Artists of every level exhibit at the annual All-Island Art Show

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Calling all emerging artists! That’s the annual invitation to participate in the All-Island Art Show, gloriously set around the perimeter of the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs. Bob Schaefer, committee chairman, tells me the tradition started in 1958, and as far as he’s concerned, “This year’s art is far superior to prior years.” Cottage Park summer resident Linda Burnham, who has been coming for some 20 years, agreed: “There’s a lot of really beautiful, fine stuff up here this year. It’s a lovely show.”

The exhibition was founded and continues to be a venue for amateurs, emerging artists, and professionals who don’t otherwise have a space to show. He explains, “The only requirement is that you have some connection to Martha’s Vineyard. It could be from visiting your parents to being a resident.”

Brian Kirkpatrick may have started painting for the first time in Venice, but his folk-art acrylic works are all Vineyard. For instance, he paints the On Time Ferry III in solid, bold colors, and in another painting pays homage to the late Peter Simon, inserting him into his scene of the busy Edgartown Harbor — barefoot of course, as Kirkpatrick points out Simon was wont to be. He also painted a shark breaching the ocean’s surface with mouth agape.

Many artists painted the Campground cottages, including Marietta Cleasby, who also zeroed in on a luminous set of hanging Japanese lanterns portraying the magic in watercolor of one of the prettiest evenings of the summer — Illumination Night. And there was Virginia Hetherington’s gorgeous piece “The Tabernacle,” whose colors evoked the feel and look of the location we were inhabiting.

Jim McKay’s two carefully rendered pencil drawings walked us out of the Campground to the expanse of Ocean Park and the iconic bandstand. There were other classic Vineyard motifs, including Ned Reade’s large watercolor with Edgartown views of blooming gardens you see when strolling through the historic village on a perfect sunny day. There were also waterscapes, including Robert Schaefer’s oil on canvas “Shenandoah Sunset,” with the historic ship’s purple silhouette sails against the backdrop of a mellifluous yellow-tone sky. Donna Blackburn rendered “Gay Head” and “Edgartown Beach” with evocative oil pigments that gently edge the scenes toward abstraction.

Some artists dropped us into worlds far from home. Sharon Kelly’s small pastel “New Zealand Blues” places us at the head of the rich, multi-hued blue water and distant mountains of this other alluring island. Kate Murray-Jones’ atmospheric photographs conjure up Venice dreamscapes, including the tranquil one of “parked” gondolas moored in a receding row, or another of a small walking bridge spanning the narrow canal that recedes far into the background. Closer to home, we have Rhode Island photographer Jack Sipperly’s magnificent ocean “wavescapes,” with a large horizontal format that emphasizes the delicate white foam crested as they roll toward shore.

Jo Ann Acey’s two small gouache and ink-on-paper pieces, “Joy” and “Life,” were alluring plays of fascinatingly entwined and overlapping squares and rectangles, and some of the few entirely nonreferential pieces in the show. It would be easy to mistake Martha Mae Jones’s large abstract fabric-patterned collages for quilts. They are actually a dizzying collection of narrow, layered textile strips with varying designs that she adheres to canvas. They are seemingly flat, but actually have slightly raised, nubbed surfaces. An even more variegated surface is Debra Yapp’s aptly titled “Beach Bounty” rock collage, in which she fit stones of different, but related, colors, shapes, and sizes, snugly bound within a rough-hewed wooden frame. It calls out for us to run our hands over the piece.

Elizabeth Convery-Luce alters her work in a different manner. It’s hard to tell if her “Osprey Flight” is a painting or photograph. In fact, it is both. Convery-Luce tells me that she likes to push the boundaries of art and photography. She took a photograph of the large bird, wings expanded flying high above us, and placed it over a Photoshopped landscape, which she then further manipulated with digital painting to create the delicate look of a watercolor. 

The most whimsical work in the show was M.C. Lamarre’s “Blue Fish,” which she constructed entirely out of jigsaw puzzle pieces, having sorted the lot by color and then layering them to build up a three-dimensional relief that calls to mind the scales of the fish it represents. I overheard Lamarre explaining to a group of viewers that she loves to do jigsaw puzzles during the winter months, and a friend of her husband’s mother keeps them well supplied, but they unfortunately often have missing pieces. Thus, because Lamarre finds herself loath to pass them on, she instead has found another use for them — as fodder for her artwork.

Jill Keller and her daughter Karen, herself an artist, were visiting from Chelmsford. They are yearly visitors to the Cape and felt it fortuitous that their day trip here coincided with today’s event. Jill reflects, “It was a pleasant surprise that the show was here. We just happened upon it. The artists are magnificent.”

Schaefer encourages everyone to come exhibit next year, urging, “It’s a great opportunity for artists, and no matter what your ability is, it’s a great place to show your work. And who knows, there are a lot of people who got their start here. It’s really worthwhile to come out here and try it out.”