Works by Mary Newhouse grace the island once more

Wed, 09/18/2013 - 2:00pm

Déjà Vu Gallery closes its inaugural exhibition season with a collection by the late Mary Newhouse, a beloved matron of the arts and an inspiration for so many of Block Island’s contemporary creators.

A studied artist who earned her MFA from Smith College in 1957, Newhouse had a long history of sharing her work on Block Island. In 1980, she launched the Sea Breeze Gallery, located on the Sea Breeze Inn property on Spring Street. The gallery was the first mixed-art space on the island, featuring photography, glass, ceramics, sculpture and painting by innovative artists from the Rhode Island School of Design, New York and Block Island.

Over time, the Sea Breeze Gallery evolved into Encore Gallery and, finally, the Island Gallery, a cooperative of island artists with Newhouse at the helm. The gallery shuttered its doors in 2010.

Déjà Vu’s Newhouse exhibition, the first solo show of the artist’s work since her passing in 2010, is a diverse collection featuring pieces in mixed media, collage, oil and tempera, watercolor and pastels. Newhouse’s daughter, Sarah, says it’s hard to choose just one favorite in her mother’s repertoire, but she says, “I love the piece, ‘Ophelia.’ It soothes me and disturbs me at the same time. Her use of dense blues and greens on canvas bring the abstraction of a watery grave into perspective.”

Sarah says her mother sought and found creative inspiration in travel, both foreign and imaginative. “She often noted that her dreams were a big influence on her visuals,” she says.

Newhouse’s work is rooted in nature, specifically the ocean and the vivid gardens she maintained on the Sea Breeze property. This devotion to the natural world extended to other parts of Newhouse’s life, most notably her work with several volunteer organizations. Newhouse founded Scenic Block Island and the Committee for the Great Salt Pond with her husband, Robert, and served on the Nature Conservancy, the town Planning Board and others. Because of her vast dedication to the island, Newhouse posthumously received The Block Island Times’ Joan Abrams Award, which is annually bestowed on a local businessperson who gives back to the community.

In line with her lifetime of giving, a portion of all sales of Newhouse’s work at Déjà Vu Gallery will be donated to various island charities.

The public is invited to celebrate the work of Mary Newhouse at Déjà Vu Gallery, located next door to Eli’s Restaurant on Chapel Street, on Saturday, Sept. 21, from 5 to 7 p.m. The exhibition runs through Oct. 4 during regular gallery hours. Visit for more information.