As long as Gigi Horr Liverant has been visiting the Island she has been painting it. For 30 years, she has studied the landscape, the archetypal and the commonplace of the Vineyard, and committed it to canvas with pastels, acrylics and oils. While she’s here she takes photographs, makes sketches and brainstorms ideas about what to paint.
“There are so many facets of the Island that are so interesting,” she said. “It’s way beyond lighthouses and beaches. I find it a fascinating place and I am always finding things to paint.”
She paints everyday Vineyard haunts; iconic roadways and historic buildings, usually at night. The light, though often artificial, is depicted with warm tones and conveys a sense of familiarity with the subject.
Ms. Horr Liverant’s work will be featured in a two-week show at the Granary Gallery in West Tisbury, beginning with an opening reception this Sunday, July 7, from 5 to 7 p.m. The opening also includes Alison Shaw and Wendy Lichtensteiger.
Her rich colors are not representational, but impressionist, communicating more about mood and Ms. Horr Liverant’s emotional connection to the subject. One painting, entitled via Beach Road, depicts a number 13 VTA bus traveling along at nighttime, illuminated from within. She feels a sense of fondness for the buses which she says emanate a “very welcoming and communal” energy as they travel down Beach Road.
“I have a job of taking the ordinary thing and trying to show the viewer, take a look at this, this is a really wonderful thing,” she said. “It again goes back to the everyday sort of things that we don’t notice, that we take for granted...[With my paintings], I say hey, take a look at this, this is there every day and has a story.”
Many of her works feature vehicles, a pattern that began 15 years ago, when her kids were in high school and she drove more at night. “I do find when I am driving I am collecting information. I tried to get into the habit of making some real mental notes.”
Another painting, entitled The Blinker, is dear to her because it records a lost Vineyard icon, now replaced with a roundabout.
“We’ve seen a lot of changes in the Vineyard, and I feel an obligation to record that change.” Her depiction of the Strand Theatre, another historic structure whose future is uncertain, catches it at a particularly flattering moment, she says. “The light was sort of warm and welcoming and I thought, it doesn’t look too bad...[the light] helped the old girl look better.”
Her paintings vary in size, from a large triptych almost nine feet in length, to a smaller 13 by 18-inch study of the Grange Hall on a July evening. Even her paintings of the Chilmark stone walls are reimagined in terms of their use of space. She often paints the wall up close so as to collapse the foreground, and expose the positive and negative space created by the stones.
“I want the viewer to take a look and think, I never thought of those walls that way,” she said. “I want to confront them with that, and raise their awareness.” Her work will be displayed at the Gallery beginning on Sunday. After many years of working en plein air, Ms. Horr Liverant currently paints in her studio in Colchester, Conn. Over the years she has sold a great deal of her Island scenes to patrons off-Island, but three years ago she began a relationship with the Granary Gallery where Vineyard art is preeminent. Last year was her first show at the Granary.
Alison Shaw, renowned Island photographer, will also be featured in Sunday’s opening at the Granary. This is her 26th year showing her original prints at the Granary. Ms. Shaw said she feels honored to collaborate with the Granary, despite having owned a gallery in Oak Bluffs for nearly nine years.
“I feel like its a privilege to be represented by them,” she said. The gallery gives her exposure to a broader customer base.
When she first exhibited her work there, Christopher Morse worked as a bartender at the gallery openings. Mr. Morse is now the owner of the Granary gallery, as well as the Field Gallery and North Water Gallery.
When Ms. Shaw first showed at the Granary she was known for her black and white photographs, which she often published in the Gazette. Over the years she has made a name for herself in color prints as well. The work she’s selected for the show was produced during the last year, and includes colorful abstract seascapes and a series of details of artist’s studios, including studies of palate knives, paint and other art materials. There will also be black and white storm photographs taken during the past year,
For her study of art materials, Ms. Shaw photographed several Island artists in their studios, including painters Traeger di Pietro, Elizabeth Taft, Dan VanLandingham and Don McKillop, who owns the Dragonfly Gallery across the street from Ms. Shaw’s shop. Though they work in close proximity, Ms. Shaw says she does not otherwise get the opportunity to spend time with Mr. McKillop or the other artists.
“I feel privileged to be welcomed in their studios,” she said. The artists whose process she documents are “artists whose work I admire,” she said. “These pictures become tributes to the artists themselves...I am turning their own material into my art.”
The gallery room assigned to her will display approximately 20 original prints, mostly set on watercolor paper. The black and white photographs are silver gelatin prints. Ms. Shaw has enjoyed photographing a storm-struck Island ever since she covered Hurricane Bob for the Gazette. She said recent storms have brought up “the photojournalistic juices” for her. “The past year was particularly rife with storm-related material.”
Ms. Shaw chooses subjects independent from their commercial appeal. “I never put on the commercial hat and think commercially,” she said. “I am being 100 per cent true to my art. In the moment, I am 100 per cent connected to the artistic potential and its value.”
Ms. Shaw used to hang her own shows at the Granary, but recently gave up that control. “I really happily let that go. In general their way of hanging my show is often a way that I would never have hung it myself and that’s a refreshing thing, a positive thing.”
Mr. Morse admires her consistency as an artist and refusal to “sit on her laurels,” despite having met success early on. “She is still a very important creator of art,” he said.
The third artist featured in the show is Wendy Lichtensteiger, a wood sculptor. Her work includes many indigenous creatures to the Island, including shore birds, crabs, seagulls and osprey.
“I didn’t know I was looking for a contemporary carver until I saw her work,” Mr. Morse said.
The show runs in conjunction with a collection of works purchased over the off-season that Mr. Morse is calling Vineyard Masters, which includes the work of Stan Murphy, Kib Bramhall, Thomas Hart Benton, Allen Whiting and Rez Williams. Mr. Morse represents 165 artists, working in many disciplines. Scheduling the artists for shows during the limited summer season presents a challenge for Mr. Morse.
“Generally, when we have a show, we try and show artists that will complement and not complete with each other,“ he said.
Though the Vineyard landscape is a shared source of inspiration for the artists he represents, Mr. Morse said he is looking for “atypical depictions of the Island.”
“I don’t promote art I wouldn’t put in my own home,” he said, adding another restriction. “I don’t promote art that needs to be explained.”
The gallery reception is 5 to 7 p.m. on Sunday, July 7, at the Granary Gallery off Old County Road in West Tisbury.