New works from Alison Shaw, Heidi Lang, and Anne Besse-Shepherd at Granary Gallery

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There are some art shows you should see, and then there are others that you must see. The Granary Gallery’s first summer exhibition with Alison Shaw, Heidi Lang, and Anne Besse-Shepherd is the latter. Each artist’s work allows us to see the breadth of their talent.

Alison Shaw’s stunning photographs are among the most realistic of the exhibition, and yet, as seen in her boat series, they can simultaneously shapeshift into abstract compositions.

Each piece is a unique portrait of a vessel where its personality shines through. They hang vertically, and viewers peer down at the top or underside of a hull, secured in place by a pitch-black background. All of the images are razor-sharp, making their texture and color pop. The ones with highly saturated colors create dynamic compositions. Viewers will notice wear and tear on many of the well-loved vessels, and each piece has a story.

“I’m looking for something different, and get caught up in the stories,” Shaw said of the series. “I have relationships with the owners of the boats and builders.”

It’s important to Shaw that her photographs can be appreciated from up close and afar. With her more neutral-colored vessels, viewers’ eyes can get lost in their texture, such as the golds and browns of the wood in “Teeny-Tiny Skiff,” captured in Lake Tashmoo in 2022. In “Geodesic Whitehall,” the boat, lit from within, is illuminated, recalling a Japanese lantern whose translucency reveals its complex inner structure. In other pieces, Shaw uses items such as oars, lines, bailers, or life jackets to add visual play. She shoots objects primarily as she finds them, or asks the owners to set them up as they want.

Two of Shaw’s non-boat photographs exude an elegant quietude. In “Island Home,” she desaturates the sky to create more negative space, and lightens the tonality of the vessel. The pilings in “Vineyard Wind” sit silently in the calm water.

“When you live someplace and you’re a photographer, you’re paying attention to changes or something new on the landscape that is a potential subject matter,” Shaw said.

Heidi Lang went to school for fashion illustration, and worked in magazine design. In the early 2000s, she took a watercolor class. “That started the ball rolling. I never looked back,” Lang said. “There is something about the water properties that I’m just drawn to.”

This element is front and center in the piece “Winterberry,” where viewers can see the liquid from the watercolor naturally carrying the paint pigments to create the very essence of a winter landscape.

“I like the unpredictability of where the watercolor takes me sometimes,” Lang said.

Some of her paintings are both loosely and tightly rendered, and she explained that her “ultimate goal is to marry the loose, emotional passages with a more technically detailed style.” Viewers see this in “Galvanized,” Lang’s impressively large, sensuous floral still life, and even more directly with “When Life Gives You Lemons.”

Lang drives around with a camera and shoots a multitude of images, which she later looks at closely on a computer to see what intrigues her — especially in terms of the contrast of light. When an image conjures up an emotional reaction, unexpected things can happen, like the extreme close-up of “Grey Barn Rock Wall.”

“Some things don’t seem like they’re subjects for fodder, and yet when you paint them, it gives them more importance,” Lang said. “I hope others feel my emotional connection with the subject.”

Anne Besse-Shepherd rounds out the exhibit with her luscious oils. She works expertly in a wide range of color palettes, and the medium allows her to build upon subtle layers to create richly varied landscapes that elicit both a time and place for those who know the Vineyard well. Besse-Shepherd was trained as a goldsmith, and ran a jewelry company. Then, “I found my mother’s pastels and oils after she passed away, and the rest is history,” she said.

Besse-Shepherd either takes her photos back to the studio to draw, or she begins working in plein air. Her paintings don’t seek to represent nature, but they capture its feel. Her works evoke the temperature, time of day, and the very texture of the season. Sometimes Besse-Shepherd lays down a color over the entire composition to start, which helps hold the image together. This is reflected in “August at Sengekontacket,” where a turquoise influences the layers of greens.

“Of course, I bumped up the colors, which I love, and played them off each other,” she said. “I would say there are very few colors that I don’t love. I haven’t met one that I don’t like.”

In “Clouds Over Hancock Beach,” Besse-Shepherd fills the horizon with many shades of green, blue, violet, a range of orangey-rose hues, and a billowing, white cloud sky. She expertly captures the impending weather in “Late Summer Squall,” with the roiling sky reflected in the water. In “Edgartown Landing,” the artist’s visible brushwork animates the leaves against a calm, smooth foreground. In “Mink Meadow Pond,” silhouettes are set against a sky of subtle greens, dissolving into a dreamlike image with roots in a real location.

This exquisite summer exhibit is the perfect kick-off for the season, and there’s only more to come at the Granary Gallery.

“Work by Alison Shaw, Heidi Lang, and Anne Besse-Shepherd” will be on view at the Granary Gallery through July 19.