If you take a walk down Beach Street Extension — the very short street that makes up the fifth corner of Five Corners, where the Black Dog Tavern is located — you’re apt to stumble upon a small gallery with a surprising collection of paintings, sculpture, and housewares.
The Miner Family Gallery, as the name suggests, is a showcase for the work of a husband, wife, and son, all of whom show their creativity in different ways.
For the past several years, Craig Miner has been creating colorful paintings featuring both imagery and abstract elements. A group project called “Whatever the Outcome” — which included interactive art events and distributed thousands of hand-painted magnets — jump-started Miner’s interest in creating work on his own.
“That got me painting every day,” says the artist, who initiated and organized the project. He went on to teach art classes at the Charter School, focusing on what he refers to as “lowbrow and outsider art.” Under his guidance, teens experimented with various forms of street art and other design styles.
After showing his work at the Workshop Gallery and splitting a space with Althea Freeman-Miller of Althea Designs, Miner decided to embark on his own. He opened the Miner Family Gallery earlier this summer, sharing the space with sculptural pieces by his son, Avery Miner, and a variety of interesting housewares curated by his wife, Michelle Brescia. The latter include candles, cloth napkins, bags, pottery, and nature-inspired gemstone jewelry from Island-based company Hawkhouse.
Miner paints in a very bold style, although that quality is about the only thing that connects his work. Some of his large-scale paintings are purely figurative (i.e., a rowboat against an electric orange backdrop), and some are brightly colored abstracts featuring, variously, multihued swirls, paint strokes, or grids of colors. His love of intense color is the unifying factor.
“I find that people are introducing more saturated colors into their homes,” says Miner, who is very focused these days on providing customized work for clients. “I’m trying to demystify the commission process,” he says. “The idea is that they are getting something bespoke that they can afford. I want people to be interested in being part of the process.”
How it generally works is that visitors take a look around the paintings on the wall and select a particular style that appeals to them, and then they work together with Miner on colors and other design elements. The client even gets to choose which end is up. “I don’t sign anything until they decide which way to hang it,” he says.
The same sort of commission approach also applies to the work of Avery Miner, a graduate of the Massachusetts College of Art and Design who majored in sculpture. Avery experiments in a variety of styles, and finds inspiration in different materials, including clay, leather, cloth, wood, and polyurethane. Among his more interesting sculptures are a wooden abstract that evokes a skateboard, and a table improbably combined; and a transparent human heart, complete with valves, made from odds and ends of plastic. Like his father, Avery is currently displaying smaller sculptural works that he hopes to inspire more large-scale commissioned pieces.
Miner the elder hopes to bring other artists into the gallery for solo exhibits. First up will be a show featuring the photographs of Justen Ahren, a well-known local poet, writer, teacher, and artist. His series “The Earth Tends to Beauty” includes manipulated photographs that mimic abstract paintings. The photos’ seemingly random geometric shapes, lines, and other elements are actually snapshots of landscapes, captured from high above the ground in the area around Lubbock, Texas.
The series sprang from an aborted trip that Ahren had planned before COVID canceled his intended black-and-white photography project. “I was supposed to go to that part of Texas to document fracking,” recalls the artist. “In preparation for a future trip, I decided to do some research on Google Earth.”
The satellite images that he found provided inspiration for an entirely different project. “There were these amazing forms and strong geometric patterns,” says Ahren. “I started to make images using the satellite photos.”
“On the ground in Texas, with all of the fracking and extensive agricultural practices, the landscape is really brutalized, really harsh. It seemed that it was not a very beautiful space,” he said.
However, Ahren managed to find beauty by looking at things from a different perspective, through which he was able to develop a further appreciation of the planet.
“Regardless of what we do to the earth, it still tends to make beauty,” says the artist. “Despite our not caring for the planet, the earth has a power beyond us. That’s what I was connecting with. To me, what is interesting is how there can still be something beautiful from something destructive. I’m less interested in breaking things down into good or bad. I always tend to come back to looking for something of beauty, either in the mundane or in the violent and destructive.”
Miner Family Gallery, 13 Beach St. Ext., Vineyard Haven. 774-563-0128. Visit mfgfineart.com.