It is indeed a joyful experience to walk through the “Community Youth Art Show: Nothing Without Joy” at Featherstone Center for the Arts. Director Ann Smith says, “We always want to do something with the community every year. This year we really wanted to focus on our youth, primarily because we’ve had a really nice and longstanding relationship with Garden Gate Child Development Center, and this is their 20th anniversary. It’s a nice time to celebrate their longevity and our partnership together.”
I had a sneak peek at the show as it was being installed, which allowed me to speak to two of the art teachers involved. First was Tiffiney Shoquist, MVRHS drawing and painting teacher, who explained that the art was selected based on if it “showed a lot of hard work, and their vision is coming through in the piece.”
Much in the show is arresting, including “A Piece of Me” by 15-year-old Josephine Chivers, who “drew” a captivating self-portrait with slim strips of magazines over black-and-white reproductions of works by such recognizable artists as Impressionist painter Renoir and High Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci, as well as a page from a discarded book. The mixture makes for fascinating associations. “She has really shown an incredible talent, and has a lot of promise,” Shoquist says.
Seventeen-year-old Brianna Convery mixes and interweaves three sometimes transparent, sometimes opaque heads in her black-and-white block print appropriately titled “Circle of Life.” In “Abstract Thought,” she skillfully silkscreens superimposed shades of brown and hints of red to define two sculptural figures standing amid a vibrant apple-green background. Particularly notable is how Convery uses the negative or empty white space without ink to create contour lines that help define and pattern the figures.
A rose by any other name would never smell so sweet … well, actually, look as beautiful as those made by three young ceramists, all using a floral theme. Brendan Coogan, MVRHS crafts and sculpture teacher, tells me that they hand-fashioned the flowers, and the bowls were thrown on the wheel. Sixteen-year-old Amanda Moraes’ festooned bowls “War of the Roses” and “Blue Rose,” along with Alana Cardoso’s “Flower Jar,” are brilliant artworks rather than utilitarian objects. Seventeen-year-old Stephany Ribeiro’s four small fashioned flowers would nicely adorn any flat surface.
“She experiments with different finishes to get different effects and colors. A lot of her influences come from organic or sea life, rock formations or things like that,” Coogan says of an array of intriguing vessels by 17-year-old Avalon Weiland.
Students Ava Maggi and Lydia Cavla’s ceramic piece came from an assignment to construct something out of ceramic slabs. Coogan tells me that after putting something together, they felt that it looked like a takeout box, and added the noodles, which seem to explode out of the pagoda-adorned, white-glazed container.
Stopping in front of a nearby window, Coogan relates that 18-year-old Ian Trance spent the better part of a semester making the stained-glass fish in his piece, “Wild Caught,” meticulously cutting out shapes and assembling them. “It was largely self-directed. He was teaching himself really as he went. And I learned a lot,” Coogan says. It hangs alluringly from a twisted, fairly massive piece of driftwood.
There is an impressive array of work from students of MVRHS photography teacher and art department chair Chris Baer. A good many take on nature as their subject. While many look as if they might have been taken on the Vineyard, Davin Tackabury’s “Foggy Horizon” is a mystifying landscape of what looks like row upon row of verdant treetops peeking up out of the mist as though it’s been taken from on high in, say, a Himalayan-like terrain.
Smith gives me a short tour of the work from Garden Gate, a progressive preschool and toddler center. “Our children’s art teacher, Coral Shockey, has been teaching and working with the children there, so these are her projects with them,” Smith says. Looking at a large, colorful, explosive piece, she says, “The 2- and 3-year-olds have worked on their Jackson Pollock–inspired deconstruction and mixed-media piece.” Moving on are the 4- and 5-year-olds’ version to which they have added collage, creating dense surfaces. Farther on, Smith joyfully shows me the 3- to-5-year-olds’ still lifes of a pineapple that they originally created in pen and ink and then translated into all sorts of expressive acrylic renditions.
In the works along one of the walls, the artists get progressively older, and I learn that Garden Gate invited alumni who have continued in the arts to participate in the show. Photographer Charlotte Hall, who will teach art at Featherstone this summer, has an evocative color photograph “Burano, Italy, 2017,” and Jack Yuen’s strikingly posed and colored “African Painted Dog” stares straight out at us. Looking carefully, you can see how he wraps the print around the canvas’ edges so that it becomes a slim three-dimensional artwork. His sister Emma Yuen’s sinuous portions of the alluring Japanese fish in her gloriously colored “Koi Tryptic” actually greet us just to the left of the exhibition’s entryway.
Smith brings me over to a nook devoted to a single artist, explaining, “We also wanted to feature Opal Wortman, who was the first recipient of the Featherstone art scholarship at the high school last year. So she has a year of art school under her belt, and it’s really delightful to see her transformation and growth.”
As we part, Smith smiles and says, “We think it’s a nice opportunity for the community to see what’s being produced on the Island, to see what our great kids are producing.”
“Nothing Without Joy” is open daily from 12 to 4 pm through June 23 at Featherstone.