‘Take Flight’ at Featherstone

The new exhibit includes scenes from a vantage point high above.


The 40 artists in Featherstone Center for the Art’s exhibition have truly let their imaginations take flight. The show of the same title, on view through April 28, is far more than a simple “look from above.”

Walking into the gallery, you are first greeted by Denys Wortman’s arresting photograph, which serves as the show’s poster. In it, a drone looks straight down at two boats sidling up to the long, narrow dock between them. But if you think all the works will be from straight above, you are wrong.

“Our non-aerial artists enjoyed the prompt,” executive director Ann Smith shares. “It was very thought-provoking for them, and it made them really think about what subject matter they could create.”

Each artist chose a different angle, which, depending on how high up, changed the perspective and breadth of the view.

Robin Gottesman also used a drone in “Sailor’s Delight,” which captures a spectacular sunset behind the Aquinnah Lighthouse. Gottesman lifts us parallel to the lantern, which reflects the sunset’s bold, hot colors and roiling blue and white clouds that rush toward us.

A substantial, rough-hewn, white wood frame enhances L.A. Brown’s handsome photograph, “Edgartown Aerial.” From high above, the photograph captures a comprehensive view of the harbor flowing between Chappaquiddick and Edgartown, which continues into the far distance.

Jeremy Brenner’s “Waco Over the Harbor,” taken from further above, presents another perspective of the same landscape. The tiny size of the bright red biplane flying over the multi-hued blue water looks like a miniature toy and enhances a sense of vertigo when you realize how high up the photographer must have been to have taken the picture.

Susan Garrett’s two photographs shot from bridges in Venice’s canals transport us far from our Island’s shores. The black-and-white with its gondolier and the mirror-still water in her color work includes the buildings that, in their deterioration, remind us of the great city’s age.

Jennifer Smith Turner took her breathtaking aerial photograph not from a plane but from a hot-air balloon. The scene of men setting up camp for a champagne breakfast in the middle of the Masai Mara Preserve in Kenya reminds us of the existence of human luxury when on safari in the untamed African wild.

Alison Shaw’s stunning three photo portraits place us high up, hovering over each single, hand-rowed craft. The crispness of her images, silhouetted against a rich black background, draws our attention to the graceful nuances of their wood and masterful construction.

However, “Take Flight” is filled with much more than photography. Among the multiple images with birds is Hollis Oliver’s painterly acrylic “Weightless,” in which an impressive avian of prey appears to have stopped flapping mid-flight to allow gravity to carry it down to grab its next unsuspecting meal. Oliver’s active brushwork of browns, grays, blues and accents of white and black convey the very essence of nature’s majesty.

Bill Buckley uses an ornate oval frame to encircle a striking abstract depiction of a flock of geese flying over a solid green icon of the Island far below. While the frame recalls something from long-ago, Buckley’s placement of his images creates a thoroughly modern-looking composition.

Lynn Hoeft’s watercolor “Deep Blue” captures an aquatic landscape with exquisite delicacy that is not far from a perspective just above the horizon line. Daisy Lifton, too, uses translucent and barely opaque watercolor pigments in “Sunset Lake, Oak Bluffs,” which is reminiscent of Japanese art. Viewed from afar and up high, we have a new experience of the familiar locale.

Saundra LaBell’s realistic interpretation of “A Look from Above” is unique. In her compact acrylic on canvas, LaBell places us up close and at eye level with the telephone pole and wires that tower above the greenery and narrow receding road in “Broken Cutout on Chappy.” We are at once the electrician and a voyeur of the vast rural view.

Nancy Blank fills the inside of her ceramic decorative bowl “Octopus’ Garden” with a look down into the depths of the water filled with aquatic life that can remind you of the lines in the Beatles’ famous song of the same title: “I’d like to be under the sea in an octopus’s garden in the shade.”

David Joseph’s found object sculptures, as always, tickle our fancy. In “We Come for Ice Cream,” a small bug-eyed toy baby with a soft-serve ice cream cone inside a glass dome navigates a flying saucer whose main body is a folded-up round metal strainer. Joseph tells us in the accompanying story that the little creature named Albert E. Inn lives on the planet Kepler 70, 3,390 light years away from Earth, which is an “extremely popular place for us to visit…to consume this special treat in Martha’s Vineyard.” Al then pleads for us not to be too mad if they eat too much of our “incredible ice cream” from the likes of the Island’s Mad Martha’s and Dairy Queen.

Sarah Moore’s two pen-and-ink works have a humorous twist on the theme. The title “Dive In” clues us in on the subject of her drawing of two parallel vertical blue and white striped lines that we would see standing at the edge of a pool just before following the title’s instructions. In “Morning Ride,” we sit in a saddle, looking down at the horse’s mane and head in this elegant contour drawing that is simultaneously amusing.

“I hope viewers see a different side of Martha’s Vineyard,” Smith says, “and perhaps a different viewpoint as they leave the gallery…and to look down, look up, to look around!”

“Take Flight — A Look from Above” is on view at Featherstone Center for the Arts in Oak Bluffs from 12 noon to 4 pm daily through April 28.