Despite the shutdown, nature is still thriving, as witnessed by the spectacle of spring flowers blooming everywhere, including in the digital domain. The Featherstone Center for the Arts is continuing a 20-plus-year tradition by spotlighting artwork inspired by flowers during the month of May. Although the official “Art of Flowers” show has been postponed until the time when the gallery can reopen to the public, Featherstone is currently hosting a virtual exhibit of flowers represented in all media.
The current show, titled “FeatherstoneFlowers,” was posted on Mother’s Day, May 10, and will be available for viewing online at the Featherstone website indefinitely. Artists were invited to digitally submit floral-themed creations in painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, or any other medium — including digital images of flower arrangements. Artists from all over have contributed work in record numbers.
Ann Smith, executive director of Featherstone, describes the lasting appeal of the show, which has served as the art center’s kickoff to the official summer season for years. “I think it really engages the entire community,” she says. “The show offers a wide connection to the Island artists, and it’s our celebration of Mother’s Day.”
Holly Alaimo began the tradition almost 25 years ago, when she owned the former Dragonfly Gallery in Oak Bluffs: “The idea was that every artist has painted a flower at some point. It was the one subject that I knew I could get all the artists involved in.” Since moving the annual show to Featherstone after the Dragonfly closed its doors in 1996, the exhibit has expanded to the point where it included around 80 artists last year. Since the digital exhibit can accommodate new entries even after the opening, the numbers will most likely exceed those from any past show.
The pieces currently on view represent a range of media. Both Katy Upson and Rose Gates have contributed oil paintings. The former has captured a rhododendron bush in full glory against a mossy stone, executed in an impressionistic style with quick, broad brushstrokes imparting a lovely softness and texture to a classic Vineyard scene. Gates has opted to capture vibrant pink peonies, using an effective, nuanced, layering style that gives the blooms a luminescent look.
Lynn Hoeft’s watercolor of daffodils shows the blooms practically extending out from the canvas to the viewer, through an expert use of perspective and contrast of detail to the flowers, and a more abstract approach to the woodsy background. Allison Doherty chose to use flowers themselves as her medium, in a lovely dried arrangement of wildflowers and leaves, with a bit of yellow lace coordinating nicely with the delicacy of the flora.
Even abstract art is represented in the show, with Brique Garber creating a lovely pastel, geometric, mixed-media piece with a daffodil and a bit of vegetation peeking through here and there.
David Kutcha’s photograph “Heavy Dew” shows a close-up of the scalloped petals of a purplish-pink peony dripping with droplets of water, giving it a very vital and fresh quality. Harvey John Beth has captured all the multicolored splendor of a dahlia, with natural light illuminating the pale peaches and pinks of the bloom like a gorgeous sunrise.
Valerie Reese used seashells to represent flowers in her mixed-media piece “Ahoy There, Sailor.” Displayed in an octagonal box frame, the unique piece features a vintage photo of a man in a sailor suit surrounded by shells artfully arranged to create a floral sunburst. Reese’s work is a nod to the 19th century tradition of seamen bringing home intricate seashell mosaics called sailors’ valentines to their sweethearts.
Using ceramics as her medium of choice, Erika Kuryla makes lovely bowls and other vessels, embellished with floral and other nature-themed designs.
Alaimo, who had curated the show since its move to Featherstone in 1996, retired from that position this year in order to dedicate herself full-time to her role as president of the Martha’s Vineyard Center for the Visual Arts. She comments on the longevity of the annual show, saying, “Flowers can be interpreted in so many different ways, whether you’re an abstract artist or a realist. The fact that it happens every year on Mother’s Day makes it a great way to start the season.”
Check out all of the “FeatherstoneFlowers” artwork at featherstoneart.org.
To participate, you can post your flower creation on Instagram at #FeatherstoneFlowers.