On the Vineyard where art galleries abound and artists abound even more, there is, it seems, art everywhere. But it’s not just traditional galleries that showcase art. Venturing off the tracks, one can encounter not only art that enchants but artists who do so as well.
This month the work of Chris Hughes is being highlighted at Mocha Mott’s in Vineyard Haven and the work of Edie Yoder at the Chilmark Library.
Having completed the studio art program at Brockton High School, Chris Hughes wanted to pursue a career in art. He began researching college art programs, but most colleges were more interested in his skills on the football field. College coaches were surprised when Mr. Hughes brought along his art portfolio to interviews, art and football skills not usually arriving in the same playbook, and didn’t take his artistic interests seriously. Eventually, he matriculated to the University of Rhode Island where the coach did understand the budding artist’s dual interests. After completing his BFA, Mr. Hughes sustained a string of “crappy art jobs,” such as making signs for low pay. Then he took a job with the Plymouth County Correctional Facility to run their graphic arts department. He thrived there, working with 25 to 30 inmates, all of whom had to apply to the program. Mr. Hughes introduced the inmates to silkscreening, print embroidery and printing. With clients in the non-profit and government sectors, he grew the program and even put money back into it, resulting in new and updated equipment. The impact it had on the inmates was rewarding.
“You could see it in their eyes if they were earnest about it,” he said. “And it gave them new skills, a new trade.”
Some even used their new skills to find jobs once they were released, Mr. Hughes said.
In addition to work at the correctional facility, Mr. Hughes developed his own graphic design business on the side. Then, five years ago, he was diagnosed with young onset Parkinson’s disease, which mostly affected his dominant, or right hand. He tried to continue working by switching over to his left hand, which, he said, was great if he wanted his work to be Expressionistic. He had to give up oils but was able to continue drawing and painting.
“I just changed the way and speed that I work. I have to work much smaller now.”
Mr. Hughes left his post at the correctional facility and began working with Griggs & Browne as a pest control technician, which brings him to the Vineyard every Monday through Friday. He brings his art supplies with him and uses both his time on the boat and his lunch break to paint or peruse galleries. In so doing, he keeps his skills sharp and his heart fed.
At Mocha Mott’s in Vineyard Haven, you’ll see several pieces by Chris Hughes – both watercolors and pen and ink drawings of various settings and creatures, including stripers, tuna, horseshoe crabs, oysters, deer, a lighthouse and even a golf course. They are small but they capture the essence of the sea and land, including a dreamy rendition of the clay cliffs in Aquinnah and the realist cleat on a Steamship Authority ferry. His work is on display through the end of October, and can also be found at hughesgraphicdesign.com or on facebook.
At 76 years old, Edie Yoder is as vibrant as ever, as is her art. However, last year she declared herself “old and retired” and decided to do a retrospective show. This month her work is being displayed at the Chilmark Library.
“There’s not a common theme to this show,” Ms. Yoder said, “except the relationship to music.” Describing the “orchestral colors” in her work, particularly in her oil painting that is an homage to Stravinsky’s “Firebird” symphony, she said, “each instrument has its own color, and Stravinsky blends the colors in new ways.”
Ms. Yoder is no stranger to the ways art and music mix. In college she studied music, while taking art classes on the side. Later she earned a master’s degree in music literature at the University of Michigan, all the time auditing classes in oil painting. After graduating, she taught music at Eastern Michigan University for several years before deciding to move to the Vineyard full-time in 1979, where she had spent summers as a child.
Her interest in art had begun much earlier, though, before music took center stage. As a child she was bed-ridden for six weeks with rheumatic fever. To pass the time she listened to radio stories and drew comic books, including Flash Gordon and other superheroes. She also worked with papier-m Ã¢ ch Ã© , model airplanes and made dollhouse furniture out of paper. In high school, she moved on to watercolors, creating scenes from Scotland, where her mother was born, as well as Ivory soap carvings, including many a seagull.
Living on the Vineyard allowed her to finally pursue her art full time while also allowing her to “struggle financially,” she said, the way a real artist would. Now it was music that filled the sidelines. To support her art, she become the conductor of the chamber orchestra and the Vineyard Symphonetta, taught flute lessons and hosted a classical music show on WMVY.
Ms. Yoder’s current show reveals a variety of techniques, such as monoprint, oil on canvas, casein and graphite, and even a charcoal pencil sketch. The monoprints include pieces such as Dappled Horse and Cat’s Cradle, which some will recognize from childhood games that required a piece of string. The triptych of dancers, done with casein and graphite, was inspired by ballet rehearsals that she used to watch. And the Bird of Paradise is arresting with its vibrant colors intermingling rather symphonically of course.