The Eisenhauer Gallery on North Water Street, Edgartown, is always worth a visit. The popular year-round gallery features an eclectic mix of artists of the first rank, with a focus on contemporary as opposed to traditional artwork. Every year there’s always a surprise or two as owner Elizabeth Eisenhauer makes an effort to bring in artists who have a vision all their own.
For its summer season kickoff show, opening on Saturday, May 27, Ms. Eisenhauer has selected three artists who specialize in ocean themes — each having a very different point of view. Swimsuit-clad figures, maritime objects, and the sea itself, as seen in all of its swirling, foaming glory, are represented in the work on display — providing a nice introduction to the pleasures of summer.
Both Michel Brosseau and Paul Norwood have been represented by the Eisenhauer Gallery for a number of years. One of Paul Norwood’s favorite subjects is kids jumping from the second bridge. He has continued with this popular series, capturing images that conjure up all of the joy and freedom of summer in a split-second of time. Mr. Norwood’s oil on canvas work is very painterly. He builds up layers, and often applies paint with a palette knife, getting shadows and other effects with simple strokes. Sometimes Mr. Norwood adds graphic elements like bold concentric circles to represent sunlight, giving his work a unique effect that combines the realistic and the stylistic.
On the other end of the spectrum, Mr. Norwood also likes to capture calm, deserted landscapes, particularly ponds, inlets, and marshlands, with his color-heightened palette. These paintings are done in a similar style to the figurative work, with light and shadow and subtleties of shade represented with bold, contrasting strokes and lots of texture to create an almost impressionist feel.
Michel Brosseau, on the other hand, works in realism, often choosing extreme close-up views of his subjects — objects like buoys, rowboats, and sections of sails. The French-born artist focuses primarily on symbols of the nautical world. “Maybe I prefer the maritime places, objects, and artifacts of the sea culture to the sea itself, because I can tame and control them,” he writes in his artist’s statement.
For his latest series, Mr. Brosseau has turned his attention to crustaceans — specifically lobsters. Displaying a fascination with these spiny creatures of the sea, the artist captures their portraits in close-up, partial-snapshot view, just a bright red tail or front section and one claw blown up to large proportions. The lobster portraits show the artist’s interest in the idea of man’s interaction with the sea.
Before taking up painting full-time, Mr. Brosseau graduated from law school and then went on to a career as a journalist and political activist. Born and raised in French coastal towns, Mr. Brosseau has maintained a love for seaside life, and has found inspiration on the Vineyard, where he has discovered subjects for his work in recent years.
The third artist to be featured in the Memorial Day show, Annie Wildey, is relatively new to the Eisenhauer fold. As an artist, her relationship to the sea is a very personal and emotional, almost spiritual, one. She clearly has a fascination with the motion, majesty, and ever-changing nature of the ocean. Not so much seascapes — static and viewed from a distance — her oil paintings offer the viewer full immersion in the sea and surf.
Ms. Wildey’s spectacular images capture a moment in time and the mystery of the continuously changing sea. You can sense the motion, feel the sea spray or the chill of the fog, smell the salt, and experience the sensation of being right in the midst of the swell.
Obviously enthralled by the power of the ocean, Ms. Wildey writes in her artist statement, “The rhythm of the waves marks time, like the breath. Moment to moment, its intensity fluctuates like emotion. Thoughts linger and pass, like a veil of fog. At the shore I am reminded to be present. It provides a place for contemplation and reflection. I identify with the strength and vulnerability of the ocean when a storm is brewing or passing, when the surf is up, when the fog looms or is lifting, when the horizon is obscured, or the sky begins to clear, I find beauty in these moments of transition.”
Annie Wildey’s ocean paintings can also be found adding a bit of extra atmosphere to the walls of the Harbor View Hotel.
There are a number of other new artists that Ms. Eisenhauer will be showing throughout the summer. One of her favorite discoveries is landscape painter Larry Horowitz, whom she will be introducing with a solo show in July. “Larry Horowitz is very, very special,” says Ms. Eisenhauer. “His colors are really vibrant. That’s how he slid in the door. I’m not showing very much traditional art.” With his sort of modern impressionist style, Mr. Horowitz has captured familiar scenes of the Vineyard in a whole new light.
Adding a purely abstract artist to the mix, the gallery will be featuring the work of Chase Langford in a group show in August. A former photographer and mapmaker, Mr. Langford creates powerful images using clearly defined swirls and other abstract shapes, combining bright and neutral colors in unique ways.
The Memorial Day show will provide a terrific taste of summer to come, with a focus on the sea and sea life as seen through the eyes of three very different artists. Work by many of the gallery’s other artists, both old and new, will also be on display.
Setting the season in motion, the inaugural summer opening will feature the first of the gallery’s weekly Music in the Square concerts, kicking things off with some blues, rock, and R&B with Mike Benjamin and his band. The popular concert series, featuring live music by the Island’s most sought-after bands, will continue throughout June, July, and August.
Whether it’s a painting of a glamorous woman sprouting a fantasy floral display from pouting lips (Anna Kincaid) or a series of falling human figures cast in bronze and suspended by wire from the ceiling (Paige Bradley), Ms. Eisenhauer is continually bringing the fresh, innovative, and interesting to her lovely gallery.
“People are very excited when they come in to find something that’s not traditional,” says the gallery owner. “The most important thing for me is to give them a good experience when they walk in the door. That’s what makes my day, whether they buy something or not. At the end of the day, I know the money’s going to come in. It’s an established business. I worked very hard to build up the gallery. Now is the time to have fun.”
Opening reception for the Memorial Day show is Saturday, May 27, from 6 to 8 pm, with Music in the Square by the Mike Benjamin Band. Visit eisenhauergallery.com for more information.