For her 60th birthday, Margot Datz gifted herself the ultimate luxury.
“I gave myself the time to paint 12 hearts,” Ms. Datz said of her new collection, The Illuminated Heart.
“It was a personal project 10 years in the yearning,” she said. “Not 10 years in the making, because I painted them this summer, 10 years in the yearning, because the ideas have been in my head for years.”
A dozen detailed hearts make up The Illuminated Heart, which will be on display for one night only at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury on August 10.
“I haven’t done anything like this in a long time,” said Ms. Datz. “I dabbled with a personal project last fall but it was nothing like this. It’s always a risk when we paint for ourselves...and if I don’t do it, then I can’t evolve.”
Ms. Datz, a willowy woman with long red hair, is perhaps best known for her murals. She recently finished a restoration of the 1843 trompe l’oeil mural at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown. She has also illustrated five books, published her own book and done many interior design projects.
“It’s great to paint for other people and it stitches the scope for the optimal solution for any given project. But when I paint for myself, that’s the ultimate playground, that’s when I really get to fly.”
The Illuminated Heart collection includes a dozen paintings with “hearts on every single one. Some are hidden, some not so hidden,” she said.
Each painting in the series is also accompanied by a piece of writing and creates a sort of manuscript, little contemplations that come into focus. “Some look at the writing first, then the picture, some look at the picture first, then the writing, some don’t look at the writing at all,” she said.
Ms. Datz grew up in the Finger Lakes region of New York. “When I was a little kid we didn’t have a lot of art books,” she said. So she memorized “every picture and every page” in Treasures of the Louvre, an art book filled with masterpieces from the Paris museum. “It used to drive me crazy that I didn’t know the story of a painting. I would just look at something and would get so frustrated. I just remember wanting to know the story behind the paintings in the book. I couldn’t help but pursue a connection of picture and word. So my creative process involves writing.”
In one painting, A Heart’s Home, the written statement begins with a question: “Have you ever visited a place and instantly knew you were “home”?”
Other pieces offer advice, sometimes condolences. For Heart of Innocence, the first piece she painted in the collection, the statement reads: “No matter what tragedy and error has reduced us to believing or enacting, each of our souls remains forever innocent, and we can be reborn to this innocence over and over again through the mystery of Grace.”
Mystery in art for Ms. Datz is intriguing and inspiring.
“My favorite Island artist is Doug Kent. His paintings are so mysterious and they let us into the cave of his heart. I look at the world differently after looking at his paintings.”
Equally alluring, she said, is the late artist Stan Murphy. “He had a terrific sense of mystery.”
And perhaps it’s her own sense of mystery that makes The Illuminated Heart so inviting. But there was more to celebrating her birthday than creating a new show. On July 16, family and friends gathered on the beach with portable chairs and pizza boxes.
“I had my standard bend in the road pizza party. And then, two days after that, was the big kabang at the Old Whaling Church. The best concert Kate Taylor’s ever put on,” she said of Ms. Taylor’s concert to celebrate the official unveiling of the mural Ms. Datz had worked on for most of the winter.
“It’s so exciting to see someone get better and better at what they’re doing,” she said of Ms. Taylor.
The same can be said for Ms. Datz.
Using her own words from another one of her new paintings, Party Hearty: “Sometimes the heart needs to walk on the wild side. That night owl needs to soar into the night and shake a tail feather! The appetite of the heart is omnivorous and cannot live on light alone. There are delights in the dark, and kinds of play that sparkle against the backdrop of midnight in the spotlight of a full moon.”
The Illuminated Heart art show and reception is one night only: Saturday, August 10 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury.