Galleries : A Traveling Show of Historic Island Art
By Gwyn McAllister
Published: November 6, 2008 by The Martha's Vineyard Times
to your town this winter will be a collection of works by some
internationally noted artists, who are part of the Vineyard's artistic
history. Thanks to the Martha's Vineyard Art Association (MVAA), the
works of Francis Chapin, who spent summers painting Vineyard scenes and
whose art is in permanent collections at museums such as the New York
Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago, will be
among those whose art is represented in an art show traveling to
various Island locations. His paintings will be displayed along with
the work of other artists who painted on-Island, such as one of
America's early abstract painters, Ruth Appeldoorn Mead. A student of
Hans Hofmann and Joseph Albers, Ms. Mead is one of the founders of the
MVAA. As well as serving as a reminder that the Vineyard has long been
home to a host of accomplished artists, the traveling art exhibit
documents Island life throughout the last century.
art was collected by the MVAA, which was formed in the 1930s by a group
of artists, many of whom painted together and wanted a shared space to
exhibit their work. In 1954, they purchased the shop of boatbuilder
Manuel Swartz Roberts facing Memorial Wharf across from the Chappy
ferry landing: Old Sculpin Gallery.
"Untitled" by Ruth Appeldoorn Mead, one of America's early abstract painters.
Photos courtesy of Louisa Gould Gallery
the MVAA, still composed of local artists and still dedicated to
displaying its members' work throughout the summer, also sponsors art
classes and awards scholarships. However, possibly the most important
role the MVAA plays in the Vineyard art scene is as curator of art that
chronicles the Island over the years. Thanks to donations by many of
their past and present members, and contributions of works by outside
individuals, the collection has grown to more than 80 pieces.
kept thinking, this is so amazing," says Melissa Breese, MVAA's
director. One of her first tasks when she took over as head of the
Association two years ago was to move the collection back to the
gallery from its winter storage space in the basement of the Whaling
Church. She was understandably impressed by the pieces she was
unwrapping, and so she started getting down to the business of
cataloguing everything in the collection for the first time.
Gould's photo of the Gannon & Benjamin built double-ender, "Hope,"
is the latest addition to MVAA's permanent collection.
of the works needed restoration or reframing. A generous grant from the
MV Cultural Council made it possible to bring a lot of the pieces back
to exhibit condition. Finally, this winter Ms. Breese decided it was
time to take the show on the road. The permanent collection is on
display on a rotating basis at the Old Sculpin during the gallery's
summer season, but Ms. Breese notes, "A lot of Islanders don't get to
Edgartown in the summer."
The Island tour last began last
month with an exhibit at the Bank of Martha's Vineyard in Chilmark.
Currently a large selection is on display at the Louisa Gould Gallery
in Vineyard Haven, where it will remain on exhibit weekends and by
appointment through November 19. An opening reception will be held this
Saturday, Nov. 8, from 4 to 6 pm.
Gallery owner and photographer Louisa Gould notes, "Vineyarders are lucky to have this opportunity to educate themselves."
the Coal Wharf," by Lois Mailou Jones, a leader of the Harlem
Renaissance who painted on the Vineyard in the 1950s and ‘60s.
Gould remembers taking art classes at the Old Sculpin when she summered
on the Island as a girl. Her iconic boat photo "Hope" is the latest
addition to the Association's permanent collection that boasts a
remarkable roster, including the art of Lois Mailou Jones, Vaclav
Vytlacil, considered one of the forerunners of American modernism, and
Hans Hofmann, who did not paint on the Vineyard, but whose estate
donated several of his lithographs to the collection.
from the permanent collection of the Martha's Vineyard Art Association,
Louisa Gould Gallery in Vineyard Haven, through November 19. Opening
reception, Saturday, Nov. 8, from 4-6 pm. The exhibit will next travel
next to Oak Bluffs.
Gwyn McAllister is a freelance writer living in Oak Bluffs.