Featherstone celebrates ‘timeless’ women artists


As we know, neither age nor sex is a barrier to creativity, and Featherstone Center for the Arts’ new exhibition, “Timeless,” is a glorious illustration of just that. The show is a fabulous celebration of 31 women artists over the age of 80.

Smack-dab in the center as you walk into the light-filled gallery is Floy Miller’s engaging three-story, miniature lighthouse. You marvel at how she’s managed to fit everything you need for daily living into the fully furnished dollhouse rooms topped off with a crusty old lighthouse keeper standing just outside the working lantern. Miller writes about the lighthouse and her other miniature abodes, “Creating small places for small people is an accidental hobby that has become an enriching passion for an octogenarian who loves challenges. Building a structure, designing interiors, choosing furnishings, and finally, doing landscaping are all creative steps to giving each project a uniqueness and story of its own.”

Radiating out, you can go in any direction and be delighted. Among Lyn Hinds’ works is “Blue Barn,” with the vibrant colors lit from within, including the seemingly on-fire fall foliage tree just behind the structure. Gloria Burkin’s Vineyard seascapes capture the overall sensations of her scenes of the Aquinnah Cliffs, South Shore, and Lucy Vincent Beach in a loose, painterly style. “I love to use oils, both thick and thin, over a golden underpainting in order to reflect the exquisite light on the Island,” she explains. In contrast, Renee Balter’s quietly realistic paintings of a typical Vineyard cottage, the Island movie theater, or the arcade down the street from Laughing Bear and Sharky’s are devoid of human activity, and emit a frozen, peaceful moment in time.

Quite the opposite is Ilka List’s wildly imaginative, framed terracotta or bronze works, with figures who break through their frames into our space. With “The Escape,” List invites us to make up our own story for the dreamlike scenario in which a seemingly angry woman — carrying a fish, no less — escapes through the wide frame filled with sea creatures, barely missing the woman lying at her feet.

The grain in Ruth Kirchmeier’s intricately carved and wonderfully colored woodblock prints adds a captivating texture to her compositions, whether of nature or figurative. Artists such as Van Gogh and Pierre Bonnard come to mind, while she remains wholly unique. She shares about her evolution to the medium, “For the first part of my life as an artist, I painted in oils. In my forties, I joined an etching group. I remembered how much I enjoyed making woodcuts as a student in the printmaking class, and decided to try my hand at them again. While I was seldom satisfied with my finished paintings, I found that I enjoyed almost everything involved in the complex and labor-intensive task of creating a woodcut, and that, happily, I was often pleased with the outcome of my efforts.”

Other works on paper include Marianne Neill’s delicate pen and ink drawings with watercolors on gray paper, which she floats in glass box frames. She skillfully renders fleeting portraits of birds, or close-ups of garden flowers in a vase or glass. She writes, “I paint for the pleasure of seeing if I can paint an image that pleases me, makes me smile.”

Opposite to the tranquility of Neill’s art are Rose D. Gates’ riotous, enormous painted pink peonies that seem to burst off the flat canvas. Equally as emotive are Doris Lubell’s powerful, J.M.W. Turner–esque expressionist oil paintings, which, while fully abstract, bring to mind the play of color and light on turbulent oceans and skies. She says, “I paint because I cannot not paint.” Sitting between abstraction and realism, Rosemary Casey adds collaged birds and butterflies along with watercolor flowers onto a large, floral-patterned wall covering, bringing to mind her career as an interior designer.

While identifiable, the irregular bark of the tree trunks in Alida O’Loughlin’s close-up photographs morphs into fascinating, textural abstract compositions. Julie Jaffe uses text to create amusing photographs. She superimposes banners on top of a photograph of a ferry that proudly sport slogans such as “You are so Beautiful!” and “You are my SUNSHINE!” in a piece titled “Martha’s Vineyard Esteemship Authority.”

Moving off the wall, we have Enid McEvoy’s fabric creations, including a long, velvet baby pillow that makes me wish I had a young one to gift it to. She notes, “Ever since I was a tween, I’ve enjoyed working with many different textures of fabric, especially leftover fabrics from interior decorating jobs.”

Caryl Dearing adds wearable art with her boldly colored knitted shawl, hat, socks, and covetable, shimmering beaded necklace with small, hanging luminescent hearts and a spectacular clasp that makes the back view as beautiful as the front. In contrast, Andrea Hartman’s elegant geometric-patterned pin, bracelet, necklace, and small envelope purse are quiet and stately, but no less splendid. Other three-dimensional items include Liz Huss’s array of ceramics with beautiful glazing that sets off their simple shapes and designs. Huss, who has always had art in her life, including modern dance when she was young and rug hooking when she first retired, learned pottery four years ago at Featherstone with her daughter. She says, “Pottery is a wonderful way to express my artistic side, and there’s nothing more exciting than opening the kiln every time we fire,” she says. “This artform continues to challenge me and keeps my hands and mind working.”

Looking at the teeming creativity in “Timeless,” it seems that all the artists share Lubell’s sentiment: “The gift of time offers an opportunity to continue one’s creative aspirations with an unyielding passion.”

“Timeless” is on view at Featherstone Center for the Arts through July 2, 12 to 4 pm daily. For more information, see featherstoneart.org/galleryshows.html.



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