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New NEMAG exhibit focuses on different aspects of Besser Museum

April 23, 2012
By DIANE SPEER - News Lifestyles Editor , The Alpena News

A number of iconic images come to mind whenever people consider what they appreciate most about the Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan.

For some, its the bald eagle metal sculpture showcased on the front lawn. For others it the new Lafarge Fossil Park also located on the museum grounds. Still others appreciate the many wildlife mounts or early lumbering exhibit found indoors.

Museum Musings, a newly installed exhibit, celebrates these and other facets of the Besser Museum. The exhibit is by 23 members of the Northeast Michigan Artists Guild, who recently used their creative talents to visually express what the museum means to them. The resulting exhibit opened this past weekend and will continue through July 21.

"The museum has been home to NEMAG for a lot of years. We have our monthly meetings there. We support one another," said NEMAG participant Maureen McWilliams. "We thought it would be a nice thing to paint our interpretation of the museum."

The exhibit follows on the heals of a highly successful one NEMAG members did last year that involved artistic interpretations of the famous William Wordsworth poem, "Daffodils." Because of that exhibit's success, the guild was asked to put together a new exhibit for 2012.

"After the success with the poetry exhibit last year and as much as NEMAG does for the museum, we wanted to keep offering them an opportunity each year to display their talent," said Exhibits and Facilities Manager Randy Shultz.

Shultz said the exhibit also provides a good venue for promoting local artists.

"There are 23 different artists participating this year, so you have an exhibit of 23 different styles," Shultz said.

Some of the artists chose to paint more realistically, while other went the abstract route. The group didn't decide ahead of time who was going to focus on which aspect of the museum, leaving it instead to happenstance.

"We weren't concerned if two people did the same subject because it would turn out to be two different interpretations," McWilliams said. "The idea of doing both the inside and outside of the museum also gave us a lot of leeway for subject matter."

For her part, McWilliams chose to do a watercolor of who she sees as the face of the museum, current Interim Director Chris Witulski. Watercolor also was the chosen medium of Dahris Sue Wilson, who depicted the wolf, cougar and bobcat mounts displayed on the museum's lower level.

The Lafarge Fossil Park was the subject of two mixed media pieces by Mary Iwanski. Also going the mixed media route was Marilyn Bachelor with her piece that paid homage to both Besser Company blocks and the sculptural fountain marking the entrance to the museum.

Kate LaJoie used colored pencils on her rendering of the bald eagle metal sculpture. Titled "Under the Eagle's Chin," LaJoie explained that she was struck by creator Tom Moran's unlikely use of hard, rigid metal plates to represent soft, flexible feathers and their reflective properties.

Using watercolor, Jean Stewart chose to depict a wooden wagon wheel against a background of log ends that speaks to the importance of the area's early lumbering roots. Two other artists focused on a couple of the museum's historic buildings as their subjects: Stephanie LaFramboise painted Green School in watercolor, while Kathryn Cubalo painted the McKay Cabin in oil.

"It has been really neat to see their different interpretations of the museum," Shultz said.

NEMAG has been in existence since 1993 and includes artists of all different levels. Members meet at the museum on a monthly basis to share their love of art, learn new techniques, critique their work and gain inspiration from one another. A "Meet the Artists" public reception will be held May 19 from 2-4 p.m.



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