Community artwork still on display at Besser Museum

News Photos by Darby Hinkley Above, Daniel Hitch, 8, stares down a metal turkey created by artist Ann Rataj.

ALPENA ­– Visitors to the Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan can still enjoy the “New Beginnings” non-juried art exhibit this week.

After the museum closed for two weeks due to COVID-19 exposure, museum director Chris Witulski said the exhibit has been extended to April 9.

The exhibit features 59 pieces by 35 artists.

Witulski said the exhibit’s theme was changed this year from the traditional “Winter Blues” theme of prior years, especially after the year that we’ve all been through during the pandemic.

“We don’t need winter blues,” she said of this year’s exhibit. “They could use any color in the rainbow, any medium, an any age of Michigan artist.”

Marlin Goebel stands next to his artwork featuring the coronavirus.

The youngest artist is Izzy Szymanski, 12, and the oldest is Marlin Goebel, who is turning 85 this month.

Goebel has two pieces in the exhibit. He explained the one, which features a model of the coronavirus surrounded by inspirational and educational words.

“The main objective here that I thought was, it’s truly a blessing from God that we are able to identify these things now,” he said, adding that during the Black Plague they were not able to identify nor properly treat the disease. “Many people died, and in fact, in Florence, this is where it started … I attribute everything to God’s design, but also what he allows to happen to us. And things are happening to us today because of him. So that’s my emphasis. It’s not artistic in any sense … I attribute God’s presence in this world. You look at a mosquito or a dandelion or something, his design is there, and he’s taking care of it. We just happen to be here at this point in time.”

He said his perspective is that we should ask God what he wants us to do, then do it.

“It’s a more enjoyable way of living,” Goebel said, “because if you don’t see a design, if it’s by chance, evolutionary thinking, there’s no hope there.”

Christine Bruske-Hitch, center, views the artwork with her nephews, Daniel Hitch, 8, left, and Elliott Hitch, 5, right.

The exhibit features six new artists this year, and many returning favorites.

Another artist exhibiting this year is Karen Bacon, whose abstract drawing and accompanying poem are featured in “New Beginnings.” She has exhibited in both the non-juried and juried art shows at the museum before.

Bacon noted that her artwork is a way of communicating for her. It allows her to say more than words when she needs to express herself.

“See, I wanted to be an artist in elementary school, and that wasn’t supported, and so that never happened,” said Bacon, now 66. “In my sixties, I started taking a drawing class from Mark Beins, and as I discovered, I could draw. I could draw very realistic people and stuff, and that was wonderful.”

She has been learning to draw, and growing from it.

Karen Bacon’s artwork, shown above, is featured at Besser Museum.

“At a time in my life when I was in a lot of deep, emotional pain, I did a lot of serious, what I call ‘doodling’ to express trauma, which I could not verbalize or even remember,” she said. “When it came to expressing, in words, the things inside me, I always felt overwhelmed, like I had too much to say, and so, couldn’t say anything. I’m kind of a right-brained person and an intuitive, so for me, it was like I experienced this vast dimension in space, teeming with life, and then having to force that huge experience into a teeny-tiny funnel called words in order to connect with the outside world.”

She said that “wasn’t an easy fit,” but expressing herself through art works well for her.

“Since symbols express large chunks of information all at once, I found myself speaking symbol,” she said. “I was fascinated to discover what emerged. They were like the hieroglyphics of my inner world.”

She spoke specifically of her drawing at the museum.

“The drawing at the museum, now, came very spontaneously,” she said. “I had just discovered charcoal, and was afraid to use it because I didn’t know what I was doing, but, one day, I suddenly felt an urgent need to draw. To draw big and draw fast. So I grabbed some charcoal and paper and started making marks. I had no idea where it was going or what would emerge. I just felt my way through, as it shifted and changed, calling me to emphasize this and erase that. At one point I recall exclaiming that a goddess had emerged and saying, ‘Oh my gosh! There’s another one sleeping.’ And then a masculine face appeared in the mountain and so on and so on.”

The People’s Choice award and $200 will be given to two artists who receive the most votes, at $1 per vote, a donation to the museum. For more information or to vote online, visit www.bessermuseum.org.

“It’s a beautiful exhibit, it’s so colorful,” Witulski said. “We’ve got just a range of very complementary pieces, from textile, to metal artworks, to ceramics, sculpture, the repurposed art … All of them are really very interesting. I was surprised with the number of new participants. It’s so encouraging to see people experiment, to see themselves take that step to display their artwork publicly. For a lot of people, that is really a courageous step.”

The Besser Museum’s annual juried art show will be held in October.

Next up at the museum is the Northeast Michigan Artist’s Guild exhibit. Watch for details in an upcoming Lifestyles page of The News.


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