NEMAG members paint like the masters

Most people have a famous artist or two whose work they greatly admire. That holds true for members of the Northeast Michigan Artist Guild, who took that admiration and turned it into their most recent exhibit at the Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan.

Titled “Ala Mode,” the exhibit features works by members of the guild done in the style of their favorite artists.

“Basically Ala Mode means in the mode of or in the style of, which is exactly what they did,” said museum staff member Amanda Dozier. “They chose an artist who inspires them or who they admire, then studied them to emulate or paint in their style.”

Dozier also said it has been enjoyable for guests visiting the museum to try and pick out which artists are represented in the exhibit. In particular, school groups on field trips have been engaged by the various artist representations.

“What’s fun for artists or people who appreciate art is that they can go in the exhibit and immediately pick out that artist’s style,” Dozier said. “It’s been wildly successful with school groups. First we ask if they know any famous artists. A couple might know Van Gogh or Monet. They kind of relate a famous piece they know to a piece that’s in the exhibit.”

Among artists represented is Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986), who painted frequently controversial large scale floral paintings. In 1946, she moved from New York to New Mexico, where the rugged landscape inspired her many paintings of the Southwest landscape and animals bones.

NEMAG member Florence Hines chose to do a piece in the vein of O’Keeffe.

“I like how the play of light and shadow defines the flower’s structure,” Hines said of her piece.

O’Keeffe served as inspiration as well for NEMAG members Dahris Sue Wilson and Judy St. John.

Member Diane Evans went with Ansel Adams (1902-1984), perhaps the most famous American photographer known for black and white landscape photos of the American West. He also was very much an environmentalist and advocated persistently for expansion of the National Park system.

“I feel Ansel Adams is the photographer who brought photography into the realm of fine art,” said Evans, who chose to depict leaves and rocks from Onaway’s underground rivers. She said that local feature is so unusual that it should be preserved much as Adams wanted to preserve the natural areas of the West.

Claude Monet (1840-1926) was the artist NEMAG member Kathryn Cubalo selected for her work included in the exhibit. Her piece, entitled “The Backyard Park,” was inspired by Monet’s later years when he became quite interested in his gardens at his home in Giverny, France.

“I chose this motif because I also have a pond with water lilies,” Cubalo said of her own work. “Like Monet, I used very soft edges and a less realistic representation.”

Members Kate LaJoie and Ellen LaCross both selected Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) as the artist who most inspires them. An Austrian painter, he is known for having created beautiful images by using unique details, patterns within patterns and glowing colors. Tiny geometric shapes and ancient motifs hide in plain sight within many of his sumptuous works.

LaJoie’s work is entitled “A Still Life in Klimt,” while the piece by LaCross is called “Tribute to Klimt.”

Other artists who inspired NEMAG members were Marc Chagall (1887-1985), Piet Mondrian (1872-1944), Gustave de Smet (1877-1943), Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009), Georges-Pierre Seurat (1895-1891), Jane Seymour (1951-present) and Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675).

Among the local artists who participated in the Ala Mode exhibit are Mary Iwanski, Dahris Sue Wilson, Peggy Little, Dodi Lance, Ellen LaCross, Stephanie LaFramboise, Kate LaJoie, Sharon Rickard, Polly Cook, Karen Jonker, Carol Chisholm, Shirley Glowski, Judy St. John, Kathryn Cubalo, Karen Cracchiolo, Marilyn Bachelor, Peggy Dinegro, Diane Evans, Jean Stewart and Florence Hines.

Dozier said the guild put together a wonderful exhibit that will remain on display now through July 26.

“NEMAG always does a fantastic job with their exhibit,” she said. “Each year they wonder how they can top last year’s exhibit and then they always come up with something fun. They always surprise us.”