Gay Head Gallery offers art with a difference

Vasha Brunelle's "Morning Catch," on display at Gay Head Gallery. — Photo by Brooks Robards

Aquinnah’s Gay Head Gallery has opened for the summer with a group show in its newly refurbished three rooms. Proprietor Megan Ottens Sargent carries more than 20 artists, both on- and off-Islanders who share her passion for the environment — an unusual mix for a gallery.

“I always support a nonprofit with my curated shows,” Ms. Ottens Sargent said. She bills her gallery as having “A mission to protect the rare and endangered.”

Each of the gallery’s rooms, arranged with care and an eye for inviting correlations among disparate artists, packs a punch. The front room, once a porch and now opened up to provide more space, shows a trio of West Tisbury painter Doug Kent’s texture-rich paintings on wood. In “Farmlands, South Shore W.T.,” wood grain intensifies the subtle, abstract power of a large green and orange sky above two fields. Nearby, Ms. Ottens Sargent has placed a wooden ironing board that Mr. Kent transformed into a charming folk-art style work, “Fishing Man and Woman.”

On the other side of one of Zaria Forman’s photo-crisp pastels on paper, “Greenland #13,” hangs another charmer, Mr. Kent’s oar painting, “Bride in Two Trees.” Mr. Kent, who also exhibits in New York City, has a number of other pieces scattered throughout the gallery.

Work by Vineyard Haven painter Elizabeth Lockhart Taft, North Shore artist Julia Purinton, both Vasha and Frank Brunelle of Vineyard Haven, photographer Peggy Roth Major, Chilmark summer resident and photographer Barbara Norfleet, and Santa Fé artist Laura Rosenfeld are all displayed in the front room, as well as in other parts of the gallery. Enjoying his first show is West Tisbury painter John Nickerson Athearn with a series of miniature watercolor landscapes — some four-paned — rendered with precision and delicacy.

Among so many accomplished artists, a few works stand out for this reviewer. Ms. Brunelle’s two portraits of ospreys in mid-flight — “Osprey and Young” and “Morning Catch” — arrest the eye with their dramatic scale and composition. Ms. Taft has a large landscape in the gallery’s main room — “Homage to Gay Head: Aquinnah” — that shows to advantage her skilled brushwork and use of color. Chilmark painter Ellen Liman’s expressionistic landscape, “Squibby Sunset,” offers a fine sense of vibrant completion. “Yellow Dune” by Ms. Purinton successfully conveys a combination of mood and balance. Maine artist Matthew Smith contributes handsome etchings and woodcuts of marine life, including crabs and lobsters. Mr. Smith gave up fishing because of his concern for bycatch practices and marine-life net entanglement, which makes him a good fit for Ms. Ottens Sargent’s environmental activism.

Among the shows and events planned for later in the summer is a book signing by William Sargent, cousin of Ms. Ottens Sargent’s late husband, Bill Sargent. The author of “Fukushima,” the Cape Cod writer has newly published “Beach Wars: 10,000 years of Conflict and Change on a Barrier Beach.”

The end of July brings an exhibit on the changing coastline that benefits the Water Alliance and the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group. The national organization, Defenders of Wildlife, is working with Ms. Ottens Sargent on a show in August to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act.

Group Show, Gay Head Gallery, 32 State Road, Aquinnah. Show runs through Friday, July 19. For more information, call 508-645-2776.