Clearly, Vineyarders abound with love — for the Island, their animals, and for each other. “Love Lives Here,” on view through Feb. 26 at Featherstone Center for the Arts, bursts with kindness — an emotion that can feed us all right now.
Titles for the love-themed February exhibits in the past have included “Kiss Kiss,” “Hug Hug,” “RED,” and “I Love Art.” Asked about “Love Lives Here,” executive director Ann Smith says, “It’s been a really tough three years. People have moved to the Island because of our love of the Vineyard, where we have found solace and mental well-being. I think all of us appreciate it more, and we really wanted to bring that out in terms of what evokes love for you on Martha’s Vineyard, and what makes the Island so special.”
Featherstone’s website explains, “Our love focuses on the power of place — the beaches, the farms, the forest, the sea, the night sky, as well as the connection to people and our community — our families, friends, neighbors, and, of course, our visitors.” And as you will see, just as there are a plethora of things to love about the Vineyard, so too are there ways to express it.
Jay Lagemann’s enormous, bright-red heart, formed with foam, metal, cement, and paints, stands as an exclamation mark, beckoning us into the space filled with 125 pieces by 83 Island artists — some of whom, Smith says, are showing at Featherstone for the first time.
Along the right wall when you enter are hearts in all shapes and sizes, including Susan Pratt’s felted, hand-dyed wool, Ivry Russillo’s red rose set inside a handsome sterling silver heart pendant, and Caroline Thornton’s photograph of a small, heart-shaped stone with the edge of the receding water echoing its form.
There are beautifully curated sections of water, sea, and landscapes at all times of day, and in all kinds of weather. There are also human-made structures — Denys Wortman’s aerial view of docked dinghies, Jane Valley Lawson’s image of Oak Bluffs’ Old Variety Store, and Main Street, Edgartown, lit up at night by Erica Brody. We see many sorts of portraits of people, as well as dogs, doves, kitties, and livestock — reminding us that our loved ones come in all shapes and sizes.
But it’s not just subject matter that runs the gamut, but media as well. There is a wide assortment, including photography, acrylic, oils, ceramics, watercolor, mixed-media, and pen and ink. However, there are plenty of unusual mediums as well, like Peter Palches’ inviting toddler stool constructed from oak with a seat of woven seagrass and reed. Opal Wortmann also uses organic material in her huge, red swath of stitched rope that she emblazons with two robust, luscious tomatoes. Valerie Reese creates a glass-enclosed, octagonal sailor’s Valentine with pebbles and shell designs surrounding an old-fashioned photograph of a seaman and his gal. Mark Bateman constructs a gorgeous, circular ceramic mosaic with broken blue and white pottery shards depicting the Vineyard, that hangs under Lewis G. Scott’s all-natural, botanical-dyed quilt also illustrating the Island, appropriately entitled “Lover’s Rock.”
Intriguing media continue in the mermaid section with Kathy Poehler’s spritely dancing pair made from seaweed. There’s also an intricate, feather-patterned, painted wood dresser by Amanda Bailey that you simply yearn to run your hands over — as you do also to the surface of the burl serving board by Garreth Heath (Kiff Woodworking), with its stunning, grainy piece of knotted Siberian elm embedded in a large rectangle of transparent epoxy. Texture dominates as well in Mary Beth Daniels’ colorful, fiber art landscape “paintings,” depicting an up-Island scene and the crossing of the Chappy ferry. Nestled in among all these visual different forms of love is Ellie Bates’ written imagery in “Seasonal Wonderings: Poems for Summer Fall Winter Spring” — odes to the Island.
Make sure to set aside enough time when you visit the exhibition, as there is so much more to explore, and many more treasures to uncover. You will leave echoing Smith’s sentiment: “I love the diversity. I think it’s a great, happy, uplifting show of what people hold dear on Martha’s Vineyard.”
“Love Lives Here” is on view in the Francine Kelly Gallery at Featherstone Center for the Arts through Sunday, Feb. 26, open from 12 to 4 pm daily.