Tonkin of Nantucket brims with beautiful antique furniture, collectibles, and art, and most of the items have a story that is as captivating as the pieces themselves. Take the hefty marine paintings burnished with the deep patina of British history. Owner Robert Tonkin explains that in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Royal Navy had an artist on all its major ships. “The paintings were done on wood panels,” Tonkin says, “so if the ship sank hopefully the painting floated and they would know what happened.” Read more…
The historic quilt collection at the Atwood House Museum in Chatham holds a treasure-trove of stories in its folds. Study the quilts’ intricate patterns, deep colors, rich textures—and sometimes even handwritten messages—and a swirl of history passes by.
Consider Marjory Smith, who bought the material for her gorgeous red and green quilt in Boston, when she traveled there to shop for bridal clothes for her 1833 wedding to John Atwood. Or Mehitable Atwood, whose friends and relatives pieced a multicolored “friendship” quilt in honor of her 1848 marriage to Benjamin Boylston and wrote bits of wisdom on its back (“Remember me when night closes in on thee” and “True friendship is everlasting” are just two of many).
With their captivating visuals and messages that were sometimes inked or stitched onto the back, the quilts give a glimpse of Chatham life in the 1800s and early 1900s—life that is as profound as any history book.
Susan Branch clearly remembers her early, fairy tale impressions of Martha’s Vineyard. Wanting to heal her newly broken heart as far away from her native California as possible, Branch landed almost 3,000 miles away and found safety and solace watching the ocean defend the island like a moat protects a castle.
Slowly but surely, Branch found a new home, a new love, and a new career as a cookbook author and illustrator in which she celebrates what makes her happy—family, food, home, and nature. Now, almost 30 years later, Branch’s appreciation for life’s unassuming delights resonates with readers worldwide who cherish her lovely handwritten and watercolor-adorned cookbooks and calendars as well as a successful line of quilting fabrics and other charming products for the home.
We just love the 2012 Vineyard Seadogs Calendar, available here. Says calendar creator and wildlife photographer Lisa Vanderhoop:
“The cover dog this year is Ensign, an adorable little Border Terrier. He is owned by Ben and Maria Batsch who captain and run Maurice Templesman’s yacht the Relemar during the summer months here on the Vineyard. Maurice just adores Ensign and can be seen walking the little guy everyday during the summer in Menemsha.”
Buy calendars ($16) and other artwork at vineyardseadogs.com. Part of the proceeds from the calendars will go the Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard!
Salley Mavor’s studio is an alternate universe in miniature: seedpods become sleek Tom Thumb-sized boats, acorns morph into tiny hats, and wooden coat toggles serve as bedposts. Inhabiting these magical wee worlds are elfin figures who play, work, and romp through nature, all crafted by Mavor, ultimately to become illustrations in her children’s books. “I create these worlds,” Mavor says.
Tessa Morgan first worked with clay to sooth her teenage angst and nurse the creativity her parents instilled in her when she was a little girl. In the 35 years since, that early work—tiny pots she made at a neighbor’s house in the Maryland countryside outside Washington, D.C.—has evolved into vases, lamps, bowls, and tiles that sing with Morgan’s spirited designs and gorgeous hand-mixed glazes. Read more…
Lorraine W. Trenholm is as restless as her two horses loping outside, on her 75-acre property perched on a Colorado mesa. Awake since 4:30 a.m., Trenholm’s morning has been chock-a-block with activity: feeding her Saluki hounds, teaching a pastels class in a nearby town, and, not least, talking about her prolific work. Her nature-inspired paintings are impressionistic celebrations—like the places she plants herself, laced with a powerful but subdued energy.
“I’m a restless spirit,” Trenholm says. “I have gotten the impression that I make some galleries crazy because I bounce around in subject matter and style.” She pauses, then adds with an apologetic smile in her voice, “I am my paintings.” She adheres to strict demands on herself. “The best paintings create a compelling image. You can do 25 images and only four will be compelling images.” Read more…
Painters render the subjects they are passionate about, and Frank Chike Anigbo finds his subjects far away from his Cape Cod home. Since 2005, he has visited Los Angeles and documented the lives of homeless men and women who walk the streets of the Skid Row neighborhood. Painting is his way of bringing these people out of anonymity and making them visible and distinct. In return, his subjects provide Anigbo with a rare honesty that appears on his canvases. “Most of us walk around with masks on to hide who we really are,” Anigbo says. “But with people with absolutely nothing, I find incredible sincerity. They have nothing left to hide. They lost it all already.” Read more…
Jhenn Watts has nothing against technology, but digital cameras are not her method of choice for photography as a historical record. “With digital, we can doctor, copy, change things,” Watts says. “We’ve kind of gotten away from the ‘proven photograph.’”
“Proven photographs”—testaments to fleeting moments—are especially meaningful in today’s world. As Watts says, “These images represent a slice in time, a memory.”
Watts’ current photography venture turns those records of real time into art. Armed with a heavy large-format camera with bellows, a black cloth draped over her head, she shoots on 4-inch by 5-inch transparency film, often assembling several pieces in one artwork. The finished photo art captures the Vineyard’s natural world—ocean, shoreline, cliffs, sky —in its raw magnificent form. Frames of exposed edges of film create a sculptural feel.
Watts began creating photographic art after graduating from Massachusetts College of Art, rendering images through an emulsion process, lifting an image off paper and transferring it to glass. When Polaroid stopped production of the film, she moved on to her large-format photography.
The results of Watts’ old-world equipment are up-to-the-minute creative. Her newest image, Cedar Tree Neck Triptych, is a dramatic composition of three photos depicting soft ocean swells against a rocky shoreline, shot on the Vineyard’s north shore. Watts cropped the photos in the camera, developed the film, trimmed the prints, and assembled the piece. Another work, Long Point Vista, with an almost monochromatic look, was taken on the Vineyard’s south shore. Composed of five images and measuring 25 by 53 inches, Long Point Vista is the largest piece Watts has made. The possibilities have given her a fresh excitement for art. “I haven’t been this excited about what I’m doing in 10 or 15 years,” Watts says.
Today, married to the jeweler Kenneth Pillsworth, Watts balances her photography with her duties as director of the Field Gallery, all in a place she has come to love. “I feel privileged to live on this island,” she says. “You can’t help but be awe-inspired by the beauty.”
At its core, Jen Villa’s medium is Cape Cod. Villa’s photography and collages are rife with iconic Cape images: ocean, dunes, and skylines, capturing a sentiment that both Villa and her clients embrace.
Villa, “a beach baby from day one,” as she describes herself, grew up summering in West Hyannisport. After graduating from Trinity College in Hartford, she traveled to California and graduated from the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara. And then she experienced the wham of the heart that deep love inflicts: Villa knew she had to return to the Cape. “There’s always a lingering feeling of wanting to be back,” she says. She quickly discovered that her deep affection for this special place rang true with a wider audience.
The discovery led Villa, a Hyannisport resident, to open The Little Beach Gallery in Hyannis, where she shows the works of 40 artists, including her own. The art here reflects a common inspiration: the ocean. The concept of community is obvious, too. Villa thrives on bringing artists together, holding fundraisers, and practicing local environmentalism, including heading up the local chapter of Green Drinks
(www.greendrinks.org). It all fits seamlessly with Villa’s art. As she says, “My artwork is solely based on the beauty of this place. The environmental part goes hand in hand with it. It’s kind of a nice collaboration.”
The environment that Villa works to protect is on display in her collages, which she calls J’coupage. The photography and collages—artful arrangements of photos with short narratives and graphics—embody the Cape’s indefinable appeal. Villa’s clients often report back to her, no doubt to renew their connection in a mutual love. “People say ‘I look at the art every day; it takes me back to the Cape,’” Villa says.
In her collage The Waves of the Sea Help Me Get Back to Me, the words of writer Jill Davis are dropped over Villa’s sepia-toned image of a beach line and dunes, beach grass waving in the wind. “The photo collages incorporate inspirational words—words that remind you to stay present,” she says. The mood is subtle, peaceful. Villa says, “It’s the ocean, the magic, the serenity of finding yourself at the edge of the earth.”