‘LOVE’ abounds at the West Tisbury library


Walking into the West Tisbury library’s February exhibition, “LOVE,” we are greeted with an eclectic interpretation of the theme of love. The show stems from an informal group of artists who responded to the heartfelt prompt in various mediums and far-ranging subject matter.

This is not the first time the group has addressed a single prompt. As Hillary Noyes-Keene, one of the exhibit’s coordinators, along with Dave Miller and Lisa Magnarelli Magden, explained, they used to do this for a few years prior to COVID. “It was fun to do during the winter, to keep everyone’s creative juices,” she says. With it being February, love seemed like a natural theme.

Directly to the right as you walk in is Magden’s interactive wall piece of Post-its that creates an enormous heart. Everyone is encouraged to add their thoughts on what they love. Folks have taken it far and wide, with stickies mentioning Bruce Springsteen, Memphis, the library, kitty cuddles, and a hardworking hubby, along with the names of many individuals. The piece prepares you to think about love in its many different forms.

Sometimes love can be of a location, rather than a being or object. Two of Julie Ann Brand’s acrylic paintings capture the lovely sunset colors of Italy. You can feel the very air of the land, transporting us to a place she clearly loves. Another landscape is an impressive abstract composition, Craig Miner’s “First Kiss of Lambert’s,” where he first fell in love with the Island. Indications of the dunes, water, and clouds seem to emerge amid the explosion of geometric shapes and expressive brushwork.

Other abstract works include Noyes-Keene’s “Heartstrings” and “Years of Love,” in which she has spliced and collaged pieces of her photographs to create small gems of color and texture. In fact, with “Heartstrings,” she physically interweaves her subtly multicolored strips, imbuing the work with actual texture. They are lyrical, metaphorical odes to all the layers of love — be they, as she says, “soft, easy, or challenging at times.”

At first glance, you might be perplexed at how Susan M. Larsen’s photograph of a guitar surrounded by a bountiful floral arrangement and lei in “Sing Aloha” connects to the show’s theme; that is, until you read the words below in “Duke’s Creed,” by the great Olympic three-time gold medalist in swimming, known as “the father of surfing,” Duke Kahanamoku. The document movingly lays out how in Hawaii, aloha means love. Toward the end, Duke states, “Try meeting or leaving people with aloha. You’ll be surprised by their reaction. I believe it, and it is my creed. Aloha to you.”

Words create Michelle Manfredi’s “And on Honeysuckle,” a framed original love poem starting with an ornate initial for the first word that evokes a medieval manuscript. The poetry’s bucolic imagery is evocative of older times.

There is a table of three-dimensional delights. Emily Meegan contributed the immensely amusing “Dragon Bird,” in which a felted figure of a flying dragon is perched amid a dried flower arrangement. Debby Ware fashioned three whimsical “Vineyard Characters” out of papier-mâché, accented with playful paint colors. There are two mysterious figures holding miniature bouquets and a fish — seemingly a shark that appears to be bursting up out of the water. One of Elizabeth Packer’s contributions is her tall ceramic vase, “Heart Rock,” with a bulging heart pushing out from the sleek vertical vessel.

Some of the art uses realism to explore love. In “Reflections of the Heart,” Lina Racaneillo places a finely articulated anatomical rendering of the organ inside what appears to be an ornate mirror, leaving it up to us to ponder whose heart it might be. There is Miller’s “Always and Forever,” in which two skeletons appear against an abstract dark background lying in a grave, tenderly embracing one another for all eternity. On the other hand, Bernica Wilcox’s “Self Adoration” is very much alive. This lovely portrait from torso to mid-thigh of a figure, covered with a partially open white blouse that contrasts perfectly with her black skin, holds a glass of wine. Wilcox feels that Valentine’s Day is about love in general, love for others, and love for oneself, not just for couples. For her, the painting is about creating a self-care space for yourself, doing the things that you enjoy, and treating yourself to what you deserve — a perfect sentiment for us all to embrace as we make our way through the darker months.

“LOVE” is on view through February at the West Tisbury library.