Step into Margot Datz’s ‘Phantasmagoria’

Several of Ms. Datz' paintings feature ornate jewels as the artist's metaphor for what is of value. — Art by Margot Datz

It has been a decade since Island artist and muralist Margot Datz began mounting her one-day, one-woman shows of original paintings and limited-edition prints. You won’t want to miss this wonderful spectacle when it takes place again on Saturday, August 8, from 4 to 8 pm at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury. Her “Phantasmagoria” show contains 12 canvases, ranging from 5 inches by 7 inches (unframed) up to 12 inches by 18 inches. Ms. Datz explains, “Phantasmagoria means a series of illusions. These are little daydreams, nightdreams, and imaginaries,” she says, while pointing to a particular work. “This one is called ‘The Midnight Circus.’” Many of her illustrations feature animals in various settings, adorned with ornate jewels or surrounded by miniature shoes.

Ms. Datz loves to entertain, and says, “I have a tendency to drag out every dish and glass I own. Sometimes it’s just too much to clean it up at night, and I’ll leave the sink full and crawl upstairs and hear this soft clatter, and know that the mice are having the after-party. So this is what I imagine them doing once it’s lights out.”

Each of the 12 works exhibited has its own story to tell, and they do not make up a larger story as a whole. Ms. Datz posts writings with each piece, allowing the viewer to understand “where it came from inside [her] heart.” Not all the creatures in Ms. Datz’s paintings can be found on our Island, like the hedgehogs or corn snakes, but Margot “uses animals as metaphor.” She adds, “I love to work metaphorically and archetypically. I pick these little creatures that symbolize aspects of being human.” So I have to ask what she feels a hedgehog represents. Ms. Datz replies, “The hedgehog painting is about slightly grumpy people, and they curl up and point all of their points outward to the general public, but really what they’re protecting is this little heart that’s as sweet as a chocolate-covered cherry. If you can get a hedgehog to relax just enough, they’ll show you their little soft tummies.”

In a work titled “The Banty Bus,” Margot explains, “I was imagining taking a nap under a tree and I heard this

really funny little kerfluffley sound, and open my eyes and that ran by.” Go see the show and discover what “that” is. Ms. Datz adds, “Because they’re fantasies I wanted them to be kind of floating in a dream fog or dream zone.” Jewelry appears in many of the paintings, which leads me to ask if Ms. Datz was designing a line of elegant jeweled pieces (besides the gorgeous enamel cuff bracelets she was recently commissioned to design for CB Stark Jewelers). Sighing, she answers, “I wish it were my jewelry. I love to study jewelry, and have books and books on jewelry, royal jewels, Elizabeth Taylor’s jewels, and Edwardian jewels. I think they are a fascinating metaphor for what is of value. The cut stones bringing in facets of color and light. Pearls being strings of wisdom or reward for effort. They speak to us on an almost unconscious level about what we esteem as valuable.”

One of my favorite paintings (which was a tough selection to make) is of a collection of miniature porcelain shoes surrounding a chipmunk. Ms. Datz says, “It is called ‘The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants.’ I accidentally start collecting things, and I don’t know why. All of a sudden I find myself waist-deep in porcelain. Recently I have started to collect these porcelain figurines of gentleman throwing back their waistcoats and showing off their pantaloons.” For a look into more of Ms. Datz’s “Phantasmagoria” collection, stop by her show on Saturday and enjoy her magical world.