Spring has sprung at Featherstone Center for the Arts, and the opening of “The Art of Flowers” show is the perfect kickoff to the summer season. The tradition of the exhibition was started by Holly Alaimo, and then moved from her Dragonfly Gallery to Featherstone in 2010.
This year, because the “Art of Flowers” overlaps with the Vineyard’s first annual Climate Action Week (May 8 to 14), the exhibit gave the artists a special, optional focus on native plants. The resulting works are what greet you on either wall, right when you walk in. Bringing nature close-up and personal in this selection is Debra Yapp’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” — a mesmerizing, delicate pressed-flower piece that Yapp constructed with native botanicals that she picks on her walks here. Others in the passage recall familiar locations on the Vineyard.
Entering the main gallery space at Featherstone is a delight, as its all-encompassing natural light makes the paintings, prints, photographs, stained glass, sculpture, quilts, and jewelry sparkle with crisp brilliance. The pieces vary in size and style as well.
Ruth Kirchmeier’s small gem of a woodcut print, “Favorite Flower,” sits flat on the picture’s surface, faintly recalling a post-Impressionist botanical painting. A stunning, delicate sterling silver necklace, “Butterfly with Daisies,” by Ivry Russillo, who teaches jewelry making at Featherstone, is just one of the many items to be coveted. So too is Jennifer Langhammer’s miniature floral-embossed ceramic chair that you long to run your fingers over to feel its textured surface.
For a little wicked fun is Ann Meleney’s “Big Bad Wolf,” a mixed-media work in which an amusingly diabolical wolf cut out from yupo, a thin, translucent plastic, crawls over a bucolic background. The creature is about to devour a spiky-looking flower whose petals include cut-up slices of an old version of, appropriately, a “Little Red Riding Hood” book.
Paul Lazes’s “Nature vs. Synthetic” also delights as a long strip of beautiful, dried pink roses hangs over a plastic mannequin torso puzzlingly placed beneath, almost looking like it’s either sinking into or rising up from the gallery floor. David Joseph’s whimsical “The Flowers Are Watching” is an engrossingly funny work made of found objects. His “garden bed” sprouts “flowers” constructed out of old-fashioned, small, upside-down, tin Jell-o molds whose centers sport glass-bottle, soda-pop metal caps, along with other flowers created with a tiny drain strainer, metal knobs, “petal” keys, and the like.
Jack Yuen’s delicate, acrylic painted on wood, “Grass Pink Orchid,” is peacefully tranquil amid so much abundant greenery. And when exiting the gallery, you are grabbed by Sabrina Kuchta’s stunning acrylic close-up, “Peonies in Daylight” sitting behind the desk that is illuminated by an unseen, transcendent light, creating a composition that takes your breath away. While she is the manager of Featherstone’s pottery studio, Kuchta is clearly an amazing painter.
With 85 artists, the show is a lovely testament to the talent blooming in the Island community.
“The Art of Flowers” runs through May 30 at the Featherstone Center for the Arts in Oak Bluffs.