With Featherstone’s latest show, as soon as you walk into the Francine Kelly Gallery you know you’re in for something very different from your typical Vineyard gallery exhibit. Two massive paintings flank the entryway — one by sought-after artist Rez Williams, who, with his most recent landscape work, has further distilled the individual elements, heading more toward abstraction than ever before. The other front entrance work is a striking painting by popular abstract artist Marie-Louise Rouff. A quick glance from the doorway reveals another oversize work by Williams, hanging front and center, while a larger-than-life double portrait of children by Chioke Morais hangs to one side, and a striking cluster of vertical sculptural pieces by Lucy Mitchell rises from the floor.
The furthermost temporary wall of the gallery is dedicated to a series of realistic-looking masks — human faces wearing a variety of expressions, all painted black. The wall of demi-busts provides a startling finale to a walk through the space.
Welcome to the latest iteration of A Gallery — Tanya Augoustinos’ gypsy gallery, which has moved over the years from Vineyard Haven to Oak Bluffs to West Tisbury, and has now found a temporary home at Featherstone. A Gallery has always been known for presenting only contemporary art, much of it very different, adventurous, and sometimes even daring. The current pop-up exhibit offers up a good selection of some of the most interesting work to be found on-Island.
There’s a definite wow factor to the show, and even if you’re not tempted to take any of the work home with you, a visit to the gallery is well worthwhile, providing a very different sort of art experience.
All of the 15 artists represented in the show are full-time or part-time Vineyarders. Two — Richard Lee and Irvin Petlin — are deceased. Most are offering new work.
Among the participants are modernist painters Barbara Kassel and Billy Hoff, who has added more extra-large work to the show; Julia Mitchell is debuting “Ames Pond in Winter,” a 22 x 44-inch wool, silk-and-linen tapestry completed in 2020; and Ruth Kirchmeier, whose woodblock prints are a marvel of detail and color.
Works by sculptor and mixed-media artist Lucy Mitchell include branches and scrap wood completely wrapped in paper with intricate designs, and a few hanging pieces made of pressed seaweed with watercolor and ink drawings on archival paper.
A couple of ceramicists are represented in the show, but don’t expect to see any typical glazed bowls and mugs from these two talented women.
Abby Kuhe uses a technique called sgraffito to create wonderful black-and-white sculptures and serving pieces featuring multiple images scratched into the surface. Jennifer Langhammer is showing very unusual works of ceramic art from a series called “Make Me for Everything” featuring human organs — kidneys, bladder, and more — with textured surfaces reminiscent of barnacles and other natural elements. with a few additional ceramics works from her ongoing “Obsolete/Nostalgia” series.
Jennifer Joanou’s work is truly unique. Transferring her skills from her time as a fashion designer, Joanou adds hand-embroidered elements to her paintings, which are self-referential, exploratory observations of her surroundings. The artist, whose handmade books were featured at A Gallery a couple of years ago, often uses body parts or anatomical representations as a lexicon in her work.
Painter Whitney Cleary has provided perhaps the most seemingly conventional work in the show, but her landscapes are hardly typical of the genre. On closer inspection, her atmospheric scenes, done in moody, subdued colors, present an invitation into an almost otherworldly landscape where the scene is vaguely familiar but also seems to spring from the subconscious.
A painting by world-renowned pastel artist Irving Petlin is available for sale, as are three of Richard Lee’s fantastical reverse paintings on glass. An entire gallery at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum is currently devoted to Lee’s work, and if you’ve visited that exhibit and are anxious to purchase any of the acclaimed artist’s work, this is your chance.
The human faces referred to as “masks,” exhibited on the furthermost temporary wall are each unique hand-sculpted works, from a series called “Studies of the Face” by Richard Erickson. Each is made of boneware clay, air-dried and painted black. Along with his wall of masks, Erickson is also showing two massive photos printed on white vinyl, a wall-hanging sculpture of a porcupine whose quills are represented by hundreds of nails, and a white painted box with stenciled letters that provide a cryptogram for those who want to take the time to decipher it. This enigmatic piece, located next to the wall of faces, provides the perfect endnote to a show full of surprises.
A Gallery pop-up will hang at the Featherstone Center for the Arts through August 1. The gallery is open daily from noon to 4 pm.