Galaxy Gallery hosts an exhibition of longtime friends

Creativity and camaraderie are what sustain a remarkable group of eight professional artists working and living on the vineyard. Initiated by Nancy Shaw Cramer, the women have been meeting monthly over dinner for 26 years to discuss ideas, major exhibitions, books, business goals and the inspirations that drive their art. Luckily for us, we have a glimpse of their artistic expressions in “The Art Circle Group” exhibition at the Galaxy Gallery.

Different media abound. Cramer works with monotypes, which are made by painting, drawing, or inking a surface that is transferred to paper. Cramer cuts and rearranges her larger print into small squares, which she individualizes by embossing, splattering, spraying, or painting with dyes or iridescent paints. She embellishes some works, such as “Shimmer 2” and “Square 1,” with glass beads in small units, mounds, or strung on cable threads to create intriguing surfaces. She mounts her monotypes on painted box panels, which gives them a physical weight and depth that pushes them into our viewing space.

Sandy Bernat works with a variety of plant materials to create the papers for his three-dimensional animated work. The organic web-like sculpture ‘Captured’ reflects Bernat’s sentiment that ‘handmade paper strikes a delicate balance between strength and fragility, purpose and beauty. Plant fibers can be shaped and transformed with a simple gesture. In “Well Read,” you see the versatility of paper as she cuts and interweaves strips made from Philippine banana leaf fibers. Bernat says: “There is poetry in the papermaking process and a spiritual attraction to the paper itself.

Ruth Kirchmeier’s woodcuts have remarkable clarity, which is even more impressive considering that each color of “Duarte’s Pond” and “Thistle” is made with a separate woodcut block, printed on top of each other to develop a rich and cumulative palette. Kirchmeier is known to use up to 100 different colors in a woodcut. The visible grain of the wooden blocks further energizes his images with a life of their own.

Color and composition are at the heart of Leslie Baker’s stunning abstract and geometric works, as evidenced by her ‘Balance 8’ collage, featuring hand-colored watercolor papers, acrylics and her ‘Sweep’ watercolor paint. “What moves me when I paint is what one color does to another,” says Baker. “Color is the subject, and the interplay of colors is the energy and direction of these pieces. It’s exciting to see how the same color can both uplift and down, creating different spatial effects depending on the color placed nearby. For Baker, “it is the expectation of invention and surprise”.

Jennifer McCurdy’s dynamic, nature-inspired vessels evoke a visceral and emotional response. Its “Gilded Chrysalis Vessel” and “Gilded Wind Vessel” spirals resemble tangible vortices. McCurdy begins his pieces on the potter’s wheel, then carves them by hand to create the negative spaces that play against the positive forms of the porcelain. The curling strips draw our gaze to the interior gilded with warm gold, applied by her husband Tom, then pop out again. Their bright interiors create a dialogue of shadow and light with the bare white porcelain. McCurdy explains, “When the porcelain is hard as leather, I carve patterns to add energy and counterpoint.”

Julia Mitchell “paints” with wool, silk and linen tapestries in the powerful “Cave Weaving”. Mitchell says she wove the large piece “as a tribute to the Lascaux cave paintings, which embody so much vitality and movement.” However, Mitchell’s masterful translucency gives his tapestry an even greater urgency than earlier designs. On the other hand, the verticality and the subtle change of colors in “Edge of the Pond” calm the soul the more you look at it. “I try to show the beauty that surrounds us on a daily basis, whether we live in the city or in the suburbs or surrounded by meadows,” she says. “My goal with each tapestry is to reveal the deep essence of my subjects. My goal is to convey a sense of beauty and mystery in all things.

Sensual colors are at the heart of Marie-Louise Rouff’s abstract paintings. She finds the freedom to explore how colors react to each other, the shimmering warmth they give off when they meet, and how one color recoils another. Rouff describes his color selection process as instinctive, painting with what his hand catches, following his instincts. She says, “When I paint, I can start with a few intuitive washes and marks until my mind is warmed up. Sometimes I start with ideas sparked by chance events – a thread of pattern in the canvas, a brush stroke in the gesso, or the outline of a color that feels familiar to me. Then I respond to the images as they develop. My criterion of authenticity is how engaged I feel in this crucial game. The discipline is to remain intensely aware of the process at all times.

Heather Sommers’ ceramic works are a conversation between abstraction and representation. Watching “Girl Emerging”, the magnetic female figure becomes noticeable, emerging from the geometric shapes. For Sommers, the glazed stoneware clay sculpture suggests Persephone returning each spring from underground. But the woman’s anonymity allows viewers to create their own association. The sculpture is among Sommer’s brilliantly witty photographs and political posters, which stemmed from his intense need to use his artistic voice to voice his concerns about the issues facing the country during Trump’s presidency. In his irreverent “The Perfect Storm,” our nation’s capital sinks from the centaur’s back into the surging tide of Hokusai’s reproduction of the 19th century Japanese woodblock print. Trump returned, apparently saying so long and good riddance. Although carried out in 2018, the work took on an even more intense resonance given the events of January 6.

Whether painting, prints, ceramics, paper or tapestry, there is something for everyone in this exhibition. And the collective creativity of these artists makes for a breathtaking spectacle not to be missed.

“The Art Circle Group” at the Galaxy Gallery runs from September 1-13. Opening Reception at the final Art Walk in the Oak Bluffs Arts District on September 3, 4-6 p.m.