For one artist, the term all-Island art is literal. Amid the paintings, pastels and photographs, the seaweed collages by Kathy Poehler hung on the wire fence at the Tabernacle yesterday for the 54th All-Island Art Show.
“I spend hours out in the water,” said Ms. Poehler. “Depending on the season, I collect what seaweeds are available and I get to work with them the same day.” What ensues is a collaboration between artist and art. The living seaweed very much acts of its own accord, and Ms. Poehler prods, pulls and directs. At day’s end, what Ms. Poehler has created is a living Island scene.
The surrounding artwork may not have been made of living materials itself, but it did bring to life the Vineyard scenes it depicted. And it wasn’t only about the iconic Island summer. Judy Williamson displayed photographs of a snow-covered Camp Ground in winter. “This Island is paradise all the time,” she said. Ms. Williamson braves the cold as soon as the snow falls, making sure she captures the scene on film before the perfect sheets are altered. “You feel the beauty in the winter,” she said.
The All-Island Art Show is a rare opportunity for Vineyard artists to assemble and share work. “This is a great place for new art, and for new artists,” said Ms. Poehler, who was enjoying her third year at the event. Ms. Poehler said every year faces get more and more familiar. “You take the stroll yourself,” she said. “You move around and see how people appreciate other art — it’s not just about their own.” She glanced to the far side of the Tabernacle. “I’m just tickled to be here.”
The art show had 85 registrants this year, up 20 per cent from last year’s show, according to the show’s pink-shirted organizers.
“It gives them a place to show their work to a larger audience,” said Jeanne Wells, a longtime committee member. “They get to talk to the people viewing their work, so that’s fun for them,” she added.
The art is organized according to medium. Ms. Poehler’s seaweed prints hung beside the mixed media work of Kimberly Kimball, a summer visitor from South Burlington, Vt., who hung two studies of endangered plant species. She said she loves walking around and studying others’ work, and getting to speak to other artists about their work. “I’m always impressed with the creativity of people,” Ms. Kimball said. “Visually, it’s impressive, but when you get to talk to artists you get to hear more about what they did with their pieces.” This is Ms. Kimball’s second year showing her work at the All-Island Art Show. Last year she won in her category. “I think the Vineyard is a hotbed for artists, because there is that quiet time in the year, during the off-season, when a lot of people can just create,” she said, adding: “Also, while people are on vacation, they are more likely to buy art.”
For artists, the All-Island Art Show affords exposure to a wider crowd.
“The whole idea is to make artists happy,” organizer Nancy Blank said. “And get them some extra money if at all possible.”
When Ms. Blank was 16 years old, she was one of a handful of artists who came up with the idea of showing art at the Tabernacle. “We thought it would be a nice idea,” she recalled. The show always took place the first Monday in August because it was easy to remember, she said. Over the years, the committee has worked out some kinks to become more efficient. But they still don’t really know what they’re going to get on the day of the show, when artists line up with their portfolios prepared, eager to hang their work.
In the first years of the show, the work was divided into two main categories: professional artists and non-professional artists. Today, an accomplished painter will hang her work beside an aspiring artist, who may consider art a hobby.
Those distinctions are not made — and the tags that accompany the work don’t reveal an artist’s demographic, or whether art is a job or a mere passion.
This year’s Best in Show Award went to Bob Avakian for his photograph entitled Full Flower Moon. Other award winners included Harry Seymour and Pamela Peia for the Old Sculpin Award, Brenda Watson for the Ruth Bogan Award, Enos Ray for the Anne Culbert Award, and Fran Wood, who won the Della Hardman Award.
The judges for the event were David Welch, Pam Flam, Washington Ledesma and Donna Foster.