Personal Altars show is rich with color, variety, and meaning

Artist, Rex Williams, stands between two of his pieces "English Lit" and "No Mass Communications." —Photo by Siobhan Beasley

From paintings, photos, and sculpture to jewelry, feathers, plants, and storytelling, the Personal Altars II show at Featherstone Center for the Arts is an eclectic mélange of heartfelt inventiveness.

“We got a good mix for sure,” Veronica Modini, an assistant at the gallery, said.

Ms. Modini said this show was inspired by the first Art of the Personal Altar in 2011. Unlike that earlier exhibit, this version is much more varied. Though the show fills only a single room, there is more than enough to keep viewers engaged.

Several intriguing and personal installations and collections are displayed. Patrons at Sunday’s opening lingered before them, interpreting and analyzing, or chatting with their creators to learn the story behind the assemblages.

Minor Knight packed a corner with a display as exuberant as the artist and fashion designer herself. A giant succulent overflows its ornate planter, a painted screen, and behind, fabric-covered lamps. Above hangs a fanciful canopy of bright cloth strips, with a photo of Mick Jagger.

“The eye has to travel,” said Ms. Knight, quoting celebrated fashion icon Diana Vreeland. “It’s important to feed your spirit by being surrounded by things that inspire you.”

“Expressing gratitude for the natural world and our interaction with it” was Giulia Fleishman’s goal in creating an array of her favorite things — feathers, straw flowers, coarse green yarn, a basket her great grandmother made, even a mummified starling found in her fireplace.

Mary Thomson’s “Spring Shrine” echoes her jewelry maker’s craft with beads, shiny strips, and tiny images in a wooden shadow box.

In “Nature-Nurture,” seaweed artist Kathy Poehler combined coral, a fossil, a jawbone, a wildflower book, and more to recall meaningful moments in a tribute to her father.

Ceramicist John Robert Hill displays personal items from gold-bordered formal religious icons to faded photos, a shiny paper angel, a diving porcelain mermaid, a little whale figurine, all on an antique étagère. A vintage Diana Ross poster tops the mix.

Many of the 15 contributors chose very different forms of expression. Ms. Modini said that artists were invited to submit items or collections “that represented something of importance to them — anything that was meaningful and special, if they wanted to convey a certain feeling or message.”

Visitors are greeted by Chetta Kelley’s arresting “Balance,” an oil painting in lush, deep tones of gold, brown, red, and rust. In this otherworldly scene, slender forms approach a massive, round rock that seems to teeter on the edge of a cliff. Pilgrims in Burma visit this rock, believed to be steadied only by a hair of the Buddha, Ms. Kelley said. Her scene suggests the fragility of life, how fate can be changed by something as small as a single hair.

Mary French shared a seascape, a sailboat diminutive beneath the wide blue sky with racing clouds, a place she had enjoyed with her husband. In her mixed-media monotype with linear shapes and warm hues, Wendy Weldon recalls a garage from her childhood whose memory has endured.

Harry Seymour’s painting “Haitian Rosary” is meditative and serene, a dark-faced man intently clutching beads, the cross gleaming front and center.

Rick Brown’s photo in a handmade wooden frame titled “Wellspring” shows a sailboat he built, covered by an open work shed.

“Soil Magician,” a captivating audio-visual portrait of legendary Edgartown gardener Paul Jackson by Alan Brigish and Susan Klein, drew admiring visitors to a computer monitor. Ms. Klein’s carefully crafted narrative introduces the gardener, his family, history, wisdom, and dedication to the land.

Brilliant images by Mr. Brigish depict a year in the small but magically prolific Jackson garden. Snow gives way to fresh-tilled earth, green shoots emerge. Then harvest bounty is captured in fine, crisp detail: fresh-shelled peas, golden corn, greens, carrots, plump tomatoes.

Richard Dunstan Hamilton’s shimmering silver “Procrastination Chalice” stands starkly elegant, with details of Niobium, moonstone, a single amethyst. Explaining the title, Mr. Hamilton, a goldsmith, admitted he created the bowl in 1971. Slowly, the piece came together, incorporating other elements and stones, the base once part of a church’s chalice. His bejeweled “Soft Landing” rests perkily on three little legs like a silver mini-spaceship setting down, not surprising as Mr. Hamilton is a lifelong science fiction fan.

Rex Williams uses found objects in three quirky assemblages. One, “English Lit: dedicated to the librarians of Martha’s Vineyard,” aptly recycles typewriter parts — a roller, keys, a handle, with a scholarly-looking bust.

A herd of giraffes cavort delicately on black-painted spiral stairs. Only a few of writer Kate Hancock’s vast collection, they range from a well-worn plush giraffe to a willowy carved wood African one more than three feet tall, and several smaller renditions. Above hangs a photo, a giraffe with soulful eyes. Ms. Hancock, giraffe pendant around her neck, said her love for the gentle creatures began with a childhood gift, a giraffe on wheels once played with by her father. Now she owns more than 400, including gifts from school children she once taught.

Offering a feast of visual images and plenty of food for thought, the show continues through November 19.