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2019 Art on the Vineyard

by Gwyn McAllister, The MV Times

New artists, new galleries, established artists exploring new directions — 2019 was an exciting year in the Martha’s Vineyard art scene. From the dozens of solo and group exhibits at galleries around the Island, The Times selected a few highlights from the past year.

The Oak Bluffs Arts District added two new galleries to its vibrant art scene. In June, photographer Michael Blanchard opened a space featuring his dramatic Vineyard land and seascape images. In July, art lover Val Francis launched the Knowhere Gallery in the space previously occupied by gallery josephine, and before that the Dragonfly Gallery. The space was opened with a mission “to sow the seeds of a movement that will change the world.” To that end, in August the Island’s newest gallery featured the work of Rhonda K. Brown, whose series titled “Our Story” featured images of strong African American women.

Meanwhile, in Chilmark, Brandon Newton and mixed-media artist Abe Pieciak launched the Chilmark Gallery, spotlighting their own work as well as work by artisans from around the Island.

Kara Taylor introduced a series of figurative collage textile paintings from her time spent in South Africa. She also showed a number of new Vineyard landscape paintings at her eponymous West Tisbury gallery.

In August, the Agora Culture organization once again hosted its four-day Art on the Vine exhibit at the Daniel Fisher House and Old Whaling Church in Edgartown. Along with work by early and mid-career artists of color, the celebration featured panel discussions and conversations with art experts, collectors, and facilitators of institutions from around the country.

The Granary Gallery introduced the very first Cuttyhunk-based artist to show work on the Vineyard. In June the West Tisbury–based gallery hosted a two-person show featuring the work of realist painter Tamalin Baumgarten from our neighboring island, along with the Vineyard’s own Dan VanLandingham, who made his debut at the Granary this year.

Louisa Gould, who has long been a promoter of abstract art, welcomed another abstract artist to the fold with the introduction of the painter Deborah Colter. Along with the Martha’s Vineyard–based artist’s inclusion in a two-person show in July, Colter was also one of the featured artists in Gould’s annual Abstract Show in August. The work of another newcomer to the gallery, Pepe Conley, was featured throughout the summer. The Hawaii–based painter is connected to the Island through his marriage to Amy Vanderhoop of Aquinnah. Conley paints stunning fantasy landscapes, often featuring his wife in the foreground.

Author and illustrator Kate Feiffer showed something new at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse in July with the unveiling of her latest series of drawings, titled “Dedicated to Doodle.” The selection featured in the solo show included, among other things, a number of simple line drawings embellishing the dedication pages of classic books.

The Eisenhauer Gallery introduced a couple of new artists this year, including Russian-born and New Zealand–based artist Ilya Volykhine, whose abstract figurative images often incorporate bits of Russian newsprint, and Elizabeth Lennie, who creates water-themed abstract impressionist paintings.

Closing out its summer exhibition season this year, the Granary Gallery hosted a show featuring a selection of works by African American artists, both past and contemporary, and an exhibit honoring two of the Island’s most revered artists — Thomas Hart Benton and Alfred Eisenstadt.

The above selection represents just the tip of the iceberg as far as art happenings around the Island in 2019. There’s still a lot of great local art to be found throughout the winter at various Vineyard spaces, including all the Island libraries, the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse, Pathways Gathering Space, Featherstone Center for the Arts, the Feldman Family Art Space at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, the MVTV offices, and Mocha Mott’s in Vineyard Haven. A handful of galleries stay open year-round, including the Louisa Gould Gallery, the Granary Gallery, and the Night Heron Gallery.

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