Allen Whiting: Looking Back, Leaning Forward


Summer 2017 is a landmark season for West Tisbury landscape painter Allen Whiting. It marks the 35th year since he opened the doors to his historic farmhouse, welcoming patrons into the Davis House Gallery, where he displays the serene, evocative oils that have made him something of a Vineyard legend.

In a departure from previous seasons, Mr. Whiting will host two exhibitions: the first, “Looking Back,” a retrospective opening on Sunday, June 25, will showcase 35 years of his landscapes, portraits, drawings, and sculpture, all culled from his personal collection. The second, “Leaning Forward,” opening on Thursday, August 3, will feature up to 45 new works.

“I’ve pulled 55 pieces for the retrospective, a cross-section of work that people haven’t seen before,” he promises. In addition to classic Vineyard landscapes, he has also chosen paintings inspired by his travels to Santa Fe, Utah, Maine, and the Caribbean island of Bequia. His sculptures are found-object constructions, made from “things picked up around the farm,” with some personal meaning attached. Most works on display will be for sale.

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Mr. Whiting says that last summer’s slower gallery traffic Island-wide provided the impetus for the retrospective, as well as the encouragement of close friends. Turning 71 this July, he thought it was time to “mix it up.” He’s also the subject of a full-length documentary film currently in development, titled A Painter Who Farms, by awardwinning San Diego boutique filmmakers Salt and Sugar Productions.

“At my age, it’s no longer what you thought you’d do or what you’ll do tomorrow,” he says, sounding matter-of-fact, as a man whose other daily tasks involve caring for a 55-acre sheep farm would.

Forgoing representation by other galleries, Mr. Whiting says that he has enjoyed his autonomy and the relaxed control he exercises over his work. “I see younger painters looking at how to do things their own way today as well. It’s worked for me.”

Without even leaving the land he’s walked since boyhood, he can look out over the sea, the fields, the skies, and the vistas that captivate him, as well as thousands of Island visitors each year. Painting en plein air, Mr. Whiting says that he celebrates the eternal things we all enjoy.

“I’m lucky to live on Martha’s Vineyard. The chickens are happy. The birds are singing. I’m a lucky man.”


Visit the Davis House Gallery, opening for the season on Sunday, June 25, at 985 State Rd., West Tisbury. Hours: Thursday to Sunday, 1 to 6pm, or by appointment. Online at Phone: 508-693-4691.

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