Flowers flourish at Featherstone (and beyond)


Thanks to the Featherstone Center for the Arts, virtual flowers are currently in bloom — in tune with blossoms in the natural world — at various locations around the Island. On May 9, the arts campus will host the 25th annual Art of Flowers show in the Francine Kelly Gallery. Through the end of the month, the Art Barn–based gallery will be overflowing with floral depictions in every media, from painting and photography to ceramics and jewelry. Traditionally the most popular show of the year for Featherstone, this time around the exhibit will be accompanied by a number of flower-related events. Every Wednesday throughout the course of the show, the gallery will host a different fun presentation on, variously, edible and medicinal flower use, floral patterns in quilts, and flower bread creations.

While on campus for “Still Fresh: The Art of Flowers Show,” visitors should definitely stop by the tiny Schule Chapel atop a grassy knoll for a peek at that venue’s first-ever art exhibit. Photographer Libby Ellis will be exhibiting her black and white tonal images of flowers and foliage. Although the exhibit, titled “Cosmosis: Joyful Participation in a World of Sorrows, Volume II,” is in keeping with the floral theme, Ellis’ photos spotlight the delicacy and intricacy of her natural subjects, rather than focusing on their ornamental value. Shooting blooms in black and white, with all of their imperfections in evidence and stripped of the glamour that tends to define their beauty, Ellis’ endeavor has been to display the essence — the personality — of her subjects.

In her artist’s statement, the photographer writes, “Staying in season, in time and place with the flowers, deepens my intimacy with the local rhythms of the natural world. Working in black-and-white invites form to reveal itself without the demand, or overwhelm, of color. For me, the warm tonalities slow the gaze and calm the body, making space for restorative energy.” The rustic chapel, quietly isolated on the rolling slopes of the Featherstone campus, makes the perfect setting for Ellis’ contemplative images.

Meanwhile, over at the Feldman Family Artspace in the M.V. Film Center lobby, Featherstone will be offering more flower-based art, in the form of pen and watercolor work by Marianne Neill. The exhibit will kick off what the curators are calling “Year of the Woman Artist” (the rotating exhibit is a collaborative effort between Featherstone and the Film Center).

Seasonally appropriate, Neill’s delicate images focus on flowers — either arranged in still lifes or growing in her garden in Chilmark. The artist’s work has a nicely primitive quality, showcasing the flowers in all their wild simplicity, with the foliage providing as much interest as the colorful blooms. For more than 20 years, Neill owned and operated a screenprinting business on the Vineyard. She used the gouache technique to illustrate design ideas for customers prior to the digital age. Now retired, Neill, a former teacher who is married to sculptor Jay Lagemann, is enjoying using her free time to indulge in two of her passions, painting and gardening.

Next up for the lobby gallery, Lily Keller will be exhibiting a selection of her brightly colored abstracts and expressionistic landscape paintings during May and June. According to Keller’s website, “She works in oil and natural pigment, drawing seasonal inspiration from the Island’s natural beauty, beaches, forests, and its quintessential New England towns and cottages. She enjoys infusing the staid, salt-scrubbed New England seascape with the warmth of bright colors, beginning with a bright orange underpainting.”

Many of the featured artists, who will each enjoy a monthlong exhibit at the Feldman Family Artspace, represent some of the Island’s emerging or less recognized talent. Since the Film Center began hosting displaying artwork in its lobby, a number of local artists have had the opportunity to exhibit their work, often for the first time in a solo show. Seems like the lobby space will be bursting forth from shy spring right into full-on vibrant summer during the month of May. But for right now, flower power is the order of the day.

“Still Fresh: The Art of Flowers Show” will hang at Featherstone’s Francine Kelly Gallery from May 9 to 31. “Cosmosis,” photos by Libby Ellis, will be on display at the Schule Chapel Gallery at Featherstone from May 9 through June 7. Work by Marianne Neill will be featured at the Feldman Family Artspace at the M.V. Film Center from April 26 to May 23. 

The following presentations will take place on Wednesdays at 4 pm at the Francine Kelly Gallery:

May 12: Edible + Medicinal Flower Use + Nutrition, a presentation on the culinary application and vibrational medicine of flowers by Susan Frances Nedley, clinical herbalist.

May 19: Flowers and quilts have gone hand in hand for a long time! Explore the many floral patterns with quilt artists Wendy Nirerenberg and Charlotte Cole in this show-and-tell presentation.

May 26: Flower & Flour with Vineyard baker Teri Culletto — it is all about bread and art! Come learn about the culinary journey, and experience the flower and bread creations that have made Teri a national star.