A nature connection informs the work of Lynda Reeves McIntyre

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"Tossed Asunder" Watercolor on cotton and canvas. —Lynda McIntyre

Artist and dancer Lynda Reeves McIntyre has a very close connection with nature. ”I’m happiest being in the dirt, climbing mountains, kayaking,” she says. “I built my own house. I grew up on the ocean in Connecticut, and I’ve lived on Martha’s Vineyard on and off since I was 4 years old.”

This love of nature is in evidence in her paintings — a number of which are currently on display at the Chilmark library. In her images of the ocean and the Gay Head Cliffs, there is an immediacy and sense of motion. Her colors swirl and seem to crash against one another — representing the ever-changing quality of nature. This effect is attained by a unique method employed by the artist. She pours paint onto a canvas laid out on the floor, and works the images with her hands. She describes this process as “swimming or dancing” with the paint.

McIntyre describes this — literally — hands-on approach, saying, “I think, ‘How do I make a wave feel like a wave?’ Then I use my hands to crest the wave on the paper or canvas. It probably feels more like a wave than if I tried to meticulously draw these parts of the wave.

“My work really has that gestural approach,” says the artist. “I’m more interested in what a breeze would feel like on the back of your neck. What the wind looks like as it crosses the crest of a wave. It’s rare that I know when I start exactly how the painting will look. I know what the painting will feel like. It’s a dance between the paint, the painting, and myself.”

In her artist’s statement, McIntyre describes her goal in creating her images: “The work is rarely about the actual ‘look’ of a place or an event. She is more interested in the deep and visceral sensations evoked by experiencing a particular situation at a specific moment in time — at once unique and palpable, yet also fleeting.”

Along with the Vineyard images, there are also paintings in the exhibit of scenes in the Azores and from Ghost Ranch, N.M., former home and studio of artist Georgia O’Keeffe. McIntyre just returned from a residency at Ghost Ranch, where she also leads classes. The artist has been honored with art fellowships to Australia, the former Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, New Zealand, Bhutan, Italy, and France. Up until last year, she served as professor emeritus at the University of Vermont Department of Art and Art History.

McIntyre says that she’s been painting since she was about 4 years old. Around that time, she had an epiphany of sorts. “I realized that there is a great designer in the world,” she says. “There’s something bigger than us. That’s always informed the way I paint.”

Connecting with Mother Nature has also informed some of the artist’s choices of materials. She sometimes digs and mixes her own pigments from minerals. Recently she has started creating prints on fabric using a process called mordanting. She places leaves and other botanicals directly onto the chosen surface and transfers the patterns and the colors given off by the natural materials onto the fabric.

“I’m always trying to find the most direct voice of Mother Nature,” says McIntyre. “She’s a good designer.”

Previously, McIntyre showed her work on-Island at the Field Gallery, the Granary, and at the Shaw Cramer Gallery. The library show marks the first time she has exhibited her work on the Vineyard in about 20 years. Although she used to spend most of the summer at her former home in Chilmark, these days the artist travels a good deal during the summer months, working and teaching in Italy and elsewhere. She shows her work in Vermont, Canada, and throughout Europe.

McIntyre was trained as a painter and a dancer at the University of Massachusetts, Hunter College, and Yale University. (At 71, she still dances every day). She holds a doctorate in aesthetics. She had her first major show in New York at age 21. According to her website bio, the artist “weaves her training in painting, dance, Buddhist study, and aesthetics into her work.”

The current exhibit is titled “Abundance.” As McIntyre explains in her artist’s statement, “In this body of work, she seeks to express an abundance, exuberance, and joy as she celebrates the bounty of the natural world as we step into these darkening days of winter.”