When you visit the Ashley Medowski Gallery in West Tisbury, you will pass a line of old machinery lovingly arranged along the driveway. A vintage tricycle is parked near the entrance to the antique barn that houses this artist’s work. That is because Ms. Medowski is a collector, and her paintings, sculpture, and mixed-media, as well as her sea glass jewelry, benefit from the many found objects that catch her eye. Her current exhibit, which opened earlier this month, will be on view until Labor Day.
“I have always used found objects, seen life’s elements in objects,” she says. “A rectangular piece of driftwood reminds me of a barn. A triangular piece reminds me of a roof — or a cedar treetop. Or sometimes I find a piece of metal with copper patina that reminds me of ocean with its blues and greens.” For her the natural decomposition of things has beauty, and a story to tell.
One of the most charming works in her current exhibit is titled “The Oyster Catcher.” The bird has a tiny, real oyster in its beak, which consists of two bright red, reclaimed paintbrush handles. Its legs are made of driftwood, its bright yellow eye rescued from a plastic cat toy, and it strides along a double ripple of blue waves that the artist has hand carved from wood. Two small, antique bottles — one for perfume and the other Bayer Aspirin — are lovingly mounted in backgrounds of microbeads and framed with salvaged wood. Ms. Medowski makes all her own frames. Look closely into the bottles, and you will discover images of tiny boats. This is how the artist’s transformative imagination works.
“My mixed-media take a long time to assemble,” Ms. Medowski says. Chiseling, sanding, coloring, and attaching are involved; the artist says she will peg and rivet anything, an artifact of her background as a jeweler. “I like things well assembled. It’s an art of connection,” she says.
This year Ms. Medowski’s painting has evolved, and she thinks she’s become a little more polished. It is the
perfectionist in her speaking. She works in many styles, sometimes applying thick paint with a palette knife. She can also be very detailed, an example being the Brookside Farm oxen, which took a long time to paint. She thinks her graphic style is sharper this year, with its emphasis on iconic imagery, which is drawn from the natural world and sometimes spiced with imaginary trees that have human qualities. In one portrait of a sea scallop, the semi-open shell halves are filled with multiple blue eyes, a reflection of the care this artist takes to be authentic. Sea scallops have over 100 eyes. “I like to teach a bit of natural history in my art,” she says. This penchant even appears in her pricing labels, where she lists not only the media used, but tells you how she connected everything and put things together. “It’s more of the story,” she says. “Summer Flounder,” an acrylic painting rather than a mixed-media construction, is a remarkable recreation of how this bottom feeder camouflages itself.
Once you have finished looking at the art on the walls of the Ashley Medowski Gallery and her jewelry, step back and take a good look at the building that houses them, because it is another example of the artist’s creative work. For instance, she has incorporated the sides and back of an old wagon she found in the root cellar of the 1869 barn, which has been in her family for generations, and which she inherited. These wagon parts now frame a door. Next to it is a window filled with multicolored sea glass, another example of how this imaginative artist transforms found objects into art.
Ashley Medowski Gallery, 367 Lambert’s Cove Road, West Tisbury. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm through Labor Day. For information, see ashleymedowskigallery.com.