Field Gallery defines contemporary style

—James Carter

Field Gallery in West Tisbury has a history of featuring contemporary work by artists with unique styles and methods. The gallery’s upcoming show is no exception. On exhibit will be manipulated photographs by Michael Stimola and paintings by James Carter, who uses airbrush techniques in his very distinctive acrylic paintings.

Mr. Carter’s work is unique in a couple of ways. He tends to juxtapose nature with man-made objects — often mechanical devices — and he paints in a trompe l’oeil fashion, giving his work the impression of three dimensional objects set into a frame, their shadows cast against the backdrop.

The artist often features birds in his work. “My grandfather was a full-time painter after he retired,” Mr. Carter explained. “He was always painting wildlife. I remember him teaching me how to paint feathers.”

Mr. Carter’s other interest is in a very different vein. “I’ve always loved mechanical drawings and architectural sketches,” he said. “In college, I studied furniture design. When I lived in Germany, I became very interested in blueprints, mechanical drawings, and architectural renderings.” He also has a collection of old cameras that he often features in his paintings.

Some of his unusual imaginings include a bird sitting on top of a stack of books and a vintage camera, a swan gazing at an egg that is sitting on an old-fashioned hanging scale, and an artfully arranged collection of items from a bird’s nest, from a model airplane to bits of old hardware.

The latter is an example of a style derived in part from the work of Mr. Carter’s wife, who is also an artist. She creates three-dimensional shadow boxes featuring eclectic collections of objects. Mr. Carter achieves a similar effect in two dimensions. “I love that trompe l’oeil effect,” he said. “The shadows are so important in my work. I’m very into any artist that makes things come right off the surface.”

This artist’s technique is also unusual. He uses a combination of airbrush and traditional brushwork. Mr. Carter has shown his work in galleries in New York, Paris, Los Angeles, Miami and across his home state of Connecticut. He has been represented by Field Gallery for the past three years.

Michael Stimola works in almost the opposite fashion of Mr. Carter. He creates photographic images that have a very painterly quality, manipulating reality to produce more of an interpretation of a place than a strict rendering.

“My photographs are intended not to merely convey information. It’s a much more subjective experience,” he said. “It’s how I experience a place. It’s highly interpretive.”

In his dramatic landscape photos, reality is heightened and romanticized. A beachside shack sits in front of a dramatic sky, which has the look of an old master painting. Crows circling a winter field against a gray dappled sky appear to have flown right off a Van Gogh canvas.

The unique effect is achieved through using scans and multiple images, as well as layers of chalk dust and acetate. Mr. Stimola uses Photoshop to layer images of texture from things like fabrics, paper, stones, and wood flooring with the photos to create something entirely new and original.

He also samples things that catch his eye in paintings to use in the layering process.

“I’ll take photographs of paintings — Turner, Matisse, Cezanne,” Mr. Stimola said. “I’ll use a loner of a piece or something with interesting tonal qualities or texture I might be able to use. It all goes into a bank or reservoir of things I can draw from.”

It’s not surprising that Mr. Stimola borrows from painters. He has been influenced by artists from the tonalist school — people like Whistler and George Innes, whose style the photographer describes as “very soft, ethereal, moody.”

Mr. Stimola spends about half of the year on the Vineyard. He has had a home in West Tisbury since 1989. When asked what he finds so special about the Island landscape, he specifies, “the light, the topography of the Island, the grace and subtlety of water combined with really interesting stormy skies.”

Each of the photos in his most recent series seems to capture the magic of the Island in an almost cinematic or theatrical manner.

“Most of my photographs are not just about literal, physical places and objects, but also remembered and imagined ones,” Mr. Stimola said. “They are more than visual information. I want the viewer to have a sense of how I feel about what I’ve seen and experienced.”

Artists’ Reception: Michael Stimola and James Carter, Sunday, August 21, from 5 to 7 pm, Field Gallery, West Tisbury. Show on display through Sept. 3. For more information, visit