Vermeer did it (think of the “Girl with the Pearl Earring”), VanGogh did it (visualize cherry blossoms on a branch), Hopper certainly did it (remember the iconic diner scene “Nighthawk”) and so does artist and Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School teacher Tiffiney Shoquist.
Each of these artists observed the world through the minute details that surrounded them. They look intently at each fraction of their earthly surroundings, not just in its pristine state, but in its decaying and evolving place on our planet.
“I find a certain beauty in things left behind,” Shoquist said over a cuppa and an oatmeal cookie. The rust and the chipped paint, the growth of weeds twisting through a front window, or flowers in their spring yellow brightness growing in front of an old turquoise camper are telling a story of decay, of loss, the very story we usually look away from. Not so in Shoquist’s art, she draws you in, to look closer, to see the flaking rust as a new garment worn in the progression of our varied lives.
In describing her connection with decaying matter, Shoquist says, “The wild brutality of the environment always overpowers the tame, controlled force of humanity. It is in those slowly crumbling scenes where I find beauty and a harmony between mankind and nature.”
Want to see the transformation from shiny new to things left behind? An exhibit of her work is currently on display at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society’s Feldman Art Space in Vineyard Haven, through March 22. The show is curated by Featherstone Center for the Arts and clearly shows the breadth of her talent from brightly colored oils, to a soft watercolor, and four Island drawings.
This small snippet of paintings includes drawings executed in graphite pencil with attention to a larger free-flowing scene, but showing exacting details of Island scenes you have passed by many times. There is that moment when we realize something has changed. The old vision has a new tarnish on it, that building you’ve not looked closely at for a very long time suddenly is new again, different when seen through the discerning eyes of an artist.
“I like graphite, it has a silver sheen to it, unlike charcoal, which is flatter, darker,” Tiffiney said. “I also use oils. Each has its place depending on how much time I have at that moment.” Other notable items on her full plate, a family including a 2-year-old, her full-time teaching schedule, a dog, her garden, and of course, her art. She is energetically a lightning-bolt and needs time outdoors, “With the wild things,” she says.
Tiffiney has been drawing and painting most of her life. Her mother has always been a strong supporter of her innate talents — neither parent shares her artistic aptitude, but her Grandmother Shoquist was an artist and would spend time with Tiffiney, showing her the how-to of capturing her blossoming creativity. Grandmother and Grandfather Shoquist were collectors and craftspeople. They took time with the young Tiffiney by going to yard sales, in their Model T Ford, where she keyed into the things left behind.
After high school she moved away from her family and her western Montana home to Boston to attend the Museum School and ultimately received her teaching credential and degree in art from MassArt.
Prior to arriving on-Island to take up her position as an artist and teacher, Shoquist lived in Philadelphia, Boston, and Iceland, where her husband was pursuing a higher degree. Since 2013, Tiffiney has been at MVRHS where she works closely with her students, encouraging them to see the full spectrum of art and how it can be incorporated into the 21st century, no matter what medium or technique they are using. She also teaches private adult classes in drawing and painting.
Stop by the M. V. Film Society’s Feldman Art Space in Vineyard Haven prior to each movie showing to view the artwork of the multitalented Tiffiney Shoquist. Her show runs through March 22.