The artwork of Renée George O’Sullivan is timeless. Her watercolors depict the Vineyard as it is today, even though the paintings were done years ago. Her cartoons that have appeared in publications for generations still tickle the ribs, despite the fact that humor has changed so much over the years.
Ms. O’Sullivan is having an exhibition this week at the Old Sculpin Gallery on Dock street in Edgartown. Her opening was last Sunday and the work will come down in two days.
The 84-year-old artist has spent more than 50 years at the gallery. She remembers the gallery’s founder Ruth Mead. The Martha’s Vineyard Art Association was incorporated in 1954. Ms. O’Sullivan comes from an era of painters when Edgartown watercolorists paid close attention to the ways and culture of the town, when fishermen and their boats were always close at hand.
The painting style reflects a light air period, when detail was something other artists did. Brush strokes were quicker and more deliberate, the essence of the moment captured quickly and skillfully. Back in those days paintings told little stories, many of them seaside scenes with people at work or at play.
There is a pleasant watercolor painting called Red Shirt Edgartown. It shows a street scene in downtown Edgartown with a fisherman walking up the street with his fishing pole. The color of the red shirt worn by the angler sharpens the picture and draws a pleasant smile.
Ms. O’Sullivan has worked in oil, mixed media, pastel and of course watercolor.
Her sense of humor invades her work. For decades her illustrations and cartoons have appeared in different publications, including the Vineyard Gazette. She finds good-natured humor in Island summer visitors and day trippers on the ferry.
In the 1984 Invitation Issue, the Vineyard Gazette published a cartoon by the artist that was ahead of its years. The cartoon depicts a large house in the heart of the Island. A truck parked next to the house is lettered with the words: “Quicky Houses.” A couple driving by the house comment on the design.
In the 1983 Vineyard Gazette Invitation Issue she drew a cartoon showing tourists arriving at Menemsha. One of the camera-carrying visitors asks: “What — no boutiques?”
The Old Sculpin Gallery show is a retrospective of Ms. O’Sullivan’s work going back for many years; some of the illustrations include downtown New York city, where the artist lives in the off-season.
There is a lovely colorful painting of the front of a North Water street house. A hint of yellow in the painting suggests end of summer, or more strongly autumn.
The artist gives the same kind of dignity to a portrait of the front of a gingerbread house in the Camp Ground in Oak Bluffs.
Ms. O’Sullivan said she does not paint any more and this is the first year she has given up riding a bicycle. She also said she no longer keeps track of dates.
Other artists exhibiting at the gallery this week include Sheila Fane, Steve Lohman and Rose Treat and Cay Ballou Eden.
Old Sculpin Gallery hours are Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m. There is an opening on Sunday from 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday openings are for Cay Ballou Eden, Steve Lohman, Rose Treat, Steve London and Dylan Murray.