Driftwood and found wood have captured the imagination of West Tisbury artist Ashley Medowski in her new show, “Birds, Boats, and Fish (Woodcarvings and Driftwood Sculpture).” Birds and fish dominate her latest work. “These are birds that fly on your wall,” Ms. Medowski told The Times last weekend. While she has worked with driftwood and found wood in the past, the new sculptures are more free-form and are not framed. The roster of avians includes roosters, swans, bluebirds, snowy owls, oystercatchers, hummingbirds, blue herons and sandpipers. Some pieces utilize shrinking acetate and acrylics, while others are framed in architectural pieces.
“The shape of the wood helps me decide what bird or fish it’s going to become,” Ms. Medowski said. She incorporates unusual elements into her bird sculptures, and nothing escapes her imagination. A plastic cat detail or a scrap earring given to her by her friend, the jeweler Kenneth Pillsworth, may make the sculpted bird’s eye. For beaks, she has used a paintbrush handle, a horseshoe crab’s tail, a golf tee, and an African porcupine quill from a trip to Tanzania. The sea plays an important role in her work. In one particularly charming piece, “Sea Pea,” she has set green pearls inside a razor clam to create a pea pod out of found objects. Moth wings make up the “Luna Moth” mosaic.
The scale of the artist’s work is small. “Often I’m so detailed it would take me forever, so it’s easier to work small,” she said. “There’s a warmth in working small, and a charm in working with small objects.”
Ms. Medowski began her art career as a jeweler, which also contributes to the scale of her art. “For a very long time I collected sea glass on the beach,” she said. “Then I started to see the bleached bones of driftwood and wanted to incorporate it into my artwork.”
Located on Lambert’s Cove Road, the Ashley Medowski Gallery is off the beaten path. “In a way it becomes a bit of a destination for people to see how the old Vineyard looks; they are visiting the location,” she said. “They come to visit me, my artwork, the barn. It’s a quiet place,” The barn where the gallery is situated belonged to Ms. Medowski’s great-grandfather, Capt. Norman Benson, believed to be the last trap fisherman on the Island. Ms. Medowski took over his fishing barn 15 years ago, gradually restoring it and turning it into her gallery. Most recently, she added white panels on the second floor to display her wood sculptures. “The white really made the artwork pop,” she said.
In addition to her driftwood sculptures, Ms. Medowski’s collector’s bent has led her to add unusual items to her work. An antique stove pipe vent frames the mosaic in “Sea Glass Window,” and she has set an antique perfume bottle in a wooden box for “Ship in a Bottle.” Like much of her art, she uses micro beads for a background, sometimes adding sparkles. The artist does a lot of commission work for both her art and her jewelry. The driftwood has offered her abundant opportunities for expressing herself in new ways. “I will forever recognize the shapes and mannerisms of the birds and fish I see,” she said.
The Ashley Medowski Gallery is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm. For more information, visit ashleymedowskigallery.com.