Inhabiting the light


My paintings are worked out in the studio, but my information — my inspiration, people like to say — comes from places I go to and look at and take in. The Vineyard has always been and remains a resource, though now more delicate to gather, informing me through the senses, not words, it tells me, “This is nature — you take it from here.”

I was fortunate enough to come to the Vineyard in the mid-1960s, before the accelerated transition of the last 25 years. Those first summers, and later year-rounds, were loaded with a sense of place of the old Vineyard, its people and undisturbed places — the Vineyard Haven Harbor, the woods of West Tisbury, Chilmark, Lambert’s Cove, and the north shore. There’s a different light here. It’s the water all around us — it bounces back, up and in. It reaches into those woods. The sky that reflects in the woodland pools also sees the great Atlantic nearby. It changes things.

I go to certain places again and again. Stretches of stone walls, each stone handled at least five times, built at 10 feet per day, 150 years ago. Someone making their place. I visit a spot on the Tiasquam Brook. There are small stone bridges covered in black green moss, soft and solid. And that light on the brook — it’s white-blue.

There are still hilltops and ridges inland, and I see through a veil of gray oak branches, silver-blue, or green or gray, or not at all — the ocean way off.

Some places are the same, some are gone — fenced, gated, changed with a new, foreign landscape in place. Why the change? Why so fast? They missed the information, missed the sense of where they are and what was there.

If we want beauty we will find it. If we look only at the surface, we miss the depth. Those who look to the Island with a discerning eye will be filled with the sense of her past and her beauty — the ongoing effort to survive, to give, to inform, and to reward us, and we will take it from there.


Douglas Kent, known for his elusive abstracts to landscapes and mystical animal paintings, wrote this essay in 2005. He died in September.