The Vineyard art scene is alive and well, as evidenced by the abundance of exciting artists — both nationally known and locally famous — who were featured in gallery shows this past year. Here are a few highlights from 2017.
In June, Allen Whiting, one of the Island’s best-known artists, hosted a retrospective of his work in recognition of his Davis House Gallery’s 35th anniversary. The show gave visitors a rare opportunity to view work from Mr. Whiting’s four decades as an artist. The retrospective included charcoal drawings, paintings, and even a few small sculptures, and provided a very interesting glimpse at the many styles adopted by the painter over the years.
The Louisa Gould Gallery added two new artists this year, each with a distinctive style. Painter Rick Fleury creates seascapes in a minimalist contemporary style featuring calm seas, filtered light, and a luminosity that truly captures the Island look. Although he has been represented by galleries and museums around Cape Cod, Boston, and elsewhere for years, this is the first time that the member of Boston’s Copley Society of Art has shown on the Vineyard.
Abstract artist Theresa Girard has also joined the growing ranks of artists represented by Ms. Gould. Ms. Girard, who formerly served as a color expert and educator for a large manufacturing company, often incorporates vaguely geometric forms in her work, and combines soft pastels with vibrant splashes of color for a unique and very soothing look.
The Eisenhauer Gallery in Edgartown also welcomed two new artists. Larry Horowitz creates impressionistic landscapes rich in texture and vibrant colors. Mr. Horowitz, former apprentice to Wolf Kahn, has participated in the Arts-In-Embassies program in Finland and Russia, and has shown his work all over the country. Now he has turned his artist’s eye to the Vineyard, showing his Island land and seascapes here for the first time.
Also using color in dramatic ways is the other new Eisenhauer Gallery artist, Chase Langford. The former mapmaker and photographer has now turned his hand to abstraction, creating striking large-scale paintings in vivid colors.
In June a new cooperative gallery took over the space formerly occupied by PikNik Art & Apparel on Dukes County Avenue in Oak Bluffs. Reinvigorating the town’s Arts District, the new Art Gallery is an initiative by the Martha’s Vineyard Center for the Visual Arts (MVCVA) and features 12 local artists working in a variety of media from painting and photography to pottery, furniture, and fashion design.
Every year the Martha’s Vineyard Art Association (MVAA) exhibits some of the work from its permanent collection, going back to the 1930s. This past June, the MVAA spotlighted a few of the nationally recognized artists who were at one time members of the art association. Included in the show were two never-before exhibited works by Vaclav Vytlacil, one of the founders of the American Abstract Artists group.
In September the Martha’s Vineyard Museum hung a show devoted entirely to Vytlacil, who has been ranked alongside top modernist painters including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Georges Braque.
In July the Sargent Gallery in Aquinnah honored another famed painter, Thomas Hart Benton, with a show of contemporary work influenced by the Regionalist art movement leader. Among the exhibiting artists was Benton’s grandson, artist Anthony Benton Gude.
Also in July, A Gallery presented a new body of work by popular Vineyard artist Rez Williams. Known for his large-scale depictions of fishing boats, this time around Mr. Williams returned to landscape painting — creating a series of colorful paintings depicting the rugged shoreline and coastal forest of Monhegan Island, Maine.
Last winter Island artist Kara Taylor lived and worked in South Africa, where she created a body of work titled “The Irony Between Chance and Choice.” Of the 13 paintings in the series, Ms. Taylor showed 10 at her gallery in West Tisbury in August. In an interview in The Times, Ms. Taylor said, “I’m exploring the human dynamic — conflict and resolution. Hope and despair.” The figurative pieces all incorporate African fabrics and other material. Though the subject is a new one for Ms. Taylor, her style remains a blend of the mystical and the natural.
In August the Field Gallery hosted a retrospective of the work of much-admired Island artist Rose Abramson, who recently moved off-Island. The show included pieces from the 1970s through the 2000s, and showcased examples of abstract and figurative work, paintings and mixed media, representing the many different styles and techniques that Ms. Abramson has adopted throughout her decades as an artist.
A highlight of the Granary Gallery season was a traveling exhibit of the images of the late street photographer Vivian Maier. Ms. Maier rose to worldwide renown after her death in 2003 thanks to the discovery of a cache of thousands of her remarkable black-and-white candid shots of people in New York City. Her story was related in the award-winning documentary “Finding Vivian Maier.” Granary Gallery owner Chris Morse was fortunate enough to secure a showing of a collection of 30 photos which is touring the world.
In August, the socially conscious Gallery Josephine in Oak Bluffs hosted a group show that included artists from around the world. Among those represented in the show were former national painter of Columbia, Heriberto Cogollo, awardwinning artist and Maya Angelou collaborator Jerome Lagarrigue, and February James, whose work can be seen on the hit HBO series “Insecure.”
On a sad note, the Island lost one of the most important figures in the Vineyard art scene with the passing of Francine Kelly in January. During her tenure as executive director of the Featherstone Center for the Arts, Ms. Kelly initiated many positive changes and helped to greatly expand the organization’s programming. In 2010 she stepped down, but continued to serve in various capacities, and was a constant, and much-loved, presence at the arts campus. Following Ms. Kelly’s recommendation, her daughter, Ann Smith, was approved by the board of directors to succeed her. In her honor, Featherstone christened the exhibition space in its brand-new huge barn facility the Francine Kelly Gallery. So far the new gallery has hosted a number of exhibits and performances, making it a very welcome addition to the arts community.