Vineyard Artists Display Best Work at Annual Show in Tabernacle
By SAM TELLER
The towering martini glass is filled with what looks like a strawberry margarita, and two swollen green olives peer out. The pimento stuffing forms the pupils of an unusual pair of eyes. Set on a solid black and marigold background, the olive eye cocktail is the subject of artist Bill Buckley's oil painting, That's The Martini Talking.
Mr. Buckley's humorous work was just one of many on display yesterday, as 100 Vineyard artists gathered at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs to exhibit and sell their art at the annual All-Island Art Show.
Each artist was allowed to enter up to five pieces in the competition, which was judged by four members of the Vineyard art community. In addition, many chose to show a portfolio of their work with the hopes of attracting fans and buyers.
The judges, Joyce Brigish, Douglas Peckham, Lanny McDowell and Renee Balter, chose first, second and third place winners and a runner-up in each medium, One entry was named best in show. In addition, a number of special commemorative prizes were awarded.
First place winners were: oil and acrylic, Gayle Kiley; watercolor and acrylic, Paul Beebe; sculpture, Stephanie Danforth; mixed media, Stephanie Danforth; color photography, Aaron Galvin; black and white photography, Donna Foster; alternate processes, Frayda Galvin; collage, Anthony Guyther; pastel, Jerry Messman. Mr. Messman also won best in show for his entry, Menemsha Solitude. Dorothy Blackburn won most popular, as voted on by event attendees.
With children playing tag on the grassy lawn, hundreds of people strolled along the perimeter of the Tabernacle, scanning the diverse works as the artists looked on nearby. Although there were several abstract works, most of the art depicted Vineyard landscapes, with subjects ranging from shells and sheep to koi and Katama.
"Oh my, look at this," one attendee said as she leaned in close to a photograph of daffodils and a stone wall. "I love this. I want it."
According to art show veteran Millie Briggs, 91, this was the 52nd annual event. She said she remembered the first show, in 1953, which took place in a Vineyard Haven garden.
Mrs. Briggs, who prides herself on working in many mediums, was named one of nine "Vineyard treasures" - a title, accompanied by a large green ribbon, given to longtime contributors to the art show.
"When I first started it was smaller," said Mrs. Briggs. "Now the competition is really rough. It's overwhelming. You used to come at 7 a.m. if you wanted a good space. Now you have to come at six."
Despite having to wake up early, artists and organizers were enthusiastic about the event.
"We've got a good day with beautiful weather," said Marion Strauss, a member of the organizing committee for the show. "It's excellent."
Peter Yoars, also a committee member, said the artists were selling a good amount of work.
"I'd say 20 per cent of the original artwork gets sold," Mr. Yoars said. He was wearing a bright yellow-green T-shirt, the uniform for show volunteers. "That's worth a day sitting in the sun."
"It's all about the exposure," he added, referring to art, not tanning.
But committee chairman Jeanne Wells said sales were down.
"Pieces aren't selling quite as well as in the past," she said. "Artists were deciding that the economy has had an effect on people's spending."
Oil painter Curtis Moore, 27, said he was unconcerned with sales, although he acknowledged the financial struggles inherent in being an artist.
"In terms of exposure, it's difficult for Island artists," said Mr. Moore, who had not yet sold a piece. "But this is great. I wish it went all week."
Nancy Blank, an artist and volunteer, said that organizers have struggled to keep out of the show a number of off-Island artists seeking to capitalize on the public display space offered by the Vineyard event.
"The worst problems now are people who are not Islanders who try to bust in," Ms. Blank said.
"It's an Island show," said Ms. Wells, putting emphasis on the word Island.
To this end, all artists were required to present a Vineyard address.
While the geography regulations were strictly enforced, other rules, such as the minimum age requirement of 16, were considered less stringent.
Kelley Crisp, 15 going on 16, was permitted to display her color photographs. The pictures, which she scanned onto her computer and printed, focused mainly on picturesque Island subjects. Less than halfway through the fair, Miss Crisp had already sold three at the affordable price of $15.
"When I first walked in, I was intimidated," she said, adding that her mother eventually convinced her to display her work.
Mr. Yoars said that considering the recent deaths of several elderly Island artists, the future of the show may lie in the hands of artists like Miss Crisp.
"It's wonderful to see some new blood," he said.
Visitors to the show said they enjoyed seeing art produced on the Vineyard.
"It's fantastic the way they represent all the different artists on the Island," said Tricia Patrikios of Fairfield, Conn. "It's a beautiful day and I'm interested in buying."
Originally published in The Vineyard Gazette
edition of Tuesday, August 2, 2005