I remember this heart piercing quiet now. In Finnegan’s wake the studio may feel empty… but it is full of paintings.
The logistics have all been ironed out for this year’s Granary Gallery show to travel on up to the island.
With the wicked virus floating around, we are most gratefully relying on the helpers in our world to make it safe for us to manage the parts of this workflow that require contact with the outside world. This week the frames arrive, thank you Julie and Kory. Next week the trailer gets loaded, thank you Matt and Paul. And then it gets hooked up and driven north, thank you Jon.
Now all those thank yous are in advance and it will take some powerful angel to sync these steps smoothly into place… luckily we have a brand new one.
And we have arrived at the end… only to start at the beginning.
I owe everything Vineyard to my friend Lynn. She brought me here for the first time.
We would throw a box of spaghetti and some brownie mix into her car and drive from our shared apartment in Somerville out to the ferry and over to her beloved island.
It was ten years or more before I even knew there were towns other than Chilmark.
We drove straight from boat to bluff and left only briefly for the annual lobster from Larsen’s …and regular visits to Chilmark Chocolate.
Lynn had the biggest heart I’ve ever known and its core and depths were chiseled out of those cliffs.
Her honest and joyful humor was wedged in between every one of the giant stones she tended along her wall.
Her kindness and overflowing generosity live on in the daffodils that now soak up her spring sunshine.
Her friendship and her family have given me the closest thing to a home that I have ever known.
The monarch is for her. Actually it may BE her.
For me they always will be.
On the day I captured this light there was a very short window of this calm after the storm just enough time for the sheep to make their way across the field to where I stood and as the sun began to set she flew behind me and landed on this bend of grass and stayed until I turned around.
Her smile was exactly as I remembered it with that laughter and love come to share the moment which I had been searching for all those years as we had made a ritual of stopping at this turnout each time we left her camp to see if the sheep were there and the muses might be too.
After four decades … and with a wink and a nod from one happy dancing angel they did.
Last year at this time, I was polishing up the tiara, and mirror ball, for the opening of …
Since then, the dynamic creative production duo of David and Barbarella Fokos, aka Salt and Sugar Productions have been dividing their time between studio work, filming and editing of new productions for TAO, The Artist’s Odyssey (check out their updated website), oh…AND enjoying awards ceremonies at International Film Festivals.
Yep, that’s me at the easel again…still painting that blue door !
So, as I am in final production for my next show, at the Granary Gallery in only a couple weeks, I have been given the opportunity to provide my readers and viewers with a special chance to see the movie, Visions of Home, in all it’s seaside glory, here from my website.
For anyone who might have missed it the first go round, or who may be new to this site because they saw it at some film festival without knowing beforehand who that old woman with the paint all over her shirt was, and for the rest of you who just simply cannot get enough of watching paint dry, and do not let me overlook Finnegan’s fan base…
Anyway, David has made a lovely page dedicated to the movie where you can see the trailer and watch the full film and get some backstory, with the wonderful blog post that Barbarella wrote about last years’ debut screening and some of the process behind their process, which alone is worth the read…and he’s included the article which The Vineyard Gazette published around the time of the opening in which they interviewed Barb and David about the making of the film.
So grab a bowl of popcorn, pull up your lawn chair by the kiddie pool, put a straw in some cool beverage, set your favorite viewing device to this link…
In honor of the 42nd anniversary of the opening of the movie Jaws… I give you Betsy’s Gift.
These dear lads had spent a glorious afternoon fishing up and down the dock in Menemsha. I sat outside of Larsen’s eating my steamers and enjoyed their serious minded focus and the simple pleasures of the day.
At one point the blue shirted boy came running out of the back door with that blue bin and brought it over for the others to inspect…”Look what Betsy gave me !”
The boys were excited and immediately set to work cutting up the bait fish. If you had been there, I think you would have smiled along with me.
And then you could look to your left, just there around the basin of fishing shacks, no more than a hundred yards from where these young fisherman are standing, and…using your imagination, and a healthy dose of nerves, you could see where Steven Speilberg himself directed, from the dock out back of the Galley, lo those 42 years ago, as they filmed that epic sea drama.
I’m heading home now, the pizza has just arrived, and it’s time for the annual viewing.
We want to send huge love to Jane Slater, as today she celebrates her 40th year at the antique shop she and her husband Herb have operated in Menemsha. Someone else will be sitting behind this desk next season, but for me, I shall forever see her smile looking back.
Jane will step boldly into a new chapter and we wish her full speed ahead.
Fifteen paintings to mark the fifteenth year of showing at the Granary Gallery.
Our wildly good fortune has evolved into enduring friendships and unwavering support.
Herself and I are grateful every single day that Chris Morse agreed to hang my paintings on the wall of his Red Barn. For the last fifteen years, he, his wife Sheila, their entire family, the extraordinary staff of the gallery, and the generous patrons and supporters on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, have made it possible for me to wake up every day and go to my studio and …paint.
I am one lucky artist, and I do not take one single minute of the last fifteen years at my easel for granted. With just a bit more of that luck, and all the energy I can muster, we will have many more years of collaboration, and friendship, together.
If I did my job right, a lot of you are going to recognize at least two of these ladies of Menemsha.
The one in the middle is my favorite, Jane Slater. This is the fortieth year for the shop that she and her husband Herb have owned in the little fishing village on the island of Martha’s Vineyard.
Her dear sweet swordfisherman of a partner Herb was called to the fleet in heaven a couple years ago, and their even sweeter companion of a pup Lucy soon thereafter to be by his side… but Jane… she’s a Yankee through and through, and the island needs her around for a good long while yet, thank you very much.
But…40 years of being a shop-owner, behind that desk, that chapter is about to close. The sign comes down when the leaves start to drop this fall.
40 years of telling everyone who walks in that she’d be happy to answer any questions, while Herb puttered back behind the curtain, and Lucy’s tail could be heard thumping at his side, and the good folk of the island wandered in and out, only the truest among them being offered that one extra chair for a set-a-spell chat.
Some of my fondest memories of spending time with Ted were the visits we made there. Ted got the seat. The three of them, Jane, Herb and Ted had a lifetime of island stories to tell, and my heart aches with the desire, for one more afternoon of just listening to them pull on a good yarn.
I painted this mostly for me. So that I could invite her into my studio, so far away from that island… to spend some time sitting in the chair by my easel, and listen to more of her stories as I tried to capture the elusive sparkle in those beautiful eyes just there in that smile at the edge of her heart.
While the crew set up and Pat and Jane chatted, I searched around and found these three porcelain gems. Jane told us the story of the “Blue Willow” pattern, which I believe was captured on film, but what I remember most clearly was the sparkle in her eyes…and she in her element.
Fast forward a month or two and we are getting ready, here in my Pennsylvania studio, for the Fokos Team to arrive for another session of filming. I needed to have a painting in progress so I brought out those blue vessels. And then the muses stepped up. They rifled through the linen prop drawer for something blue, and the feather that Saren had brought me the day before drifted down from the teacup shelf, they fingered around in my back pocket for the tiny shard of blue tile that I had found in the pebbled lane the last time I walked up to Camp Sunrise, and they sent me climbing up to the “old studio”, the shed on stilts by the creek, which is now the overflow prop room… and I opened the door…
the blue door.
Bam, I’m in.
I had climbed those rickety stairs, and opened that door every day for I don’t know how many years, and inside was…my bliss. My first real studio, after 40 years of dreaming. I remember when that paint was new. Around here they were not sure how to mix Nantucket Blue. There are a couple of paintings which feature the other side of this old door, but if you stepped back far enough to get some perspective on the outside of it… you would be swimming in the creek thirty feet below.
Opened to the inside, with my hand on that wonderful doorknob, and the light raking over the blue chips of paint… well, that was interesting. It was quick work to find something to use as a support, and the red cover of the old faithful, “Iron Woman” book was the perfect accent…think Jane.
When the Fokos’ arrived, the painting was well underway, but David wanted to recreate and film the set up part of the process. You should have seen us cramming into the tiny space by that door with cameras and crew…remember what I said about that one step backwards.
No one was harmed in the filming of this movie, and now this painting has a great story to tell.
These two are about wonder and fun and imagination.
To Scale – 16 x 20
Menemsha is a magical place. In, of, and surrounded by the sea.
Imagine what a young child feels, standing in the shadow, of the behemoth swordfishing hulls that line the wooden docks.
The mysteries that await them in the swirl of eddies behind the jetty, running full tilt across the crescent of sandy beach, or wading slowly, slowly, with net in hand, as a tiny creature wiggles under the nearby stone.
Tales, both tall and terrifying can be overheard sitting on the bench at squid row. Sloppy sided rubber boots drip salty puddles. Floppy brimmed canvas hats get tossed on coils of rusted ropes and chains. Whip thin rods and lines cast delicate wakes, and listen… to all the sounds that water can make…
it’s the definition of childhood.
Two, such curious and adventure bound children, were walking along the new pier, built in the wake of that dreadful fire which razed the Coast Guard boathouse. I don’t remember if it was before or after the ice cream cones, but the energy was high and the sun was shining.
The boy ran ahead. He had spotted this fish, laying so perfectly, and with nary a fisherman in sight, as if it had just leapt out of the sea. His sister remarked on the brilliance of the colors, and he reached into his pocket and layed the three bottle caps he had collected in a neat row alongside.
All of this and more is dancing in that shadow.
Solo – 18 x 24
Now take yourself to the other end of the island. The long grassy strip of heath that leads, over the line of dunes, to South Beach and then…the ocean. You are at the Katama Airfield. Actually, you are in the Right Fork Diner which is in the field next to the tiny airport.
It’s a Wright Brothers era kind of a place. With all the wooden propellers and greasy rags, it can easily fool the 21st century visitor into thinking they saw their great grandfather, sitting on the old ladderback, in the shadowed corner of the hanger.
My great-grandfather actually did work for the Wright Brothers. Which must have been what drew my attention to the bits of fabric hanging from index cards, which were thumb tacked in a neat line, all around the ceiling’s edge of the dining room.
The gentleman next to me noticed my curiosity and told me that when a student pilot flies their first solo flight, the instructor ceremonially tears off a piece of her or his shirt. Each of the cards had the pilots’ name and date of flight and the word, “Solo” written in block letters with a ratty bit of shirt tail attached… here and there a button or a cuff.
The earliest ones I could see were from the 60’s. I don’t think the place would have looked much different back then. A little less rust maybe, but isn’t that true for most of us.
I was just thinking about this salty old dog today. Herb Slater, one of a kind. Yet another of our Captains who made old bones. Just love that mischievous twinkle. I’m looking forward to giving Jane a big hug in a few weeks but I’m sure gonna miss Herb peaking out of his workshop doorway in her antiques shop. Here’s a nice read from Peter Magee, in the Vineyard Gazette, about Herb and the old swordfishing captains of Menemsha.