‘Two Sisters at Work’

Complementary and divergent artwork by sisters Lynn Hoeft and Kris McDermet on exhibit at the West Tisbury library.


The West Tisbury library is featuring the artwork of sisters Lynn Hoeft and Kris McDermet. “Two Sisters at Work” showcases a variety of pieces created in several mediums, including wool, silk, paper, and paint. Hoeft has been a West Tisbury resident since 1971, while McDermet, a Vermont resident, is a longtime visitor with deep West Tisbury roots. They are members of the Mathiesen family, who owned and operated Chicama Vineyards for 35 years.

Watercolor is Lynn Hoeft’s passion. What has shaped her as an artist is the simple joy of seeing something beautiful in nature. Kris McDermet fell in love with fiber arts, creating work related to nature and social justice issues. Hoeft and McDermet’s love for nature is evident in many of their pieces.

“It’s interesting, because I used to work as an occupational therapist, and drove for miles every day, all over Boston and Vermont. I think I gained a great appreciation for country and city landscapes from all that driving,” McDermet said.

“I went to Pratt in Brooklyn. I was an industrial design major — about as far from nature as you can get,” Hoeft laughed. “I also didn’t do any painting while there, but once I came to the Vineyard, I’d say, ‘Look at this beautiful place!’ I found shells on the beach, feathers, rocks, and I wanted to do watercolor.”

Hoeft’s work is elegant and grounded. Her watercolor techniques are solid and concise, but not so controlled that the work lacks emotion and movement. “Island Eggs” is beautifully executed. It showcases 21 eggs in various sizes and colors, delicately painted over a textured background that could easily be rivulets of water, but isn’t. “That background is actually from an enlarged image of a guinea hen wing,” Hoeft explained. “I felt like the eggs needed a background, but I wanted a background that made sense, so I enlarged the texture from a wing 15 to 20 times, and came up with this.”

Aside from several watercolors, Hoeft has also included colored pencil illustrations — three peonies and one camellia, one flower per frame. “I think most artists try more than one kind of medium, and somewhere along the way, I picked up colored pencils,” she said. “Also, you’ll notice that some of the drawings don’t even show the whole flower.”

I did notice, which is precisely what drew me to them. Looking closely at something is a bit like meditating — you’re fully present with the object you’re focused on. Honing in can also provide a new perspective. Rust on a truck looks like a stream of copper water, and the inside of an old stump resembles ribbon candy. Hoeft’s drawings introduce you to the heart of each flower. The style is realistic, but not so much that it looks exactly like a photograph, which I appreciate. Not because I dislike photography — on the contrary — but I like when a painter allows their work to look painterly.

McDermet creates impactful three-dimensional pieces using a combination of fibers, traditional hooking and braiding, and newer techniques. “Quiet Beauty” is a stunning piece. It’s a kimono created from dry wool and silk, as well as wet wool and wet silk felting. The main section of the kimono is a deep salmon color with a river of blue running through the center, while flowers, hummingbirds, lanterns, and a fan fill the space with movement. “I had been taken with the idea of creating a kimono for a while. I was visiting a friend in Bath, Maine, where Tsugaru, Japan, is their sister city,” McDermet said. “We went to a fundraiser where they were auctioning kimonos. I bought one that was unfinished, and thought I could do something similar in hooking. If you look at the back of ‘Quiet Beauty,’ you’ll see that the fabric is from the unfinished kimono I originally bought.”

McDermet’s reverence for nature is evident in “The Understudy, the Tree is the Connection between Earth and Sky.” The sky is made from charmeuse, dyed a delicate blue by McDermet, while the tree trunk in many shades of brown, with colorful leaves, is hooked and braided around with thin yarn. There is also an embroidered spiderweb near the tree, while birds, bees and a butterfly fly along the sides. Some of McDermet’s other pieces include “Save the Oceans,” which is an aerial view of Martha’s Vineyard, showing what the Island might have looked like before development.

This is the sisters’ second show. “We signed up to show at the library, knowing we’d have a couple of years to wait, but we talked a lot during that time,” Hoeft said. “We asked ourselves whether we should create work around the same theme. Ultimately, we decided we didn’t necessarily want to match. Each piece in this show stands on its own, but our collaboration is like an ongoing conversation.”

“Two Sisters at Work” is on display in the Community Room of the West Tisbury library from 12:30 to 2:30 pm throughout October. To learn more about McDermet, visit her website at krismcdermet.com, or email her at kmcdermet1@gmail.com. To touch base with Hoeft, email her at lynnhoeft@gmail.com.