What inspired artists in 2018?

From a courteous bows in Japan to the political landscape in the U.S.


Artists often reinvent themselves during the course of their careers. Each step of an artistic evolution can be drastic, or just a slightly different way of seeing things — a temporary experiment, or a stylistically defining move in a different direction. The Times asked some prominent Vineyard artists the question, “What inspired you in 2018?”

Cindy Kane responded via email, “In October of 2018, I traveled to Japan for three weeks on a walking tour in the region of the Nakasendo trail, which is the mountainous area between Tokyo and Kyoto. Since that time, my thoughts have dwelled on the profound poignancy of the ubiquitous bow. I was very touched by the endearing courtesy in the bow, which is encountered in every aspect of daily life.

“I was amazed to see that the personnel on the bullet train would bow each time they left the car to go to a connecting car. They turned around to face us, and bowed before moving on. I have been processing this gesture in my work, particularly the deeper bow which expresses apology or gratitude.

“There is something I have internalized here that strikes an emotional chord in me, and I hope I will be able to tap into this feeling in the future when I need to conjure up the muses.”

In April Vineyard artist Marston Clough made a trip to the West Coast, where he checked out an exhibit by the artist Raimonds Staprans at the San José Museum of Art. “He does these bright intense paintings that I love,” Clough said. “That visit had a lingering effect. I did a couple of paintings that illustrate that direction.” However, as Clough noted, “I always turn back to the horizon and clouds. Those are the things that always really inspire me.”

Valentine Estabrook is an artist who is constantly experimenting with subject, form, and media. Her latest series has a political theme. In her artist’s statement, she wrote, “This past year, 2018, I continued painting Vineyard landscapes as well as my abstract works on star constellations. But I also felt a need to express an anger harbored within me.

“I needed to deal with the feeling of helplessness pervading the political landscape. It all started in January 2017. Two friends and I attended the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. That march set a great political mandate, a path forward, back to the original intent of the U.S. Constitution. I was not going to run for Congress. Instead I focused on the attacks aimed at our freedoms. I began to paint.

In late 2017 and into 2018, I ordered 10 canvases, all the same size, intended to represent the first approved 10 Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. I’m only on the Third Amendment — the Housing of Soldiers — but I’ll get there. Painting this subject brings me a bit of peace and hope.”

In 2018, gallerist and artist Louisa Gould made a return to her roots, in a sense. Although she is best known for her photography, Gould originally studied painting at the Art Students League and Parsons School of Design in New York City (concurrently with pursuing a career on Wall Street). Last year, Gould was inspired by one of the artists she represents to start painting again. In the fall she completed a residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., where her passion for painting was reignited. This November, Gould herself will be facilitating the residency.

“I was much more trained in painting than photography,” she says. “I’ve continued to do a few commissions every year, but with the photography and the business I run, I haven’t had time for much else. My heart and soul are really in painting.” Gould is also the mother of a young child, and the president of the board for the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society.

“When I was painting, I was just smiling the whole time,” recalled Gould of her time at the residency. “I was so happy just to be there. My joy was for myself. I wasn’t painting for a show or a commission. I was just being myself as an artist, and experiencing the pure joy of it. I love the texture of paint. I truly love color.”