On exhibit at the Chilmark library are abstract watercolor landscapes by Martha Oakes. The San Francisco–based artist and textile designer has summered on-Island with her parents, Jim and Elisabeth Oakes, who live in Edgartown, since she was 5 years old.
Oakes says she has been painting from the time she was old enough to hold a brush. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder in the College of Architecture and Planning, and has worked with architectural and interior designer Tom Scheerer. In addition to her watercolors, she produces abstract textiles. She says much of her work “is a reflection of the landscapes I have lived in and encountered.” The small details of nature, like a shell she may have found on an Island beach, appeal to her, and her current landscapes are based on work she did on-Island this summer.
Oakes says, “I love the hands-on craft and process of running my own business, from the first stroke of the brush to printing the fabric in local Bay Area factories … to commissioned paintings.” She applies watercolor and gouache paint to watercolor paper. Paintings like “Before Florence” rely on a pale blue-green wash in a work that is divided horizontally by a series of three black lines that wave across the center. While abstract, the watercolor could be taken to look like surf and sand. In “Clearwater 1,” colors stretch across the center, including beige vertical lines and a series of blue horizontal dots. Again, the mix of abstraction with figurative elements gives complexity to this work. In “Cay 31,” blue-green, beige, green, yellow, and gray sweep horizontally across the painting under a gray sky. The series of colors emerges quietly but firmly from the work.
Oakes will also display a collection of her linen pillows that use her textile designs as part of the show, and prints of her watercolors. The exhibit will be on display through Oct. 5.