Martha’s Vineyard artists answer, ‘What inspires you?’ at Featherstone

Jules Worthington of Chilmark and his piece, "I Only Have Eyes for You." — Photo by Gail Daman

Ask a group of artists about what inspires them and, judging by Featherstone’s latest show, “Awe and Wonder,” most of them will say that focusing on subjects that they are passionate about brings out their best.

The show, which opened with a reception last Sunday and runs through June 19, is one of the most stunning and interesting that Featherstone has ever hosted.

“What intrigues you?” was the question posed in a Call for Artists letter recently sent out by director Ann Smith. “What leaves you so captivated you must immerse yourself into your creative process in order to wrap your head around the possibilities?”

The answer came in many forms as Vineyard artists responded with contributions in all media with a wide range of subjects. In all, 43 painters, sculptors, mixed media artists, and artisans are showing the world what it is that intrigues and captivates them — from nature’s glory to some of man’s more spectacular creations like the Statue of Liberty and Stonehenge to the limitless possibilities of color and form.

Not surprisingly, many of the contributing artists found inspiration in the Island’s beauty. “Martha’s Vineyard is the ideal landscape for imagination and creativity,” Ms. Smith said. “That’s why so many artists want to live here and create here.”

Among those who found wonder in the Vineyard landscape are Elizabeth Taft, who created a large impressionist oil-on-panel called “Conservation Meadow;” Ruth Major, who contributed two works including a seascape and a lovely scene with silhouetted trees against a sunrise sky; and Mary French, whose striking seascape features a wonderfully dramatic sky. Ed Schulman’s tiny oil of the ocean with swirling whitecaps is a great example of his charming primitive style. Marston Clough’s seascape is a very pretty study in grey and yellow.

New to Featherstone is Brandon Newton, who just recently moved to the Island with his family. Mr. Newton’s work can be found at North Water Gallery in Edgartown and at the Vineyard Artisans Festivals during June and July. His striking oil painting “Menemsha Moves” uses an unusual mix of bright colors and pastels in a very effective impressionistic style. The scene at dusk features lights shining through the windows of a few of the structures, including the Texaco station. Mr. Newton has found much inspiration in his Menemsha neighborhood. “The Texaco is really important in the painting,” he says. “For me the beauty is in the balance between man and Mother Nature.”

Photographer Steve Myrick also found inspiration in the juxtaposition of man and nature. His spectacular photograph shows the weathervane atop the Ocean Park gazebo bisecting a night sky with the moon on one side and Venus on the other.

Another talented photographer with a take on the awe and wonder theme is Christoper Wright, whose large black-and-white photo shows a Lucy Vincent scene transformed under the magic of last year’s super moon.

Scott Crawford and Joan Hewson both contributed photos of New York City — skyscrapers and the Statue of Liberty, respectively.

Two artists have lent appropriately awe-inspiring impact to the entrance to gallery with paintings of large animals. Jules Worthington’s “I Only Have Eyes for You” features the mask portion of a tiger with shockingly blue and yellow eyes surrounded by just enough of the face to show off the animal’s beautiful markings. Fan Ogilivie also made good use of animal patterns in her black-and-white depiction of the hind quarters of a leopard. One leg displays the cat’s classic spots while the other is wrapped in a striped bandage for contrast.

Both artists contributed second works to the show. Mr. Worthington chose Stonehenge as his other subject, while Ms. Ogilivie, better known as a poet, demonstrates her talents in the visual arts field with both the black-and-white study and a large spectacular abstract in hot pink and soft peach.

Three-dimensional artists are well represented with very different and interesting pieces. Jeanne Staples contributed a large installation piece that demonstrates the process of 3D illusion with two identical paintings of beets and a 3D viewer that brings them to life. Jim Masek shows a large black tetrahedron balanced on a pyramid base. Jack Greene’s “Sargasso Rhythms” resin wall art features lots of colorful shapes against a raised shoreline. Genevieve Jacobs used a printer box to create a work featuring tiny speckled eggs and lots of other interesting bits and pieces.

There are also a number of artisans featured in the show, including ceramicists Nancy Blank, Carl Mueller, and Jennifer Langhammer. Amy Custis contributed two beautiful stained glass lamps. The work of a handful of talented textile artists includes a lovely hand-stitched creation by Pam Flam, two intricate textural pieces by Heidi House, a very attractive knitted depiction of the pyramids by Joan Hewson, and a striking wall hanging featuring vintage kimono fabric by Minor Knight.

All in all, the show does justice to its theme. Although she had no idea what to expect when she sent out the invitation, Ms. Smith is very pleased with the response.

“I think it’s a great show. I love the diversity,” she says. “Nothing here requires an artist’s statement. I think the intention is obvious when you look at these pieces. The artwork speaks for itself.”

The Awe and Wonder show runs through June 19. For more information, call 508-693-1850 or visit