesnovitch executes stunning, non-site specific landscapes in gorgeous muted colors with vast, spectacular skies. His works have a painterly look, produced by meticulous blending, deriving maximum effect from the hazy possibilities of pastels. He is one of eight artists being represented at Dragonfly for the first time this year.

Mr. Chesnovitch lives near a salt marsh in East Sandwich, where he notes, “I am in constant awe of the ever-changing light and tide conditions and its effect on the landscape.”

This artist shares something with the American luminist painters of the 19th century, artists whose reverence for nature is depicted in tranquil, dramatically lit scenes. The stunning landscapes that he is showing at Dragonfly, awash in pinks and purples, have a wonderfully soothing, spiritual quality.

The Pennsylvania transplant, who studied at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and the Art Students League in New York, says on his website, “My goal is not to convey a particular scene, but rather record the atmospheric conditions and envelope of light that create it.”

Vermont artist Marilyn Ruseckas, on the other hand, achieves a striking, muscular effect with her use of vibrant colors and bold, defining outlines. Her work has an expressionistic quality, with shades of Thomas Hart Benton in her fluid style and vivid skies.

The colors that Ms. Ruseckas uses to bring water to life — the focal point of her paintings — are remarkable. A fiery red rivulet at sunset shimmers magically, its sensuous curves reflected in similarly hue-soaked clouds. The purply blue of a stream at dusk is almost palpably wet.

This is the fourth year that Ms. Ruseckas has shown at Dragonfly, but the first time that she has exhibited Vineyard paintings. A professional bike racer, she has won a number of championship titles and held the overall women’s record at the Mount Washington Hillclimb for three consecutive years. She comes often to the Vineyard, staying with bicyclist friends and biking around the Island.

Ms. Ruseckas started out as a photographer after graduating from the School of the Worcester Art Museum in 1980, but an early experiment with pastels converted her to working almost exclusively in that medium. She moved to Vermont in 1989 and now owns and operates a tree service in Warren with her husband, Adam Whitney. The frames for all of her work come from trees on their property.

On her website, Ms. Ruseckas says, “I like to push the medium towards rich and bold in both design and in color. The character of my work oscillates between realism and abstraction.”

She certainly expresses an abstractionist’s affinity for bold geometric swirls, and her work provides a nice emotional punch, but it doesn’t leave the cold aftertaste of a strictly abstract work.

Among the gallery’s other new artists is Susan Savory, the children’s book buyer for Bunch of Grapes in Vineyard Haven, whose nature-themed collages have an appropriately whimsical quality. In a collaborative effort, Ms. Savory has also created a series of small prints called “2 x 2 by Dragonfly,” which each feature four images by Dragonfly artists and a poem by Ms. Savory. They are charming, affordable works that have a continuous theme through the written, photographed, and painted elements.

For more information, call 508-693-8877 or visit mvdragonfly.com.