Martha’s Vineyard,MA – Central Massachusetts landscape painter Cynthia Woehrle studied traditional painting techniques with George Gabin while attending the Montserrat College of Art in the early 1990s; she’s remained true to the style while creating her own marketable niche with atmospheric and moody works that capture the changing seasons and iconic features of the locations she portrays.
In recent years, Woehrle’s found worthy venues to display her work, including Fruitlands, where she was part of its “Visceral Murmurs” exhibition in 2012, and Martha’s Vineyard Art Association’s Old Sculpin Gallery, where she spent last summer as a gallery assistant and became a MVAA member. She’s one of four solo artists featured in the organization’s New Members’ Exhibition that takes place from June 13-19, which will be followed up by a second solo show later in the summer.
Artscope managing editor Brian Goslow exchanged questions with Woehrle prior to her departing for Martha’s Vineyard for the show’s opening reception this Sunday, June 14, from 5-7 p.m.
HOW DID YOU COME TO HAVE AN EXHIBITION WITH THE OLD SCULPIN GALLERY?
The June exhibition introduces new members artwork, I applied for membership to the Martha’s Vineyard Art Association (MVAA) in 2014 while living and working on the island. I was one of four artists accepted in 2014, all painters. MVAA has an 80-year history that strongly represents painters. As a member there are opportunities for solo exhibits at Old Sculpin Gallery through July-September.
YOU SPENT LAST SUMMER AS A GALLERY ASSISTANT AT OLD SCULPIN; WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT THE MARKET FOR ART ON MARTHA’S VINEYARD DURING THAT TIME AND HOW DID IT INFLUENCE THE WORK YOU’VE CREATED SINCE THAT TIME?
One thing I learned is that people buy art when they are on vacation. Martha’s Vineyard as a subject has attracted artists for over a hundred years. Interestingly, the art industry grew along side the tourist industry (tourism boomed in 1975 after JAWS was released).
Today, Martha’s Vineyard has lots to offer for fine art encompassed by commercial contemporary art galleries, local art galleries and festivals. What is great about the Old Sculpin Gallery, which is the venue for MVAA members, is that MVAA is the first art organization on the island; the gallery is in a fantastically rustic historic building and the gallery is positioned to showcase local artists along side successful national artists who paint on the island every summer.
Tastes on the island are mostly conservative, although that may shift over time, and the island is very welcoming to landscape painters. The island as a subject influenced the paintings I created not the islands art market, the fact that there is a market for art is a wonderful opportunity.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED, FROM BOTH THE ARTIST AND THE BUSINESS SIDE, FROM BEING A MEMBER OF THE MARTHA’S VINEYARD ART ASSOCIATION?
I learned a lot about the history of art and artists on the island and about some the wonderful past members. Although the most famous MVAA members are men, I was very pleased to discover a lot of strong work by women artists in the collection, which I found inspiring. From the business side I took a close look at price point, size and the subject matter of what sells on Martha’s Vineyard and found that my current practices fit right in.
TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE CREATION OF THE WORK THAT’S ON VIEW IN THIS EXHIBITION AND HOW IT CAME TOGETHER?
I spent time gathering inspirations from the island, often sketching in pencil while on the beach. I explored these ideas through painted sketches and decided to pursue several themes: sunsets and moonrises over the ocean, sand dunes, and lighthouses, these themes are often combined in a painting.
Although the work is location based these landscapes do not present an exact representation of its details. Instead the work developed based on the memory of the experience. This perception allows me to alter the presence of certain elements such as the super moon which is always much bigger on the minds eye than it is in realistic perspective. By highlighting what engaged me most about a scene I am able to satisfy my artistic need to explore that element.
HERE ARE MY THREE FAVORITE WORKS IN THE SHOW; TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE CREATION OF EACH AND WHAT YOU WERE AIMING TO DO WITH THEM (AND IN THE INSTANCES OF THE TWO STUDIES, HOW THEY INFLUENCED YOUR FINAL VERSION OF THE WORK:
OVER THE DUNE?
‘Over the Dune’ was executed from memory and is of the fields surrounding South Beach. The aim was to allude to the feeling of trudging uphill in sand with the wind pushing the dune grass obscuring the view of the fields.
EDGARTOWN SKY STUDY?
‘Edgartown Sky Study’ was inspired by heavy fog over Edgartown Harbor and I explored how to combine my strong interest in the sky with a lighthouse in the harbor. I asked my self how minimal the architectural elements can be while still having presence and not overtake the scene as a whole. I have not yet produced a final version of this study.
WOOD’S HOLE SUNSET, STUDY 2?
‘Wood’s Hole Sunset 2,’ this was the second version of this view. With this study I explored the color and shape of the choppy water and how to balance it with the dramatic clouds above the land. This version was expanded onto a 12” x 16” board and the colors, forms and layers of paint were furthered in the final version.
YOU HELD A PRIVATE PREVIEW FOR THE WORK IN THIS SHOW; WAS THAT MORE SO THAT PEOPLE AT HOME WHO WOULDN’T HAVE A CHANCE TO SEE THE SHOW ON MARTHA’S VINEYARD COULD SEE IT OR TO PERHAPS GET SOME FEEDBACK THAT MIGHT BE HELPFUL IN FINE-TUNING YOUR EXHIBITION (AND IF THAT WAS THE CASE, WHAT KIND OF COMMENTS WERE BENEFICIAL)?
The private preview was hosted for supporters to see the work first hand before it left for the Vineyard. It was important to me to offer this viewing because the support of friends, family and the community has had a huge positive impact on my career. In the future I hope to host a public preview so the work can be shared with the broader Worcester art community who I worked with for many years. The process of hanging the work in my home in addition to the feedback I received helped me make some decisions about presentation. Which pieces should hang together, which need frames, etc.
A BIG PART OF ANY PAINTING OR PHOTOGRAPHY OF WORK THAT INCLUDES WATER AND THE REFLECTIONS IT CREATES IS THE ABILITY TO CAPTURE THE UNIQUENESS OF A LOCATION; WHAT GRABBED MY ATTENTION MOST IN SEEING THE PREVIEW OF THIS SHOW WAS HOW YOU ALSO CAPTURED THE FEEL FOR THE ELEMENTS IN A SCENE — THE BREEZE GOING THROUGH THE GRASSES, OR THE CHILL OF THE OCEAN AIR, FOR EXAMPLE. MUCH HAS BEEN WRITTEN ABOUT CAPTURING THE SKY OF THE PROVINCETOWN AREA; HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO TRYING TO CAPTURE THE ELEMENTS OF THE ISLAND?
The island is so diverse! There is no one feel of air or light on Martha’s Vineyard as a whole. Part of what I came to appreciate about the island is the unique character each town has in natural beauty and architectural charm. The work in this exhibit focuses more on Edgartown than other section of the island. One thing I embraced about Edgartown is that the sunset is always pink and purple over the harbor, as the town faces the water on the south and east side of the island. Western views of the sunset in Edgartown are blocked by the land and are in contrast to dramatic sunsets with western views.
MOST ARTISTS DON’T INCORPORATE THEIR WORKING SKETCHES AS PART OF THEIR SHOWS BUT IT’S SOMETHING YOU’VE DONE FOR A WHILE NOW. WHAT DOES THIS ADD TO THE PRESENTATION OF THE FINAL WORK AND ARE THERE TIMES PEOPLE PREFER “THE FIRST VERSION?” — AND IF SO, WHY?
I believe that viewers enjoy seeing different stages of the process of creating art. In a gallery setting offering these studies gives a range in price point, which makes the art assessable to art lovers of all economic backgrounds. First versions may also appeal to different tastes but I have no specific feedback to comment on for this question. The ‘Visceral Murmurs’ exhibition at Fruitlands Museum did not include sketches due to space restrictions and considerations to the cohesiveness of the group show.
YOUR WORK WILL BE IN THE MVAA MEMBERS’ GALLERY THROUGHOUT THE SEASON AND YOU’VE GOT A SECOND SOLO SHOW AT OLD SCULPIN LATER THIS SUMMER; WILL YOU BE DISPLAYING THE SAME WORK AS IN THE EXHIBITION FROM JUNE 13-19 OR WILL YOU BE DISPLAYING OTHER WORKS AS WELL?
I hope to continue building my body of work over the summer and it is likely new pieces will be included in the August exhibit.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW AND WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS, ARTISTICALLY, FOR THE SUMMER OF ’15?
Right now I am working on a Mother and Child portrait set in Green Hill Park in Worcester. My artistic goals for the summer of ‘15 are to further explore the themes of sand dunes and fog in the harbor. I also plan to further explore the depiction of ocean water.
(Cynthia Woerhle’s paintings can be seen as part of the Martha’s Vineyard Art Association’s New Members Exhibition (alongside that of Joan Kumpitch, Stephanie Reiter and Nancy Walton) from June 13 through 19 at the Old Sculpin Gallery at the Martha’s Vineyard Artist Association, 58 Dock St., Edgartown, Mass. A second solo show will be held later this summer from August 15-29. For more information, call (508) 627-4881.)