Each year, artist Gertrude (Gee Gee) Barden and her family plan their annual trip to Martha’s Vineyard around one event: the All-Island Art Show.
The show, now in its 45th year, is open to all those with a Vineyard contact address and draws exhibitors from across the country. The Tabernacle in the Camp Ground was transformed into an open air gallery, with paintings, collages and photographs hanging from wire walls ringing the structure. Artists sat just off the path, displaying items for sale and chatting with the crowds that passed through. Mrs. Barden sat near her own watercolor entries — a trio of Vineyard scenes that featured a heron, Memorial Wharf, and the Oak Bluffs Bandstand. The paintings were done back in California, she said, based on photographs she had taken while on the Island.
“I think it’s a wonderful event,” Mrs. Barden said. “It’s the perfect setting.”
A slight breeze ruffled the leaves of the Camp Ground trees, and the sun glinted off the glass on the framed photographs and paintings. Earlier in the day, said show committee member Marietta Cleasby, the stained glass windows of the Tabernacle beamed their colorful light down on the dozens of ribbons waiting to be handed out.
“It’s what you always dream a summer day should be,” said Mrs. Cleasby, whose oil paintings hung on a nearby wall. She’s seen overcast days, windy days, and rainy days in the 20-plus years she has helped organize the show, and declared Monday’s “the best day we’ve had yet.”
Judges roamed the grounds with clipboards, and attendees roamed with star stickers, deciding which entry will merit their Viewer’s Choice honor. Stickers still cost just 10 cents, but each person gets only one. Decisions were not to be taken lightly.
Cousins Abaigh Flaherty, 12, and Claire Fresher, 7, walked around the entire Tabernacle studying each entry before deciding on their favorite piece. Claire decided on a Kate Murray-Joyce waterfall painting, stretching on her tiptoes to place her star, while Abaigh added hers to the three stars already on Heather Capece’s vivid mermaid painting. The painting was later awarded Most Popular, earning eight stars.
“I just really liked the colors,” Abaigh of her choice. “And the flowers.”
The cousins were also soaking up inspiration for the Junior Art Show, to be held Tuesday from 9 a.m. to noon. One year, Claire said, she entered a sunflower painting and won third place. The girls’ grandmother, Joan Fresher, was a longtime participant in the art show.
Legacies are a large part of the day at the All-Island Art Show. Ten artists, including 98-year-old Dorothy Burnham and 98-year-old Doug Peckham, were deemed Vineyard Treasures by the show committee in recognition of their long tenure as show participants, with awards given out in their honor. And on one side of the Tabernacle, friends of the late Millie Briggs, who participated in every show since she died last year, sold prints of Mrs. Briggs’s work in her memory.
Committee member Peter Yoars said that although the number of entries was down compared to previous years, the volume of visitor traffic was the same. Artists can show no more than five pieces, in categories ranging from acrylics to mixed media, or enter the portfolio category, where a maximum of 30 pieces offered. They set their own prices for the works, but some are priceless, listed as Not For Sale.
One such painting, a watercolor by Donna Blackburn, earned the coveted Best of Show award. Mrs. Blackburn lives in Edgartown and enters the art show on a yearly basis. She began work on the still life, which features her friend Virginia’s colorful tea set against Mrs. Blackburn’s favorite brocade tablecloth, last Sunday.
“I was working on it until eleven last night,” Mrs. Blackburn laughed.
Fellow watercolorist Ned Reade, who won a blue ribbon for his painting of a seagull looking over Edgartown Harbor, said he has entered the show every year for more than thirty years. The show is more than just a place to show work for Mr. Reade, who enjoys the chance to catch up with his fellow artists.
“It’s like having a Christmas party in the summer,” he said. “Because you get to see all of your friends, but you don’t have to send out invitations.”
This year’s judges were Margot Datz, Dana Ganes, Ann Gallagher, Sue Shanahan, Diane Paster and Leslie Look. Results follow.
Best of show: Donna Blackburn, watercolor.
Most popular: Heather Capece, acrylic.
Color photography, first place: Debra Gaines.
Color hotography, second place: Melanie Lyttle.
Black and white photography, first place: Robert Dusa.
Black and White Photography, second place: Heather Capece.
Acrylics, first place: Doug Peckham.
Acrylics, second place: Brian Kirkpatrick.
Oil, first place: Judith Drew Schubert.
Oil, second place: Marietta Cleasby.
Watercolor, first place: Ned Reade.
Watercolor, second place: Paul Gardner.
Pastels, first place: Christine Alesch.
Pastels, second place: Warren Gaines.
Collage, first place: Kathy Poehler.
Collage, second place: Dorothy Burnham.
Mixed media, first place: Harry Seymour.
Mixed media, second place: Debra Gaines.
Drawing, first place: N. Scott.
Drawing, second place: Claudia Morgan.
Sculpture, first place: Nancy Blank.
Cousen Rose award, photography: Lisa Vanderhoop.
Cousen Rose award in honor of Lois Mailou Jones: Robert Schaefer.
Cousen Rose award in honor of James Van Der Zee: Donna Blackburn.
Old Sculpin award: Gretchen Treves.
Della Hardman award: Prudence Burns.
Ruth Bogan award: Daisy Lifton.
Ruth Bogan award: Marietta Cleasby.
For more photos, see the gallery All-Island Art Show Spotlights Creativity.