Making ‘Connections’ at the Feldman Family Artspace


Hillary Noyes-Keene has a stunning eye, and her large photographs are on display at the Feldman Family Artspace, curated by Featherstone Center for the Arts at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center. Her show, “Connections,” captures nuances our eyes might otherwise pass over, and gives us time to linger on them and let their beauty emerge. Noyes-Keene comes in so close to flat, manufactured surfaces — walls fashioned from concrete, metal, or wood — that we lose sight of them being from buildings. Instead, the nuances of the textures, shapes, and colors on her surfaces morph into gorgeous abstractions. None of the surfaces are pristine, but rather those that create fascinating, unexpected images because they are well-worn. “I believe in the small, worn areas of the world, we can find a lot of beauty,” she shares.

Noyes-Keene writes in her artist statement, “For me, photography is about slowing down, taking in what’s around me, and reframing it, seeing the dance between elements of texture, edges, or color otherwise so easily missed.” The sheer beauty of her crisp, color-saturated images stirs something inside as your eye wanders, catching one detail and the next. “Viewing the world through its visual and emotional connections is the thread weaving its way through most everything I photograph. So much beauty is possible here. Details become paintings, and take on another level of meaning, of depth. Compositionally, they become whole within themselves, separate from their surroundings,” says Noyes-Keene.

Her undergraduate degree is in education and fine arts in all its forms, including photography. Noyes-Keene first went into teaching, and then ended up going to graduate school for architecture and landscape architecture, which clearly influenced her aesthetic. “Photography was always the thread through all of that,” she explains. “The lens of architecture enabled me to go from a larger vision to a smaller one. I tend to move back and forth between details and looking at the larger world around us.”

The grouping of “Vine I,” “Vine II,” and “Vine III” is a perfect example of her marriage of color, texture, and movement. Sinuous, twisting, dark vines wind their way up from the bottom of the photographs along a knobby cement wall embedded with small pebbles. Sprouting atop this knobby, textured gray-tone wall are small, brilliant red leaves that pop out from the flat surface, adding accents of brilliance. “I love picking up these small little paintings that are around us on an everyday basis, and focusing the world on the details. There is so much beauty in how shapes, lines, color, and textures interact together,” Noyes-Keene tells me.

Various shades of rust predominate her next series, four pieces, two stacked on top of the others, titled “Punainen,” which is Finnish for red. Noyes-Keene was wandering in a small town in Finland, and came across a concrete wall with a portion painted red. But the longer you look, the more nuances you see, both in the works individually and among the foursome. Cracks in the wall create lines, some straight, others meandering, continually calling us to keep looking to see what more we notice.

Noyes-Keene also found a barn in Finland where large hoops encircled by irregular barbed vines bounce against the repeating vertical woods on which they sit. Hung in a row, the hoops in this three-piece “Ring” series seem to bounce across the picture frames from one composition to another, lending a playful air.

The final series, a group of metal details, includes “Pipe,” whose two broad, worn, and weathered corrugated sections meet in the middle, leaving empty black space between them, creating its own spindly line. Noyes-Keene quotes the line from a Leonard Cohen song: “Cracks are ‘where the light gets in.’”

“I love that image, and the Japanese also have a belief that cracks are important and make objects stronger, and can bring another layer of beauty to things,” she adds.

The slim brown pipe running across the composition punctuates the horizontal rhythm of the corrugated rows, a plethora of brown from quite light to a rich dark tone. Directly below is the same subject matter, but where sections run vertically, so that the corrugated rows march across the picture. In “Purple and Orange,” the title refers to the colors of the metal that also carries a great deal of variation. “Corrugated” deviates from the others in the quartet with its shades of green-blue and a turquoise metal area that breaks the composition into flat, straight-edged, geometrical fields.

Noyes-Keene’s art is participatory and highly individual, as we start finding more and more details within her photographs, which, when taken together, allow a new abstract picture to emerge before our eyes. She wants people to experience a feeling of connection in her show: “That through all of this, it is the details of the world that help connect the larger sense of who we are and where we are … and keep our feet grounded.”

“Connections” is on view through Jan. 28. For more information, email or visit