Silver linings

Featherstone opens the season with artists’ vision of the pandemic.


If the pandemic can be thought of as a dark storm, then, now that the sun is beginning to peek through, the silvery edges of the clouds are just barely visible. In that spirit, the Featherstone Center for the Arts is officially kicking off its 25th year with a show titled “Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining.”

“We wanted to take a more positive look at what has happened over these 13 months,” says Featherstone executive director Ann Smith. “We encouraged artists to focus on the positive aspects of being in quarantine, and I think they did a fantastic job. It’s a happy show.”

The exhibit features around 150 pieces by more than 70 artists. The work represents a variety of media, from painting and photography to sculpture, ceramics, glass, fiber art, and jewelry. “Artists found their creative voices in many different ways,” says Smith.

The majority of artists provided landscapes or seascapes that include clouds, which is not surprising, considering that many of us have discovered that time spent exploring the beauty of the Vineyard has helped ease the sense of isolation and loss during these challenging times.

Others interpreted the theme a bit less literally, providing a wide scope of images reflecting what makes them happy.

Perhaps the best example of a metaphorical silver lining can be found in a unique work by Barbara Parker. Last April, Parker participated in Featherstone’s daily draw initiative, where participants were given a prompt for a drawing each morning. Parker used the results of that exercise to create a little chapbook, “Stand Still and Listen,” that incorporates many of the images, along with snippets of writing, to serve as a sort of journal of a month of isolation.

“I always like putting together art with narrative,” says Parker, a retired nurse who now uses her free time to create art. “I really enjoy prompts. This tied all that together for me.”

The charming book features colored drawings inspired by themes like strength, hope, daffodils, rain, and waves, many of the images featuring Parker’s Jack Russell terrier, Sammy.

The part-time Vineyarder, who travels back and forth between her homes in Beverly and Edgartown, has taken advantage of these challenging times to reflect and regroup. “I feel sometimes that I’m not as great at expressing myself spontaneously as I am at listening and reflecting, which is why I like the stillness so much,” she says. And in that stillness she found her own silver lining. “If I’m feeling stressed or out of sorts, I always like to look for the beauty. It could be the light of a lamp, or a dog looking out the window.”

Other unconventional works include a wall-hanging sculptural piece by Heidi House made up of actual twigs “sprouting” elements made of ribbon and stitched and beaded fabric; a portrait of John Lewis by Richard Limber that lights up from behind when the viewer presses a button; a collage made up of beach stones and driftwood titled “Finding Peace Amidst Chaos” by Debra Yapp; and a multimedia, sculptural, large chess set made by Susan Pratt to honor the quarantine favorite miniseries “The Queen’s Gambit.”

Artists who chose to depict things that made the pandemic a bit more palatable include Sarah Moore (jellyfish drawings), Jennifer Burkin (a mixed-media piece of two chubby little birds made of fabric set against pages from an old phone book), Rose Gates (mixed-media circular painting “Phoenixes and Peonies”), and Margot Datz, who contributed a whimsical look at forest critters awakening from hibernation.

Photographers are well-represented in the show. Some standout images include Janet Woodcock’s haunting teddy bear encaustic from the Ag Fair arcade, Elizabeth Luce’s striking photo on silver canvas of a horse named Sir Bucksalot, and Peter Dreyer’s manipulated photogram of a full moon. Featherstone has also devoted a full wall to exhibit photos by high school students who have shown real talent and versatility in their work.

Smith notes that the exhibit has already drawn people out of their homes in surprising numbers. “We literally had people in the parking lot waiting for 12 pm on opening day,” she says. “I think it’s the euphoria of things opening up again. And it’s a happy, hopeful show.”

The kickoff exhibit will be followed by the annual “Art of Flowers” show in May, and then a full roster of monthly themed exhibits. Featherstone will host a number of events this summer (pandemic permitting), including the return of outdoor music concerts and films, along with a packed schedule of classes in drawing, painting, ceramics, jewelrymaking, photography, and more.

“Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining” will hang through May 2 in the Francine Kelly Gallery, located in the Art Barn. Featherstone is open daily from noon to 4 (with limited capacity).