Exhibit at Studio 23/The Arts Center seeks to illustrate the connection between art and nature

The Roman philosopher Cicero said, “Art is born of the observation and investigation of nature.” 

Beginning March 25, Studio 23/The Arts Center and the Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy explore the connection between art and nature in a “Land to River” exhibit. Waste Management sponsors the exhibit, which runs until May 15. 

The public is invited to an opening reception at the 901 N. Water St. gallery from 5 to 7 p.m. March 25. If you don’t want to attend in person, then tune into social media at 6 p.m. March 25 when Studio 23 Curator Valerie Allen will conduct a 30-minute Facebook Live tour of the exhibit.

Conservancy Executive Director Zachary Branigan and Studio 23 Executive Director Tara Welch talked for years about the possibility of this exhibit. Originally, they hoped to offer it in the spring of 2020, but COVID-19 restrictions delayed it for a year.

Erwin Lewandowski, who lives near Lake Huron, captures drawings of waterscapes.“We really appreciate the open mindedness of (Studio 23) when they said they wanted to do something like this,” Branigan says.

“In our outreach efforts, there are two things that really get a lot of traction. One is a really interesting or beautiful picture of wildlife that people might not be aware of. The other thing is when we put up pictures of some of the most difficult things we find in our work, which is things like illegal dumping or pollution or contamination of sites. Those things get a lot of attention but for all the wrong reasons.”

He hopes those who view the exhibit will understand all the hard work that goes into vanquishing the environmental challenges the area faces.

“The idea was to show people working on this issue,” Branigan says. “It shows the connection between that final result and what we find when we go in there and all the people who are involved in between.”

To reach that goal, the Land to River exhibit will include both beautiful and befouled sites in nature. The beautiful comes from Branigan’s photographs as well as from these artists:
Mark Bleshenski is a Bay City artist who documented the Flint Water Crisis in an installation called Plumbum.
  • Mark Bleshenski, a Bay City artist who documented the Flint Water Crisis. His work in the Studio 23 exhibit was first shown at ArtPrize in Grand Rapids.
Alex Gilford, of Detroit, created this work tilted ‘White Tailed Deer at Fix Unit Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.’
  • Alex Gilford, of Detroit, who connects with the environment through painting and storytelling.
  • Frist Hoendervanger, also of Detroit, who will bring original artwork depicting the flora and fauna of Northern Michigan.
  • Wood carver Larry VanSteenhouse, of Unionville, will show carvings of birds and animals of the Midwest.
Alan Maciag, who lives in Midland, created this oil on canvas.
  • Alan Maciag, of Midland, creates plein air oil paintings that pay tribute to Michigan’s landscapes.
  • Erwin Lewandowski, who lives near Lake Huron, captures drawings of waterscapes.
  • Ohio University professor and artist John Sabraw is an activist and environmentalist who produces artwork using materials that come from remediation of polluted streams.

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