Artist Washington Ledesma’s colorful palette


Washington Ledesma, the Uruguayan artist who has lived on the Island since the early 1990s, has joined the Martha’s Vineyard Art Association, and is exhibiting his work in the Old Sculpin Gallery’s “Catboat Show” in Edgartown.

Ledesma’s signature sculpture of a catboat was a standout at the show. The boat’s sail and the boat itself are decorated with cats in a rainbow of colors. Catboats acquire their name from the hungry felines waiting for the catch. The bow and stern each have a woman figurehead, and the cloth sail is sewn onto the mast. Ledesma’s catboat looks ready to sail away.

Ledesma will also join Marston Clough, Gail Rodney, Nancy Beams, Sheila M. Fane, and Deb Hiatt in an “Old Sculpin Artist Exhibition” scheduled for July 30 through Friday, August 5. Ledesma’s studio is filled with fish of all colors and sizes. All the fish have bright white eyes and open mouths, which animate them, and some have smaller fish swimming next to the dominant one as well, which keeps the paintings from becoming static. In the case of some, the fish are painted in impasto. In addition, Ledesma has produced crocodiles, octopuses, and turtles, some in oil on Masonite boards and others in acrylic on canvas. The crocodile has its large mouth open, its four small legs seem to be walking, and the body is spotted in a random array of green colors. The crowd of five sea turtles, their legs spread wide, are shown swimming, and the octopus with its wide eyes has eight tentacles curled at the end to indicate movement.

It’s clear that joining the MVAA has inspired this prolific artist. He has also created ceramic bowls, vases, and lamps decorated with catboats, and some painted with enamel on glass. In one remarkable set of found objects, he’s decorated a pair of Dutch wooden shoes. Ledesma has already framed his pen-and-ink sketches, even though they are the equivalent of doodles. New for him this season is overlaying the backgrounds in his paintings with gold. This technique gives the paintings’ backgrounds a new vibrancy, in a sense helping to celebrate the portraits of fish, each one with its own color scheme. Ledesma says he likes to give them a kiss “because they are so beautiful.”

Ledesma has also painted figures. One is of a stocky man riding a tricycle that he jokingly refers to as “Henry Kissinger.” This figure’s hands are positioned to convey movement, as do the man’s bare feet and the wheels of the bike. Another painting consists of a group of musicians, playing their instruments and smiling. Each has the same playfulness as his paintings of fish and other marine creatures, as well as his repertoire of other animals.

In addition to his art at the Old Sculpin Gallery, Ledesma also shows his work at Night Heron in Vineyard Haven, and on occasion at Featherstone Center for the Arts in Oak Bluffs. And his Oak Bluffs studio is open to the public every Thursday from 4 to 6 pm, and by appointment. Visit for more information.