Counting on Featherstone

Artists incorporate numbers into their work for new exhibit.


As the title of the current Featherstone exhibit demonstrates, “The Numbers Speak for Themselves.” In this case, local artists were asked to submit artwork that incorporates numbers into the media of their choice. And the public responded in large “numbers” to add their vision to a varied and inclusive show.
This is the first gallery show of Featherstone’s 2020 season, and executive director Ann Smith likes to refer to it as “our opening number.”
“We thought that since it’s a new year and a new decade, this would be a fun way to celebrate. As we looked back, we realized that there are a lot of artists who use numbers in their artwork.”
The “number” of ways in which the featured artists chose to represent the theme is impressive. Photographers provided images of everything from boats and trucks displaying numbers to license plates, to wine bottle labels, to a shot of a Vineyard mileage sign. One very clever black-and-white photo by Peter Dreyer shows an old beat-up and weathered phonebook just barely hanging on next to a pay phone. He titled his piece “Numbers of Olden Days.” Karen Gourley Lehman contributed digitally engineered photos of nautilus shells overlaid with lines and numbers, for a science-based approach.
Painters chose a variety of styles. There is representational work like Renee Balter’s painting of the Island Theater in Oak Bluffs, a large painting of a fishing boat partly obscured by a field of dried grass by John Holladay, and a landscape with a large jet stream zero in the sky by Don Sibley. Stephen Emery combined representational and abstract by hiding numbers in a fall leaf–themed painting.
There are a few simplified design-oriented images, like a depiction of musical notes made from seaweed by Kathy Poehler, and a piece by Erin Doyle titled “In the Month of Negro, Jacob Lawrence 1940-41” featuring three little girls holding up numbers.
Sculpture is represented by two found-object assemblages by Nancy Clarke. She describes these little statuettes as “steampunk.”
Appropriately, Smith decided to hold the opening reception on 2/20/20, and she notes that the theme also represents 20/20 vision. Featherstone continues to look into the future with a clear idea of where it is going as an institution. Let’s hope that voters can do the same in this election year.

“The Numbers Speak for Themselves” will hang through March 15 at the Francine Kelly Gallery in Featherstone’s Art Barn. The gallery is open daily, 12 to 4 pm.