A roomful of Lauri Bradway’s work confronts one with images of Vineyard nature. The walls displaying paintings large and small reveal Ms. Bradway’s unique interpretation of images that are the favorites of many Islanders and visitors.
A small white rowboat floats on a glassy summer pond; clematis, single lilies, hydrangeas, all in dramatic close-up. Clear, turquoise-green water swirls in the sun; brightly painted kayaks lie beached like lazy seals. Stonewalls and a white gate edge an up-Island meadow. A tower of beach stones appears ready to teeter. A bikini clad woman stands at the edge of a field, nearly lost from view in the woods beyond.
But wait, these evocative paintings aren’t paintings at all. They are photographs, photographs that Ms. Bradway shoots with her Nikon SLR digital camera, then manipulates on the computer using Photo Shop to make them look like paintings. Some are printed on canvas, others on paper or foam panels.
Ms. Bradway grew up in Milford, Connecticut and moved to Martha’s Vineyard in 1988. She has lived in Aquinnah for seven years.
Art has always been part of Ms. Bradway’s life. Her father was a college art professor; her grandfather created intricate sand sculptures on the beach. Experienced with pen and ink or pencil sketching, she has done fashion illustration and graphic design.
On the Vineyard, Ms. Bradway has taken a variety of jobs, from farm work to operating a cleaning service, leaving her little time for art.
Although Ms. Bradway always enjoyed taking pictures, photography became a serious hobby for her about four years ago, when she bought her first good camera. Now it has become her main creative focus.
“My camera is usually always within reach,” she wrote in an e-mail interview with the Times. “It’s like a part of my arm. When I first got a digital camera, it was like seeing the world with new eyes. I could see farther, deeper, better. I found I could see things I wouldn’t normally notice.”
Ms. Bradway’s work has never taken classes, seldom has time to visit shows and galleries to compare her photography to what others are doing or get ideas.
“I just do what I feel I want to do … what makes me happy … what I see in my world,” she said. “My art tends to be like a window in a wall, and you can look out onto something interesting. That is the reason I don’t put frames on my newer works.
“I find my spirituality in nature, so I mostly photograph nature, and I tend to convey a bit of that feeling of the ‘divine nature’ of the natural world. They aren’t flat and lifeless. But then, neither is nature. It’s living and breathing and speaking to us on so many levels. It brings us joy, makes us happy, gives us something to reflect upon, and sometimes provides answers to our heart’s and mind’s deepest questions. It can bring comfort and balance and a sense of serenity and peace … or it can invigorate and inspire.
“My favorite pieces right now are my flowers, because when I zoom into the center of one I see another universe, one full of color and seeds and potential.”
As a novice photographer, Ms. Bradway was uncertain how to get her art before the public. With strong encouragement from her friend, poet and author Peggy Freydberg of Chilmark, Ms. Bradway sought ways to show her work.
“She’s been my inspiration,” said Ms. Bradway of 104-year-old Ms. Freydberg. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it without her. She gave me the courage and the self-confidence.”
Submitting an application to the Chilmark Public Library, Ms. Bradway was placed on a waiting list and at length received the opportunity for a show that opened just last month. She recounted the many chores involved, from painstakingly choosing the pieces, with help from Ms. Freydberg and other friends, to printing invitation cards, business cards, and announcing the exhibit online. She was gratified by the response from visitors and thrilled when she sold two pieces. She also contributed three photographs to the Family Planning Art Show, selling one.
She is writing children’s books, which she will illustrate with her photos. She envisions enlarging her colorful flower images, printing them on canvas banner material outfitted with grommets for displaying as deck or patio art. And she plans to print images on fabric for throw pillows and other decorative home items.