In a continuing effort to present both the visual and literary arts, ArtSpace gallery in West Tisbury will host a series of events this weekend. Beginning on Friday, Oct. 23, the space will exhibit the work of three contemporary local artists. On Sunday evening, Oct. 25, the exhibit will be paired with a poetry reading featuring 10 members of the Martha’s Vineyard Poet’s Collective.
Co-founder of the gallery/studio Margaret Emerson will be among the artists who will be exhibiting their work in the three-day show. She will also be one of the poets reading on Sunday. The multitalented Ms. Emerson has managed to combine her passions as both an artist and a gallerist.
The four paintings that she will be showing are visual interpretations of her poems. Ms. Emerson’s style as a poet is minimalist. In each of the four poems she tells a story in short phrases with almost no active verbs. Despite the economy of words, the poems are very evocative.
Her paintings accomplish the same storytelling objective with much more richness and less detachment. In some of her work, she uses indistinct brush strokes and daubs of color representing figures whose details emerge slowly. These paintings have an immediate impact, but then come into focus as one views them for a bit longer. This stylistic, almost abstract approach is very effective. In other work, Ms. Emerson creates a story using mixed-media techniques. Both styles work well with her storytelling process.
“When I first started painting, I did the typical Vineyard stuff,” says Ms. Emerson, referring to her early pastel landscapes. “This year I loosened up.”
Ms. Emerson only took up painting a few years ago, shortly after she moved to the Vineyard in 2007. She previously studied art at Wayne State University in Detroit before turning to nursing, eventually earning a Ph.D. in her chosen field, and teaching at Northeastern in Boston.
Upon retirement from her nursing career, Ms. Emerson moved to the Island and started flexing her creative muscles. She painted dozens of lovely Vineyard scenes in a more traditional style, one that still expresses her own individual vision. Ms. Emerson has shown her work at Featherstone, and was the featured artist for the month of August at the Vineyard Haven Public Library.
Earlier this year, Ms. Emerson participated in a six-week poetry interpretation and writing class at the West Tisbury library with Island poet Jill Jupen. “I was hooked,” she says. “I love it.” She continued her studies, taking two different online courses, and joined the Martha’s Vineyard Poets Collective, a group led by Ms. Jupen that meets weekly at the Anchors, Edgartown Council on Aging. At Sunday night’s poetry reading Ms. Emerson will be joined by Ms. Jupen, as well as poets Ellie Bates, Elaine Boettcher, Nan Byrne, Rachael Convery, Tom Durawa, Les Holcomb, Ann Lees, and Andrea Quigley.
Ms. Emerson’s poems tend to be narrative to some extent. And they lend themselves well to visual storytelling. As a relative newcomer to both disciplines, she shows real native talent and a distinctively modern style.
The most dramatic of Ms. Emerson’s five paintings is one called “Accident.” The large image depicts a two-way traffic jam on the interstate. The cause of the tie-up is only apparent when one reads the corresponding poem. However, the mood of the image is dark and somewhat unsettling. The poem, in Ms. Emerson’s clipped style, describes the mood of a traveler held up on the highway by a fatal car accident. Despite the short phrasing, the language is very powerful: “We sit reverently in this funeral procession.”
In another poem/painting Ms. Emerson speculates on the effects of a heart transplant on a patient: “My jigsawed cells. Unable to ignore. Pieces not fitting. Pass into memory.”
The poet explains that in the course of her research on heart transplants she discovered a journal from India that describes cellular memory. “The heart carries memories,” says Ms. Emerson. In the painting, a brightly colored anatomically rendered heart is surrounded by actual puzzle pieces and scraps of paper.
Of the other two artists represented in the upcoming art show, Ed Schulman is the more familiar. His seascapes, cityscapes, and figurative paintings, done in a primitive style with a wonderful eye for color and form, have been shown in various galleries around the Island. Additionally, Jesse McGrath, a newcomer to the art scene, will contribute a few of his moody paintings. Mr. McGrath also takes a minimalist approach in his rural and seaside scenes. The three artists represented in the show complement one another nicely. In each case, the work is contemporary and reflects the artist’s unique vision. All of the paintings in the show are in the $200 to $700 range.
The ArtSpace venue includes a gallery and artist studios. Although the collective originally housed a handful of artists, currently only Ms. Emerson and painter Rob Hauck are occupying the studio spaces.
Ms. Emerson has been interested in representing a number of different disciplines since she and a group of other artists began leasing the building in 2014. So far the space has hosted six other poetry readings and an evening of one-act plays. “We’d like to make our space available for all kinds of artists throughout the winter,” she says. The group would be interested in providing a venue for art-related events free of charge.
ArtSpace, 505 State Road, West Tisbury. Art show on Friday, Oct. 23 and Saturday, Oct. 24, 6 to 8 pm; and Sunday, Oct. 25, 1 to 4 pm. Poetry reading Sunday, Oct. 25, 6:30 to 8:30 pm. For additional information, contact Margaret Emerson at 941-441-5072.