Winning artist exhibits at museum

Artist Ann Gildner of Cheboygan had her doubts about getting any works accepted into last year’s competitive Besser Museum Juried Art Exhibit.

“Whenever you enter a juried exhibit you always check to see who’s the juror,” Gildner said. “The juror was a realist who does very fine, detailed realism. I do not do realistic painting. I like shapes, forms and colors so I don’t paint realistic. I thought there’s no way I’m going to get in.”

In the long run, Gildner not only entered the competition and had one of her pieces accepted, but she also ended up winning the top prize. Along with major kudos for her piece called Chair Metal, she won the right to have her own solo exhibit at the museum in 2013.

Gildner’s exhibit is now open in conjunction with the 2013 Besser Museum Juried Art Exhibit. An opening reception to celebrate Gildner’s work and the works of all those featured in the annual art competition will be held from 5-7 p.m. today. This year’s winners also will be announced at that time.

Gildner, who operates Gildner Gallery in Cheboygan where 25 area artists collectively exhibit more than 300 pieces of artwork, is not new to the Besser Museum. Three years ago she had her first solo exhibit there, which featured found objects such as mangled chicken wire and old feedsacks worked into her brightly hued paintings. Since that time, she has turned her attention to metal and works closely with Tom Moran of Moran Ironworks in Onaway to transform her visions into pieces of art.

“I do small mock ups, about two-foot in size,” Gildner said. “Then I go to Tom and say, this is what I want to make. Then he helps me from there until I understand the metal process more.”

So far, she has created two large scale pieces that are currently on public display outdoors. One, called Becca Triumph, is situated on the grounds of McLaren Northern Michigan Hospital in Petoskey. It features a full body cast welded with round metal slugs. Her other piece, called Windsong, is on exhibit in front of the Presque Isle County Building.

“It’s done in a more abstract way,” Gildner said of the second piece. “I was learning how to bend large sheets of metal and curving. It also was supposed to make music, but I have to go back to the drawing board on that. It does not make music. I know what I did wrong. It’s a cool piece though.”

A couple of smaller examples of her metalwork incorporated into paintings are showcased in her new exhibit at the Besser Museum.

“I am starting to get into that combination,” she said. “I love the movement of three-D to be able to look around a piece, not just see it on the wall.”

Her exhibit also features two five-foot paintings of her husband’s English bulldog, Winston.

“I was going to have a set theme around our dog, but needless to say, the time at Moran Ironworks overtook the studio painting time, so I just did the two larger paintings.”

Many of the remainder of her exhibited works are her signature colorful, mixed media renderings with a combination of painting and found objects.

“I will always work in mixed media,” Gildner said. “I am not a purist. I don’t just do oil painting or acrylic painting. I use all materials that will serve my purpose. If I need some oil painting, pastels, ink, I use them.”

A newer technique she has been using of late is the layering of onion sacks onto her canvases. The technique can be labor intensive.

“It takes 20 applications of layering and sanding, layering, painting, sanding to build up a base. Then my painting starts to take shape, and I can see what it is going to be in the end.”

Because of the time consuming process with layering and drying, Gildner can have as many as 10 paintings in various stages of completion going at the same time.

The artist holds a degree in fine arts from Sienna Heights University in Adrian. She also studied in Florence, Italy, in the late 1970s, and worked for a brief time as an art curator at the Toledo Museum of Art. In 1985, she opened a flower business called Coop Flower Shop in her hometown of Chebogyan. Her art gallery is located in the same 100-year-old building on Main Street that still houses her flower business.

Though Gildner opted not to participate in this year’s Besser Museum Juried Art Exhibit, she already has her sights set on next year’s entry.

“I’m already plotting next year’s piece,” she said. “It will be a really big metal piece a floating person in a sphere that will be sweet.”