Gay Head Gallery exhibit spotlights endangered species

A Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) at the Wild Canid Survival and Research Center. — Joel Sartore

Arresting images of wolves and other endangered species greet visitors to Aquinnah’s Gay Head Gallery in its current exhibit, titled Conservation Crossroads: Extinction or Recovery. The exhibit reflects the importance and support given to inter-connected, broad-spectrum environmental issues in the gallery’s choice of art.

“Why wolves on Martha’s Vineyard, since they’re not a local species?” asked gallery owner Megan Ottens-Sargent. “Because it’s easier to focus on your own backyard and important to go beyond it.” She points out that if wolves can be removed from the nation’s endangered list, so can wildlife found on or around the Island like the North Atlantic right whale or piping plover.

“We are honored to be working with a national environmental organization,” said Ms. Ottens-Sargent, who joined forces in this exhibit with Defenders of Wildlife, the Washington-based organization that advocates nationwide for native wildlife and habitat. A portion of the sale of the art will benefit that organization. Speaking at the opening on Saturday, August 24, was Defenders of Wildlife vice president Donald Barry. He emphasized the particular threat to wolves by the current proposal to delist them from protection under the Endangered Species Act, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary. As a 19-year veteran of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Mr. Barry help draft key implementation regulations for the Endangered Species Act. He has also worked for the World Wildlife Fund, The Wilderness Society, and the Environmental Defense Fund.

If the spoken word at the opening focused on environmental issues, the pictorial side reflected threatened elements of nature’s beauty. Eleven photos by award-winning National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore are new to the gallery’s walls. Ms. Ottens-Sargent selected images of wolves, caribou, and other endangered species to reflect Mr. Sartore’s examination of the interrelationship between predators and prey. Particularly striking is “A Wild Gray Wolf (Part of the Druid’s Pack in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley),” a portrait of a single wolf against a cobalt blue background. In several aerial images that suggest the subjects’ vulnerability, wolves and antelopes dot landscapes rendered in muted black and white.

“It was a real thrill for me that he wanted to participate in the show,” Ms. Ottens-Sargent said. Mr. Sartore serves on the board of Defenders of Wildlife and joined more than a dozen local residents, including Ann Gallagher, Jeff Corwin, and Jesse Ausubel, on the host committee for the exhibit.

Returning to the gallery is the work of New Hampshire artist Matthew Smith. His woodblock prints of right whales, including “Love” and “Peace,” are on display, along with copperplate etchings of lobsters, sea turtles, and northern cod. A former deep-sea fisherman, Mr. Smith hand colors his prints. Chilmark summer resident Barbara Norfleet’s unconventional and compelling photographs, many of them shot on Island at local dumps, are on view as well, next to a new, lyrical landscape by Elizabeth Lockhart Taft, titled “Ever-Changing Wasque.”

Ms. Ottens-Sargent has mixed new work by gallery regulars with work previously on display to create a fresh and varied effect. Included are new landscapes by Ellen Liman and John Nickerson Athearn, pencil drawings and outsized ocean pastels by Zaria Forman, evocative new Squibnocket-themed oil paintings by Steven Kleinrock, and a new landscape with marsh hawk by Mashpee painter Richard Pawlak. A series of new abstracts and small marinescapes by Colin Ruel, an M.V. Regional High School graduate now based in Brooklyn, appear, as does work by Doug Kent, including “Moshup Trail.”

The “Conservation Crossroads” exhibit continues through September 15. Information on how to send comments on the delisting of wolves from the Endangered Species Act is available at the gallery. The gallery carries information on Defenders of Wildlife and other environmental organizations it has partnered with, including the Vineyard Conservation Society, the Water Alliance, and the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group.

Conservation Crossroads: Extinction or Recovery, show runs through Sunday, September 15, Gay Head Gallery, 32 State Road, Aquinnah. Open 10 am to 5 pm daily and by appointment. For information, call 508-645-2776.