Featherstone blooms in ‘The Art of Flowers’

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"Off to the Races!" mixed media. —Dena Porter photo/Susan Pratt art

An abundance of bountiful blossoms fill “The Art of Flowers.” Glorious pieces in all shapes, sizes, and media abound in Featherstone Center for the Art’s sunlit Francine Kelly Gallery. Even spring’s fragrances are hinted at in this sensual experience.

Among the 110 artists are stunning submissions from Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School students, and from the Chilmark Community Church Sunday School and Featherstone children’s art classes. Just up the hill from the art barn in the Schule Chapel Gallery is the not-to-be-missed Garden Gate preschool exhibition, “The Art of Flowers Through the Eyes of Children.”

The range of media is vast this year. Denise Michelle Halpin uses thick brushstrokes of acrylic to paint a close-up of wonderful foliage that spreads across her entire canvas in “Field of Joy.” Sarah Moore comes in even closer, delicately rendering every tiny nuance of a single hydrangea in pencil. Teresa Yuan steps back just a bit, portraying a group of budding daffodils whose green leaves and white and yellow petals sprout out of the rich soil with the gray stone wall behind. 

Many artists chose to interpret the theme with photography. Small water droplets adorn Paul Doherty’s regal “Elizabeth Magnolia,” which appears inches from his lens. Karen Morgenbesser prints large on canvas in “Glass Half Full.” Here, two canning jars are half full of water. Only one holds a bouquet, past its prime. Its petals fall to the side, reminding us of cut flowers’ brief lives. 

Marcia Denine alters our concept of photography with “Simple Joy.” Through a masterful use of technology, she passed her still life of flowers in a glass jar through software apps to transform the shot into what you swear is a delicate watercolor. 

Among the high school students’ outstanding photographs is Walter Prescott’s intriguingly titled “Tatters of a Soul,” an abstract arrangement of petals that poetically interpret his words. Similarly, Brady Vought’s title, “Let the Daisy Weep,” adds poignancy to her gold-framed image of a single flower whose white, long, slim petals sag downward, stirring a sadness. Highley Marsh presents one of the few figurative works. Every element in her piece “The Florist” sports flowers. The beautiful young woman stands with her back toward us in a white-strapped dress, with the smallest flowers tucked in at the bodice. White blossoms appear like butterflies alighting on her hair. She holds a small, shiny, white porcelain vase aloft, whose pink buds echo the color of her nail polish. The wall behind, with a repeated pattern of miniature white, pink, and red flowers, secures the composition in place. 

Many artists created captivating mixed-media works. Alisun Armstrong’s “Falling Poppies” beckons us to come close to discern how she has constructed her abstract autumnal color composition. Beautifully painted paper petals held in place by minute clusters of glittery beads and flowing copper wire stems sit atop thin white meshed fabric that lets an orange background glow through.

Sharon O’Sullivan loosely interprets a divided floral landscape in oil paint on rusted steel in her fascinating “Flowers in the Meadow.” Metal as a “canvas” adds color and texture that engage both our eye and imagination.

Another atypical use of media is Elizabeth Greene’s “Tulips in White.” Her painted bouquet of red and yellow tulips spills out of a small vase, dipping down toward the bold blue table below, and sits in front of a background of collaged strips of text on paper.

Cindy Kane constructs a moving tribute to Nelson Mandela in “Page One.” Below the front-page banner of the New York Times is the headline “South Africa’s Conqueror of Apartheid as Fighter, Prisoner, and Symbol.” An arresting portrait of the leader hangs below the headline, just above a single painted white flower, standing as tribute to the international icon.

Susan Pratt’s flower-festooned wire mesh bonnet hangs like a delightful spring wreath, perfect for an Easter Parade or the Kentucky Derby.

Moving entirely off the wall, we see Sandra Grymes’ “Spring Bite,” a simple and elegant white ceramic plate with a large, red, abstract floral design spreading across its reflective shallow white surface. Susan Arthur crafted an enormous, animated pit-fired ceramic bulb whose sheer size and mysterious colors stop you in your tracks. And Barbara Reynolds mounts her eight gorgeous floral photos on coasters.

There are also flowers to wear, such as Lucinda Sheldon’s striking lapis lazuli beaded bracelet with three silver-framed blue cloisonné enameled floral motifs and Sara Barrington’s four-petal, dangling, light-as-a-feather wire earrings.

Helen Hall knit a gorgeous, delicate, brightly hued set in “Blooming Baby Sweater & Blanket.” Daisy Kimberly’s gigantic crocheted “Sunflower,” with potted plant towering above you, is the opposite in size. Every inch crocheted — the drooping flower, leaves, long stalk, pot, and even dirt itself.

Saundra LaBell brings the outdoors into the bedroom with her large, long “Flowered Bed Pillow.” A single bee buzzes among her appliqued garden of brightly colored fabric flowers, having escaped from the many buzzing yellow and black friends on the back of the pillow.

Wendy Briggs’ rows of potted and vase arrangements, “Stepping Out to the Garden,” is far too handsome to use as a floor mat, but would make the perfect table runner or wall hanging. 

There are countless more remarkable works in this, the 28th annual flower show. Featherstone executive director Ann Smith says, “It continues to be a tradition we love. For us, it’s the kickoff to the summer season, even though we are here year-round. It’s a beautiful theme for our children, high school students, and all our artists on the Island. And it makes everyone happy. It brings that joy and mental health as we are craving spring and summer.”

“The Art of Flowers” is open 12 to 4 pm daily through Sunday, May 26, at the Featherstone Center for the Arts.