Wild about animals at Old Sculpin

Curator and artist Margot Datz assembled all the pieces on display for the Walk on the Wild Side gallery. — Photo by Michael Cummo

A menagerie of critters currently occupies one section of the Old Sculpin Gallery in Edgartown. The show is called Take a Walk on the Wild Side: Exploring the Fauna of the Island to which 25 artists contributed about an equal number of species. There are birds, beasts, insects and – of course, given our Island locale – lots of fish and other marine creatures.

The Old Sculpin is the viewing space for the Martha’s Vineyard Art Association (MVAA) and generally only members show their work there. This year, being the MVAA’s 60th anniversary, they have decided to open the gallery to outside artists for a couple of fundraising shows.

“We’re doing new things this season,” said gallery manager Jennifer Bottone. “We’re inviting non-members to participate.”

The current show includes work by an almost equal number of members as other artists. “I think there’s been a great response to these types of shows,” Ms. Bottone said. “Our membership energy has increased.”

Like the previous open-to-all-artists show — a Plein Air exhibit that hung in July — the event is a fundraiser for the MVAA scholarship fund. The association provides scholarships for both graduating high school seniors going on to college and to families who may not be able to afford the association’s summer kids’ art programs.

Artist and author Margot Datz juried the show and came up with the theme. “Were always celebrating seascapes and flowers and maritime traditions,” she said. “I thought, wouldn’t it be fun to see all the different types of animals?”

The gallery sent out a call to artists early in August asking them to submit work featuring Island fauna — wild, domestic, or barnyard animals.

Ms. Datz contributed three pieces to the show. Each showcases a different dimension of the very talented artist’s range. A bejeweled bunny is a good example of the wit and whimsy that Ms. Datz is perhaps best known for. A  barn scene, viewed from the perspective of an owl in the rafters, has a great storybook feel. The third — a painting of a reclining calf — is a more straightforward, masterfully executed portrait.

Ms. Datz’s daughter, Scarlet Blair, also has a piece in the show — a charming profile head shot of a lab facing off with a rooster. Ms. Blair has clearly inherited her mother’s talent and sense of humor.

The larger pieces include two Gyotaku fish prints — a method similar to gravestone rubbing, using an actual fish. The two prints are huge, a testament to the two contributors’ fishing talents, as well as their artistic skills.

Edie Yoder has executed a lovely Chagall-like scene featuring a woman and a goat standing near a stream with what looks like a gypsy caravan in the background.

Some of the most appealing pieces include two little oil paintings of birds by Sharon McCann Daly, June Schoppe’s stylized depiction of swimming fish, a lovely ceramic of coral and sea plants by Jennifer Langhammer, and MB Thompson Dowlin’s vibrantly colored small oil of a  butterfly among flowers. “I usually do buildings and architecture,” said MVAA member Ms. Dowlin, commenting on her response to themed shows. “Sometimes artists like a challenge. They like a call. It offers a suggestion.”

Photographs include Louise Clough’s Not So Wild Turkeys, featuring the birds roosting on an outdoor deck, one of Benjamin McCormick’s fantastic underwater fish, and Harvey Beth’s extreme close-up of a feeding hummingbird.

Daisy Lifton, who creates beautiful works of art using a traditional Japanese ink and watercolor technique, chose an extinct species for her subject. She has managed to resurrect the bird that once flourished on the Vineyard with her ink wash depiction of a mated pair of heath hens.

Wild geese captured the imagination of two Island artists. Corinne Kenney created a wonderful oil portrait of a standing goose with wings outstretched, while Anna Finnerty’s lovely pastel titled Trapps Pond Waders shows the birds in a more relaxed moment.

Thomas Fane did a fun pen-and ink-sketch of a sheep while Meg Mercier contributed a pretty pastel farmyard scene with lambs.

Ms. Datz was pleased with the variety of media and subjects. “Our affection for these animals invited interpretation,” she said.

Ms. Datz was also happy to give lesser known artists a chance to exhibit. “There are people who aren’t affiliated with any other gallery that we might call amateurs but have this creative bent. The thing that’s really important is that this show was open to everyone. I could see it as something that attracted enough people to do it again.”

Take a Walk on the Wild Side runs through September 5. For more information, call 508-627-4881 or visit marthasvineyardartassociation.org.