Her musical career has been acclaimed, and she penned an autobiography in 2015 (“Boys in the Trees”) that became a New York Times best seller, but Carly Simon has taken her talent and creativity to another direction with a project that is not so well known. Yet.
The singer-songwriter has long been a fan of peonies, growing hundreds of the lush flowers in the garden of her West Tisbury home on Martha’s Vineyard. Drawn to their intricate layers and contrasting colors, Simon, 72, began photographing the flowers last summer; experimenting with lighting, cropping, and framing.
“I tried to capture the inner life of the peonies,” she said in a recent phone interview from her island home. “Becoming one with the peonies was part of the creative work.”
The result of Simon’s passion is a collection of artistic photographs, as well as a line of silk scarves that not only feature designs from her floral prints, but include snippets of her song lyrics on them.
Her photographs and a limited number of scarves will be on display — and for sale — at a pop-up gallery exhibit called “Silk Road on South” on Sept. 16 and 17 at the Kara Taylor Gallery (no relation to James Taylor, Simon’s ex-husband) in Chilmark on Martha’s Vineyard. Simon will attend the artist reception from 4-7 p.m. on Sept. 16, and said she plans on being on hand for part of the second day.
The exhibit will also feature paintings by pastel and mixed-media artist Ellen Questel, a close friend of Simon’s since seventh grade, with whom she has partnered in her scarf design venture. Simon said she hopes to expand it to include everything from a line of greeting cards to wallpaper.
“There’s already interest in the scarves from high-end retailers,” Simon said. “This is all very exciting.”
She said the idea was hatched by Questel and her husband, Roger, who felt Simon’s photographs would translate beautifully onto silk.
“The idea kind of evolved naturally,” Questel said in a phone interview. “When I was visiting Carly earlier this year, she said that I need to have a show here [on Martha’s Vineyard], and at the same time, we were developing the idea of the scarves, so we said: Let’s show them together.”
Questel, who lives in Vermont, said that the scarves, some of which are made of heavy silk and others of a silk-merino wool blend, are hemmed by hand in California.
“What people will see are limited editions, what in the art world are known as artist proofs,” she said. “They just arrived and they are beautiful.”
Simon said she chose lyrics from six of her songs that she thought connected to certain photographs, like one with willowy, white petals that includes the phrase “clouds in my coffee” from her 1972 hit song “You’re So Vain,” and another with the words “let the dreamers wake the nation” from the Oscar-winning song “Let the River Run,” featured in 1988’s “Working Girl.”
Simon, who lives with Richard Koehler, an island surgeon and her boyfriend of more than a decade, said she is looking forward to next weekend’s exhibit and hinted that there might even be a live performance.
“My guitar will be there, I know that,” she teased, adding that music is still a very big part of her life and that this new venture is simply another means by which to express her artistry.
‘I tried to capture the inner life of the peonies. Becoming one with the peonies was part of the creative work.’
“And if nobody likes them,” she quipped, “then I’ll have a lot of wonderful scarves to wear.”
For more information about the exhibit, visit karataylorart.com.Juliet Pennington can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.