Flying Shuttles Studio artists exhibit mixed media works at Jamestown Arts Center

By Helena Touhey Special to the IndependentJan 25, 2019

JAMESTOWN, R.I. — Three boats are displayed together in a corner, distinct paintings unified in subject matter but distinguished by their cloud formations and wave patterns. There is “Servabu, 64 Tons,” with big sails and pleasant clouds on calm seas next to “Sailing By The Clouds,” which appears to rest on more rocky waters, under stormy skies. Nearby and looking on is “The Queen Mary,” smaller in scale but no less colorful, its pink and gray hull seeming to glide across a blue-green ocean, the clouds above both soft and a bit suspenseful.

These paintings, by Robert Douglas, are among 72 works on display at the Jamestown Arts Center as part of the “Weave The Trees: Flying Shuttles Studio 35th Anniversary Exhibit,” a group show that is up through Feb. 22.

“I like to make my pictures look nice,” writes Douglas in his artist statement. “I like to keep myself busy. I like to paint boats in the water. I like to make big waves hitting the boat.”

Of his process, he explains that, “First, I look at books to see which pictures I like best. Next, I draw out my picture with pencil. If it is a boat picture I start with the boat then the water, and then the sky and clouds last.

“I like to use acrylic paint,” he continues. “I like choosing colors to paint. Painting makes me feel thrilled.”

Douglas’ love for art is echoed in many of the statements by his peers, as is an attraction to color, which reveals itself in almost every work adorning the gallery. “Weave The Trees” is at once vibrant and eclectic, powerful and uninhibited.

It’s also an exhibit featuring work by adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

“There is a rawness and a freshness to the work that people love,” said Karen Conway, exhibitions director at JAC. “The work just relates to each other — the colors, and themes.”

“We’ve had people come in who didn’t know it was a show for adults with disabilities — they just came in and saw the vibrant, beautiful colors,” Conway said.

All of the artists work out of Flying Shuttles Studio in Pawtucket. Founded in 1984, this space is a nonprofit studio that provides artistic and technical training for adults, where artists specialize in creating handwoven and original artwork. Twenty artists are part of the show, which is the third partnership between the studio and the center.

The studio artists met regularly over the course of a few months to select the work featured in the show, which resulted in a collaborative curation process. They also collectively brainstormed names for the exhibition, said Toni Carroll, program director at Flying Shuttles.  

“They all got together and voted on various titles and chose together to name it ‘Weave The Trees’,” Carroll said, noting Nancy McParlin contributed the selected title.

Some artists visit the studio daily, others once or a few times a week, and all are self-directed.

“They all have their own projects, and we just encourage them to work on their own styles, and help them get materials,” Carroll said.

As a result, a range of mediums are on display, including pencil and sharpie, mixed media, acrylic paint, fabric paint prints, mixed fibers, watercolor and acrylic, watercolor and pencil, cotton embroidery, aluminum wire and, of course, woven works. Some of the pieces are framed, while others spill out onto the edges of their canvas.

Artwork titles are just as eye-catching as the pieces themselves, adding to the story before the viewer. There is “Apple Picking Very Soon,” an artwork by Jennifer Buckley; “Ocean Life of Nature,” an acrylic and sharpie work by Michelle Peloquin; and “Show Off Fun Art Party, Shown Worlds,” a water and acrylic work by Paul Almeida.

As suggested above, nature and outdoor themes run strong through the work, represented figuratively and abstractly.

Susan Valentine’s “Garden Party,” an acrylic piece, is a portrait of flowers in a vase, the backdrop a warm and earthy brown. Alfred Smith’s painting, “Poinsettias,” also an acrylic, portrays flowers in shades of red, pink, and off-white, layered and textured, filling the canvas to the brim.

Damon Mahan wove four mixed fiber rugs, each named for a season and displayed in the center of the main gallery.

“I look all around the sky and ground for different colors,” Mahan wrote in his artist statement. “I made a color chart to pick my fabric. I have cut all the fabric strips. I made a pattern, sewed them together, and then wove the rug together. Weaving brings joy and peace to me. It is very soothing.”

Among all of the nature-inspired works are a few robots by Adam Kane, each with their own personality. There is “Orange Robot,” a cotton embroidery piece, and “Rodney The Robot,” a fabric paint print.

“My art makes me happy,” explains Kane in his artist statement. “When I finish a piece of art, it makes me feel proud.”

In the room leading into the main gallery hangs a trio of mixed fiber artworks by Jennifer Fogel: “The Other Shore,” “Summer Field” and “Walking in Winter.” The layers of color and texture are quite captivating, and the works seem to tell one story when taken in collectively, and another when observed individually.

On a nearby wall hangs five mixed fiber pieces by Nicole Mardini. Each is a doll bust sporting an animated hairstyle and fashioned in an ornate, vintage-inspired frame, a patterned piece of fabric forming background “wallpaper.” They strike a balance between forlorn and content.

Not to be overlooked is a piece at the top of the stairs by Brenda Wilkinson titled “Firehouse 528 Ridge,” a watercolor and sharpie city scene. Buildings and windows are shaded blue, purple, red, orange and green, the streetscape colorful and crisp.

“I love the shapes and sizes of buildings. The colors are fantastic and I like the different ways the buildings stand in place on their foundation,” Wilkinson wrote in her artist statement. “Each day, I pass by different shapes, sizes, and color buildings. I like to draw buildings; they excite me.”

Other artists with work in the show include Carol Riccio, Robert Shwaery, Maria Restrepo, Donna Sarazin, Andrew Lacouture, Jaclyn Parkos and Paulette Boucher.  

All of the artwork is for sale, ranging in price from $50-$300, and all of the proceeds go back to the organization and the artists. According to Carroll, 60 percent of proceeds go directly to the artists, and 40 percent goes toward the studio to help fund supplies. About 25 pieces sold in the first week of the show, which opened Jan. 10.

“I find shapes, patterns, and designs in forms that I see in life around me and add them to my art,” explains Paul Almeida in his artist statement, a sentiment common with his studiomates and reflected throughout “Weave The Trees.”

“I use my art my art as a way of communicating with people. It is a way for me to connect to others and with the world,” he continues.

To view the show, visit Jamestown Arts Center, 18 Valley St., Jamestown, during its gallery hours Wednesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m.- 2 p.m., excluding Jan. 26 and Feb. 18. Article available here

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