Inner journeys at Winter Street Gallery


An artist’s life experience informs and impacts their art. In the case of the three artists represented in the current exhibit at the Winter Street Gallery in Edgartown, those life experiences are as unique and varied as their work.

Although the trio of artists — David Byrd, Frank Walter, and Carol Rhodes — lived in different parts of the world, and worked under varying circumstances, all three (now deceased) had one thing in common. They all envisioned the world through the lens of their mind’s eye — hence the title of the show, “Mind’s Eye.”

“They are all looking at landscapes in a very particular way,” says gallery co-owner George Newall. “Through the psychological aspect of it and the memory of places they’ve been, their work is centered on almost imaginative places.”

Another common denominator is two of the three — Byrd and Walter — didn’t receive recognition for their art until the last years of their lives, when both had settled into reclusivity.

Some of the work on view has never been seen in public before, according to Newall. “This is one of the more historic shows that we’ve done,” he says. “We’ve sourced the collection from the artists’ estates.”

As an artist, David Byrd’s perspective was informed by a hidden world that he was privy to for most of his adult life. Byrd spent 30 years working in the psychiatric ward of a Veterans Affairs hospital. There he encountered a variety of patients suffering from trauma related to war — World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam wars.

“Byrd’s extraordinary body of work, produced during this period and the years following, stands as a powerful inquiry into the spaces and individuals he came into contact with,” according to a press release for the Winter Street Gallery show. “With a deep sense of empathy and artistic sensitivity, Byrd offers the viewer a uniquely human perspective of the world through observations and memory.”

In a short piece in the New Yorker, describing a posthumous gallery exhibit of Byrd’s work in 2021, the reviewer wrote, “The despair (and, sometimes, the peace) that he witnessed became the subject of the plaintive figurative canvases he refined in almost total obscurity.” The artist’s first solo exhibition preceded his death, in 2013, by just seven weeks.

Similarly, Caribbean-based artist Frank Walter spent his life in relative obscurity until representations of his life’s work (comprising an astonishing legacy of 5,000 paintings, 1,000 drawings, 600 sculptures, and 2,000 photographs, along with 468 hours of recordings, and a 50,000-page archive) were discovered and shown at venues around the world, including at the Venice Biennale and Miami’s Art Basel.

During his lifetime, the prolific artist briefly held the position of manager of the elite Antiguan Sugar Syndicate, making him the first person of color to achieve that status in his home country. Walter lived out the last days of his life in seclusion in the hills of Antigua so he could devote himself to the pursuit of art.

Carol Rhodes was born in Edinburgh, and spent most of her childhood in India, where her parents were stationed as missionaries. Eventually she returned to Scotland, finished art school, and became politically active around issues of disarmament, feminism, and social justice.

A press release for the Vineyard show notes, “Rhodes’ postindustrial topographies mark a concern for the Earth and its depleting raw materials. Rhodes’ mature works are characterized by sweeping aerial views of roads, valleys, factories, and construction sites intricately networked within an unnamed countryside. Guided by these formal elements, the artist’s highly original sense of color and technical application lends these scenes an otherworldly appearance.”

Comparing the work of two of the exhibit’s artists, the press release goes on to note “the work of Scottish artist Carol Rhodes shares themes of absence and displacement with Walter’s, offering a depopulated vision of landscapes.”

Unlike the other two artists whose work makes up the Winter Street Gallery’s current show, Rhodes enjoyed recognition for her work during her lifetime. Her distinctive aerial-view “manmade” landscapes have been exhibited around the U.K., and some reside in the collections of the London’s Tate museum and the National Galleries of Scotland.

“These are all artists whom we’ve been aware of and really interested in for some time,” says Newall, co-owner of the gallery with his partner, Ingrid Lundgren. “In conceptualizing the show, we decided this would be the perfect trio of artists. They all come from different parts of the world, but there are quite interesting overlaps. We had this idea to bring them all together.”

“Mind’s Eye” will be the first of five exhibits showcased by the Winter Street Gallery this summer. The others include a group show hanging throughout the month of June, a solo show of work by Louis Elsner from mid-July through mid-August, a collaboration between Winter Street Gallery and Penske Project during the remainder of August, and a solo exhibition of work by Lizzy Gabay, which will hang throughout September and early October. “Mind’s Eye” will hang through June 2 at the Winter Street Gallery, 22 Winter St., Edgartown.