Fancy a little urban spirit after a summer at the Vineyard? Check out one gallery’s latest exhibit, “Streetwise,” on display September 2-22, with the reception opening at 5pm on Saturday September 2. The exhibition is devoted exclusively to images of cities – mainly New York.
The exhibition will present the work of four photographers and an artist working with charcoal. Among the photographers, only Christopher Wright has ever shown his work on Island. The other three, Monina von Opel, Allen Look, and Amy Upton, are new to the Vineyard art scene, though all have been touring for years.
Street photographer Monina von Opel divides her time between New York and Martha’s Vineyard. While walking the streets of New York City, she found herself drawn to unusual images – not your typical cityscapes. Her selection of photos on the show includes images of bus stop announcements, signs in the windows and even pieces of debris.
“I did a workshop with Alison Shaw and learned a lot, but found that I wasn’t interested in beaches, boats and sunsets,” says von Opel.
Instead, the amateur photographer delved into the small details of city life. Trash, for example. In her artist statement, Ms. von Opel writes: “New York shamelessly shows off its belly… offering heaps of visual goodies… IF you look and listen, the streets speak. As I walk through the concrete canyons, I find treasures that no one else seems interested in – a plastic strip on a 57th Street crosswalk, the bizarre antics of a schoolgirl in a recycling pile, or even just a lost notebook.
“I really enjoy walking around New York and thinking,” says Ms. von Opel. “What I see in the city interests me infinitely, so eclectic and unexpected. ”
Allen Look, who can trace his island roots back to the 17th century, has been storing photos since the 1960s. It was only recently that he embarked on a mission of transferring old 35mm negatives to digital files. The selection of prints found in A Gallery’s exhibition are all urban images spanning the globe, from New York and Boston to Paris and Tangier.
Mr. Look was born and raised in New York City, and many of his photos were taken there. In 1972, however, he traveled to Europe to assist in the delivery of a ship from “Gibraltar to Menemsha”, as he puts it. His black and white images of Spain and Morocco are fascinating snapshots of life in another culture. It’s clear that Mr. Look is interested in visual storytelling. Describing one of his photos in his artist statement, he writes: “An ancient man walks with a cane, with his back to us, along an old waterfront formed by docks speckled by a measure of time that echoes through the ramparts rising above it; the port delimited by a terraced farm hill, descending towards a group of townships, along a roadway carrying a bus.
The Island Images Gallery in Oak Bluffs recently hosted an exhibition of contemporary images by Mr. Look from Vietnam. These two shows launched what the photographer hopes will be a third career. Although he worked most of his life in construction as a project manager, Mr. Look started out as a filmmaker and ran a film production company on the island for several years. During the 70s and 80s he shot numerous videos documenting the people and culture of the island. He is now working on transferring these images and making a series of films examining island life.
Amy Upton studied photography before starting a business and raising a family on the island. However, she maintained her original passion and still toured. In her urban views, she focuses less on people and more on gripping, haunting scenarios like the interior of an abandoned mental institution and a dumpster on a secluded street. She shoots in black and white and has contributed a number of her gelatin silver prints to the show’s selection.
Christopher Wright has been represented by A Gallery for several years. Unlike the other artists in the current exhibition, Mr. Wright photographs in large format in color, and his subjects are more traditional cityscapes than the work of others. He loves to photograph New York at night, using a process that beautifully captures the lights, activity and vibrant colors of the city bustling with nocturnal energy.
The only non-photographer featured on the show, Chris Weller, creates very realistic charcoal drawings of New York City. With her most recent work, she captured the seven bridges connecting New York to the various boroughs. However, what she shows at A Gallery is a series of sketches that she calls “D Train Doodles”. As she travels back and forth between her Manhattan apartment and her Brooklyn studio, Ms. Weller sketches passengers on the subway. She surprises people reading, sleeping, looking at their phones or just sitting quietly.
“I’ve always found it to be a nice, informal and informal way to look at the city,” says the artist. “Ninety-eight percent of people don’t even know they’re attracted. “
Ms. Weller has participated in numerous group and individual exhibitions in New York and Michigan; this will be his first exhibition on the Vineyard.
Other participants on the “Streetwise” show include Tara Rose Macuch, Doris Lubell, Mariana Cook and Harry Seymour, working in various mediums. “Streetwise” is A Gallery’s final summer season exhibition, although the space is open and will showcase new works throughout the fall.