Old Sculpin showcases Martha’s Vineyard fishing derby art

Brian Kirkpatrick stands by his work. — Photo by Gail Daman

The ubiquitous scene this time of year of people — with fishing rods in hand, Islanders chasing derby glory from boats, docks, jetties, and just about every stretch of beach on Island — is reflected in the latest show at the Old Sculpin Gallery in Edgartown.

For the third year in a row, the harborside Edgartown gallery is hosting their popular Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby inspired art show – Fish Stories – featuring works in many media with one common theme, fish and fishing.

The Old Sculpin Gallery is housed in a building that previously served as a boat builder’s shop, and was named for the its prior owner whose nickname came about due to his resemblance to a sculpin fish.

It’s apropos then, that every available bit of wall space in the back two galleries of the building holds a depiction of something fishy – fish, fishing boats, and fisherman.

The show features work by 25 artists – all members of the Martha’s Vineyard Art Association. There is photography by Ben McCormick, who creates amazing underwater closeups of fish; sculpture in the form of a paper and twine jellyfish by Sheila Fane; and a wire sculpture by Steve Lohman called “Shark Attack;” a seaweed crafted map of Martha’s Vineyard by Kathy Poehler; and two Gyotuku prints — ink impressions of fish — by Steve London. But mainly, there are paintings, dozens of them, representing many media and many styles.

Facing visitors as they walk through the front door is a large painting by folk artist Brian Kirkpatrick. A wader-clad fisherman hauling up his catch for the day is executed in Mr. Kirkpatrick’s distinctive highly stylized fashion that features colorblocking and limited detail. The artist, who specializes in fishing scenes and has been a sponsor of the derby for the last few years, has also contributed one of his signature Escheresque piles of fish to the exhibit — this one in striking black and white with flashes of red.

Popular watercolorist Ann Howes is also involved with the derby. For the fourth year in a row, she is working as a volunteer. Her lovely sunset scene, “Evening at Menemsha,” featuring a fishing boat and a jetty lined with silhouetted fishermen, was done specifically for the derby art show.

Marston Clough recently executed something for the show as well. His painting of an orange-overalled dock denizen explores, in a rough impressionistic style, some characteristic local color.

“I do mostly seascapes, but I love sketching people,” he said. “I’ve been inspired to do sketches of these guys leaning against their poles and talking. They’re part of our landscape.”

Warren Gaines has contributed a number of works to the show, including a trio of small oil paintings featuring the stars of the derby – striped bass, bluefish, and bonito. Appropriately, these little paintings from nature hang at the entrance to the show.

Many other artists have added to the collection of fish depictions, while others, like Gail Rodney, have captured favorite fishing spots. Two paintings by Ms. Rodney, “Wasque Beach Memory” and “Memory of Wasque Sunrise,” explore the picturesqueness of one of the Island’s favored fishing locales.

A couple of moody watercolors by Anthony Benton Gude similarly capture the romance of the solitary fishing pursuit. One, a monochromatic seascape titled “Three a.m.” shows a dedicated fisherman knee deep in the surf on a dramatically moonlit evening. A similar scene at sunrise shows two fish, barely visible just beneath the water riding out a wave. Both of these works by Mr. Gude, along with his oil painting of a fish underwater called “Phosphorus,” share a magical quality and are show standouts.

The works in the show range from $50 for small square paintings of shells by Alison Convery to $2,200 for Mr. Kirkpatrick’s large entryway acrylic.

Fish Stories will hang, along with a show of selections from the gallery’s permanent collection, through October 8. After that the gallery will be closed for the season. For more information, call 508-627-4881 or visit oldsculpingallery.org.

Correction: An earlier version of this story included the incorrect byline of Brooks Robards.