Art and nature are more closely tied than ever at the Gay Head Gallery on State Road in Aquinnah. A current show features art across a variety of mediums with special goals — to relay the beauty of the natural world and contribute to conservation efforts. A dozen artists have work on exhibit for sale, and anywhere from 10 per cent to 100 per cent of the proceeds from sales will benefit the Vineyard Conservation Society and the Moshup Trail Project.
“Conservation is the biggest motivator,” said Megan Ottens-Sargent, Gay Head Gallery owner and former member of the town planning board and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.
The Moshup Trail project is a coalition involving the town, the conservation society and the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, aimed at protecting land along the trail, a rare coastal heathland, from development.
The project began in 1995 and continues today. An opening reception for the art show took place on Sunday evening at the gallery. Several artists attended to present their work and discuss why the Vineyard Conservation Society was important to them. Photographer Barbara Norfleet started by saying: “I recognize how fragile nature is.”
She said that she and her father used to go exploring on weekends, enjoying the beauty and mystery of the natural world. “Almost all of those places are now asphalt, beautiful lawns or cranberry bogs,” she said.
“The reason I love the conservation society is because it preserves the landscape. I like the thought that someone is trying to keep it the way it is,” she added. “They’re trying to keep the lands the way I have loved them for over 50 years.”
Ms. Norfleet’s recent projects focus on how man is affecting nature. Photographs from her collection titled Manscape with Beasts are currently for sale in the gallery. The photographs display “confused animals struggling with a natural world impinged upon by man,” the artist said.
Elizabeth Lockhart Taft had several paintings on display for sale. She currently lives in Vineyard Haven, but alluded to up-Island and Chappaquiddick as truly remarkable places to paint and protect. “There’s something very special here,” she said. “There are different kinds of magic on this Island. It’s critical that we save whatever we can.”
Ms. Taft has lived on the Vineyard for 14 years, enjoying landscapes in person and on canvas. “When we moved to the Island, I sarcastically said, hey, there might be something to paint here,” she said. “And it’s great to be able to help preserve the landscape as an artist.”
The other artists featured in the show are Linda Thompson of Chilmark, Joan LeLacheur of Aquinnah, Barney Zeitz, Zaria Forman, Julia Purinton, Catherine Allport, Laura Rosenfeld, Wendy Weldon and Vasha and Frank Brunelle.
Members of the conservation society also attended the reception to speak on behalf of Moshup Trail and the effort to preserve it. Luanne Johnson, biologist and board member of the society, said: “The trail is just as beautiful to the untrained eye as it is to a trained biologist.” She mentioned several rare or endangered species that reside along the trail, and the ecological importance of the tall dunes and vegetation. It’s unlike any other place on Island, she said, but it is in danger of being developed.
“Wildlife needs places without fragmentation,” Ms. Johnson said. “A road is not just a road — a road is something destructive.”
The Gay Head Gallery reopened last August after an 11-year hiatus as an art gallery and a conservation center. Ms. Ottens-Sargent said she hopes the gallery can connect art connoisseurs to the larger issues behind the paintings. The flora and fauna in the paintings, pastels, and photos will not continue to exist without conservation efforts, she said.
The exhibit runs until August 26. The gallery is open from noon to 6 p.m. and by appointment, and is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.