Lose yourself in Erica Brody’s shimmering works of art


Seasonal resident Erica Brody is a captivating colorist. Her hues convey the very essence of time and place, shifting our outer experience of her work into an inner encounter. You can see Brody’s first solo exhibition, curated by the Featherstone Center for the Arts, in the Feldman Family Artspace, located at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center.

Brody began painting in high school, and took classes at the Museum of Fine Arts while in college, but put it away for a while to pursue her law degree. “I started working for the district attorney’s office, and some of the work I was doing there, particularly in the child abuse unit, was really challenging emotionally,” Brody says. “I was looking for a creative way to express myself, so I took out my paints again, and have been painting ever since. It’s very meditative for me.”

Walking through her show is a sensory experience of weather and time of day. She conveys the late afternoon chill of winter in “A Good Day at the Chop” with the various icy blues that depict the sky, frigid water, and shadows that play on the “white” lighthouse — which, when you look carefully, actually shimmers with these same cool blue tones. All of Brody’s art seems to sparkle. She creates this effect by first laying down an orange wash on her canvases, which punches up the color, allowing the brightness to come through.

Brody, who began coming to the Vineyard as a baby, has wonderful memories of summers here. “As I got older, I got to really appreciate the other seasons too,” she says. “What’s wonderful is that in all the different seasons, all the different colors coming through are really gorgeous,” “Menemsha Merlin” is the epitome of summer. Here Brody’s readily visible, individual brushstrokes make the scene vibrate with its innate energy. This, along with her highly saturated colors, are redolent of the 19th century French Impressionists. She says, “You can really lose yourself in their paintings, and that’s how I hope people feel about my work too. I want a colorful, joyous feeling to exude from the canvas.” About this smaller work specifically, Brody adds, “I love all the fishing boats that are amazing to look at in Menemsha. It really transports you back to another time.” Careful looking reveals that endless variations of blues and greens, expertly flecked with reds, purples, maroons, and more depict the scene. Brody not only loves using many different colors, but particularly painting with acrylics, because they dry quickly, allowing her to add layers on top without waiting too long in between.

Her skill at portraying the time of year and feel of the day is particularly evident in the two large canvases of Edgartown hanging next to each other. In “Morning Stroll on South Water Street” her sister, in a summer dress just slightly swaying in the breeze, is walking away from us with the family dog. The August sunlight sparkles through the summer leaves. She describes those in the canopy nearest to us in shades of violet and other purples that immediately summon the cooler temperature of the shade. To the right, you can feel the last gasp of warmth in the damp fall evening in her large canvas, “South Water at Dusk.” Although the two human figures are dressed in rain gear, our eyes are drawn to the geometry of the buildings and the amber shapes on the street created by the blue-tinged shadows.

Brody also demonstrates her eye for the play of light in her interior view, “Last Call at Rockfish” in which three patrons, one represented solely by a cut-off arm, sit at a largely empty bar. The hanging light fixtures, and the glasses and jars below, establish a marvelous panoply of illumination that carry our gaze back deep into the room’s recesses toward the impressively large window peering out onto the pitch-dark night.

The last painting brings us roundtrip to winter, although here in “Electric Edgartown,” the holiday decorations and street lamps have lit up the street into an almost wild abstraction. Although recognizable, the scene shatters into a dazzling array of colors and geometric shapes. Brody says, “I feel that sometimes Edgartown is portrayed with whites and blues, but at nighttime, particularly at Christmas, it really comes alive.

“What I try to do is convey the feeling I had when I was at these particular places, so I hope that visitors revisit some of their familiar places with a fresh perspective, and that they have as much fun looking at the pieces as I did painting them.”

You have until May 21 to see how she so successfully accomplished her goal.

“Celebrating the Work of Erica Brody” is on view through May 21 at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center. Opening May 6, from 1 to 3 pm. For more information about Erica Brody, see her Instagram account, @elbrodyart.