‘Coming Back into the Light’ with artist Gloria Burkin


Whether describing the land or sea, Gloria Burkin’s animated brushstrokes evoke a visceral response, transporting you to the scenes themselves. Her exhibition of oil paintings at the Feldman Family Artspace at the M.V. Film Center, which is curated by Featherstone Center for the Arts, runs through most of December, and provides the opportunity to see the Island through her artistic vision.

Burkin started painting as a child, when her mother took her to art classes at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. But it was not until 2001 when, at the age of 59, after raising a family and having a career as a child and family therapist, she began to paint seriously. Burkin says, “I love to paint, and do almost every day … There’s a lot of emotions of mine that goes into it.” 

Her style has an immediacy to it and, in fact, Burkin tends to paint quickly, in such a concentrated way that she loses herself in the process. “When that happens, it’s like a miracle,” she says. The artist says she finds inspiration from the natural and sensual beauty of the Island. About her paintings of the Gay Head Cliffs she says, “Every time I paint them, it’s different because they are always different.” Indeed, the two in the show have a very distinct feel about them.

The same is true of the two of Lucy Vincent Beach. “I love to walk the shore, and I will start taking photos right away. The light is changing, and you’re right there. I want to capture how I feel about what I’m going to be painting,” Burkin says. Another piece captures the morning light and the waves as they start to break. “I struggle to capture the wind on the beach and the reflections of light on the land,” Burkin adds. “The early morning light is a particularly good time for me to paint. I also like the golden late afternoon light in the summer.”

She conveys the many green tones of summer in “West Tisbury Field.” She speaks rapturously when referring to the site, “This is one of my favorite places to paint, because the sun is so beautiful, it comes through strong.” The shadows and sunlight play across the picture plane.

Burkin first applies an undercoat to her canvases, and then begins depicting the scene over it. “Painting is hard work for me and uses lots of physical stamina and energy,” she explains. “I roam the Island looking for places to paint and take many photos before I start. I work on several paintings at the same time, and move from one to another to continue working as the light changes.”

Burkin says she likes working with oils, and considers the medium very forgiving. “Often, I come back to a painting and add layers, perhaps a golden wash, to give the paintings a luminous quality.

“Each piece takes a very short period of time, because I’m a very messy painter; I paint wet on wet. It doesn’t take long, because it’s happening right in front of me. It is a very exciting process, and I enjoy mixing the paints and working quickly to capture the moment.”

Burkin says her goal is to continue painting and exploring the Island, capturing its natural beauty in her work. “I want viewers to be able to resonate … that they will feel what I felt when I was painting, and that I’ve been able to convey that moment so they can bring it home with them.”

“Coming Back into the Light” will be on display at the Feldman Family Artspace at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center from Dec. 5 through Jan. 1. The opening is Sunday, Dec.18, from 1 to 3 pm.