You are in for a double treat with the new exhibit of work by Katy Upson and Judith Drew Schubert at the Feldman Family Artspace in Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, curated by Featherstone Center for the Arts. These two painters distill the Vineyard landscape to its essence so that you can sense the breeze and smell the salt air. Together, they present a taste of the Island’s beauty in many seasons.
Upson’s work begins the show. She says of her lush landscapes, “I’m drawn to private scenes, like trees in the woods, fields where it’s quiet.” She sometimes draws us in close for an intimate perspective, inches from the running water, say in “Spring Rush, Chilmark” and “Reflection, Tiah’s Cove.” At other times, Upson stands back from the view, as with the animated grove in “Spring, Long Point, Four Trees” or the bare trees in the woods of “Winter.”
Interestingly, while the images are quiet, Upson’s brushwork is quite active, almost Impressionistic in style, giving the sense of the artist having just laid down her paint. She says, “The Impressionistic aspect has sort of grown in the past four or five years. I used to be much more controlled.” She also enjoys working on large canvases because it allows her to use her whole body: “I find when I work small, I get really tight.”
Upson has painted since she was young, although it was a hobby until about 12 years ago. After college, she taught special needs students in Canada, and then when she moved here, Upson switched to adult education, teaching GED prep at the Dukes County House of Corrections. It was after retiring that Upton turned to painting full-time.
Schubert’s brushwork is tighter than Upton’s. “I like to be precise when painting animals, waves, and the quickly changing clouds of sunset. That is the Virgo in me,” she relates. Schubert excels as a colorist, perfectly rendering the specific time of day and weather of the season in paintings such as “Lucy Moon Rise,” with the small globe just coming up over the cliff at Lucy Vincent Beach, and the sunshine flitting through the meadow where the cows graze in “Off Middle Road.” She explains, “My color is totally informed by what I’m looking at.”
Four of the paintings are part of Schubert’s Hay series: “Bringing in the Hay,” “Crows in the Hayfield,” “More Daisies in the Hayfield,” and “Shade Tree in the Hayfield.” Each reflects a different stage, from the unsown growth to the harvested product.
Schubert says, “With their permission, I spent many a spring day following the farmers around from field to field, like a paparazzo, as they cut, baled, and stacked hay. From the first spring I started studying the farming of hay in earnest to my last finished hay painting, I spent about six years on this series, and still would like to do more.”
Asked what drew her to hay, Schubert listed her reasons, which are reflected in her paintings: “The hay starts to rise just when I think winter will never give up. Watching the grasses grow into hay all spring long. Open fields stretching out to a distant row of majestic trees. The spring breeze making the ripening hay ripple like water across the field. And best of all: the smell of freshly cut hay.”
Featherstone’s executive director, Ann Smith, says about the artists, “I think their styles are very complementary to each other.” The two are neighbors and close friends. Upton says, “We can talk a lot about what we’re doing, and we relate in that respect. It’s a very comfortable relationship.”
And, fortunately for us, we can see how that relationship works artistically at the Film Center through Dec. 3.
An artists’ reception for the exhibit is Sunday, Nov. 19, 1 to 3 pm. For more information about the artists, see Katy Upson at instagram.com/katyupson and Judith Drew Schubert at judithdrewschubert.com.