Obamas grace Edgartown light

In a collaboration among artists and local tech pros.

Photo by Geoff Parkhurst

On the evening of August 17, two Island artists celebrated the Commander and Chief and the first lady using acrylics and a $7,000 telescopic projector. Working side by side at the edge of Edgartown Harbor, Kenneth Vincent and Traeger di Pietro painted a romantic portrait of the Obamas on an easel-mounted canvas. As they did so, their brush strokes were projected over the sand onto the Edgartown Lighthouse thanks to a Sony 5000 lumen telescopic projector loaned by Thomas Bena and Brian Ditchfield, the executive and managing directors of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival. Local film technology pro Chris Mara operated the device while Vineyard photographer Geoffrey Parkhurst captured the painting’s progress toward completion in a time-lapse sequence using a Nikon d800e camera. Mr. Mara also operated a Sony XDCAM loaned by Tisbury resident Len Morris, editorial director of Media Voices for Children.

The giant painting projection could easily be seen from the Harbor View Hotel and along North Water Street between 8 and 10 that night. The completed painting was subsequently brought to the Granary Gallery in West Tisbury where it is currently for sale, with the proceeds going to charity.

“Traeger thought it was the perfect subject matter to help us draw attention to our Projected Painting Project and raise money for the causes we were looking to support,” said Mr. Vincent. “Traeger had personal reasons to support the National Breast Cancer Foundation and I was motivated to help raise funds to support the art program at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School where I teach middle school and high school art.”

Originally the two artists hoped to paint on the brick side of an Edgartown tavern.

“We were both trying to find a project to collaborate on and we initially thought of asking the Port Hunter to do a mural on their exterior wall,” said Mr. Vincent. “The problem was that the town wouldn’t allow them [the Port Hunter] or us to do that and when we started brainstorming how to get around the town restrictions I suggested using a projector with a live feed camera to project onto the wall. We both realized the potential of the idea and thought if we could do that why not the lighthouse?”

After town administrator Pam Dolby relayed okays from various Edgartown departments and Martha’s Vineyard Museum executive director David Nathan gave his blessing, the artistic duo ran a test projection against the side of Chris Mara’s house. Then they were set to paint large.

“I have always admired Kenneth as a person and as an artist,” Mr. di Pietro said. “We work really great together. He’s more subtle, calm, and technical and I’m more animated, sloppy, and goofy.  We have a blast together and are constantly laughing and making jokes.”

Mr. di Pietro sees bold things ahead for him and Mr. Vincent. “Most definitely we will paint and or create together again,” he said. “Hopefully our next project is the Steamship ferry. We are going to paint the whole Island. Ideally things you would never think were possible.”