Aquinnah’s newly named Sargent Gallery has lots of new work

Guest speaker Shelley Silbert, executive director of Great Old Broads for Wilderness, talked to the crowd on climate change and public lands. — Lynn Christoffers

Aquinnah’s Sargent Gallery, formerly Gay Head Gallery, packs a powerful array of work by new artists and old. Opening for the season last weekend, owner and curator Megan Ottens-Sargent’s gallery displays as much art as many larger ones elsewhere on-Island. It is well worth the excursion to the town of the Gay Head Cliffs.

What makes Sargent Gallery unique among Vineyard art establishments is its commitment to environmental stewardship. Many of its shows give a percentage of sales to environmental nonprofits. The gallery’s array of works, commenting in different ways on the environment, develops a distinctive atmosphere.

On tap for the opening was Shelley Silbert, executive director of Great Old Broads for the Wilderness. Older women created this new national activist group, based in Colorado, to protect public lands from development as a means of fighting climate change. Ms. Silbert led a discussion of the group’s “keep it in the ground” initiative at the opening. The goal is to stop new leases for fossil fuel extraction.

New to the gallery this year are Edgartown summer resident Judith Howells, seasonal visitor Marjorie Gillette Wolfe, sculptor Liz Helfer, interdisciplinary artist Rebecca Henriksen, painter Jenifer Clements, and woodcut printmaker Ruth Kirchmeier. Oils by Ms. Howells include pleasingly familiar landscapes, as in “Lambert’s Cove, August,” “Bend in the Road I and II” and “Becoming Evening, Sengekontacket.” Color photographs by Ms. Wolfe like “Polar Bears,” “Wind Sock,” “Phase,” and “Lighthouse (Cape Pogue)” include environmental motifs. Working in cast bronze, Liz Helfer also has an environmental bent, for example, with her charming cluster of small bees arranged in a circle on a bowl.

Some of the most striking work is done by Ms. Henriksen in a series of four 5-inch by 5-inch concrete squares. One is packed with nails; a second has maple flyers imbedded in the surface; there are pods in a third; a leaf in the fourth. Another of her powerful works is much larger. Untitled, it consists of a panel bisected on the surface by tiny colored thread balls as well as black, green, tan, and orange lines. “Nocturnes” is the title for Ms. Clements’s deeply saturated dark blue abstracts. A West Tisbury resident, Ms. Kirchmeier has on display her always finely detailed work in color, including “Forsythia” and “Nelson’s Garlic.”

Returning to the gallery are photographer Barbara Norfleet, another summer Vineyarder; photographer Matthew Smith; John Nickerson Athearn; Marston Clough; Julia Purinton; and Elizabeth Lockhart Taft, to name only a few. New by Ms. Norfleet is “Snake and Bottle,” and Mr. Smith is exhibiting “Tufu the Whale,” as well as “Northern Bluefish” and “Northern Rainbow.” Mr. Athearn has a series of small watercolors; Mr. Clough a small landscape, “Winter Sky”; and Julia Purinton is showing the Monet-like “Out of the Blue.” Many of Ms. Taft’s plein air oils are smaller than her characteristically large landscapes.

Ms. Ottens-Sargent utilizes her small, three-room space effectively, standing smaller paintings on the floor under tables and leaning other work against windows.

Much of the art is moderately priced, making it more affordable than what is shown in so many other Island galleries.
Sargent Gallery is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm, and by appointment. For more information, call 508-645-2776.