One of the Island’s most prominent realist artists, Jeanne Staples, is exhibiting her work at West Tisbury’s Granary Gallery through Saturday, Sept. 5.
A member of Boston’s Copley Society of Art, Ms. Staples has over a dozen new works on display in a series she has titled “Painting the Night.” The effects of artificial light illuminating sections of paintings that capture nighttime scenes provide a common motif for many of the new works shown. Most beautifully centered is the architectural portrait Ms. Staples has created in “Grange Hall at Dusk.” A muted white picket fence establishes the staccato foreground, behind which hovers the iconic, dark building, accented by white gingerbread and porch columns. Softly spreading across the intervening ground, warm yellow light spills from the hall’s front door, two windows and parts of a third and fourth.
“The Weigh In” uses a gray palette, set off by a string of yellow lights over three workers. Here the artist demonstrates her skill at capturing distinctly individual figures in an architectural setting. One man, wearing a bill hat and bright orange bib overalls, stands at a worktable gutting fish. Nearby another orange-garbed fisherman, hand outstretched, talks with a third man. The interior of the building behind them in this 50-inch by 60-inch painting exudes a warm, reddish light. The artist has evocatively captured a moment in time, transforming it into an iconic representation of the Island fishing life.
In “Night Work, Gannon & Benjamin,” architectural elements, lighted artificially at night, reign, with muted car taillights and fading sky along the horizon as secondary elements. In a rare evocation of red dusk light, “View Toward the Cape” puts an East Chop summer cottage on the right side of the canvas, making way for the road that curves away from a bluff most Islanders know is rapidly eroding. Once again, Ms. Staples has balanced a moment in time with a celebration of permanence.
Not all of Ms. Staples’ work in the current show inhabits nighttime worlds. “Drying the Wash” offers a
nostalgic view of an almost obsolete domestic habit. The wind blows the clothes, the clothesline snakes up right, to left, above a patch of grass and the laundry’s home looms behind in a thinly clouded sky. In “Grace — Rowing the Cornish Gig,” the artist captures the intent silence of five men rowing toward shore, with a buoy, a dock, and Steamship Authority ferry set in a subtly multicolored stretch of water. The sky above resonates with reddish light, while a sandy beach seems to beckon cheerfully. “Lure” is a striking departure in the exhibit for an artist who so lovingly depicts buildings and landscapes. The Asian subject of this portrait wears a workman’s black and white plaid shirt, while four fishing lures hang on the wall behind him. The brightest aspect of the portrait is the glints in the subject’s eyes.
Busy with customers and servers, “After Dusk, Art Cliff Diner” celebrates a favorite Vineyard locale in its current permutation, the food truck. Here Ms. Staples continues her exploration of the interplay of light and shadow on the Vineyard landscape after sunset. Each detail is lovingly depicted and given space — Art Cliff signs frame the painting, an umbrella sits unneeded near the truck, and a full moon above is covered in wispy swirl of cloud.
Taking pride of place in the Granary Gallery is Ms. Staples’ “Moving the Gay Head Light.” This painting offers the viewer a study in shades of brown, with the iron tracks for moving the building forging into the foreground, while a yellow truck sits stationary on the left. Light illuminates the orange left side of the lighthouse, which is festooned with a sign announcing “Expert House Movers.” Once again, a moment in time speaks volumes. “Like many Islanders,” says the artist, “I was captivated by the monumental undertaking of moving such a massive structure and wanted to capture something of that historic effort in this painting.”
Jeanne Staples, Granary Gallery, 636 Old County Road, West Tisbury, through Saturday, Sept. 5. Sculptor Don Wilks is also displaying his limited-edition bronze and cast lead crystal work. For information, see granarygallery.com.