Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 14, 2012

Private collectors share renowned works in Frankfort

BY MARTA HEPLER DRAHOS, mdrahos@record-eagle.com
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FRANKFORT — A new exhibition at Elizabeth Lane Oliver Center for the Arts is giving area viewers a peek at works by some of the country's most famous and diverse artists — all owned by area collectors.

"Shared Treasures" pools holdings of private collectors in Benzie County, from an etching by James Whistler, to glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly, to black ware pottery by Maria Martinez. But instead of focusing on bragging rights to the dozen or so pieces, the show is all about putting them and their creators in perspective, said the art center's executive director.

"It went from emphasizing how famous they were to emphasizing the educational value we could bring to them," said Steven Brown, who, along with his staff, used educational materials about the artists, including their histories and reproductions of some of their other work, to help create the "art historical show."

"It was an enormous show to put together," he said. "It was probably about 200 hours to put the show up."

The exhibition runs through Jan. 6 in the art center's Beck Gallery and is "museum quality," said Oliver Art Center president Richard Robb.

"I haven't seen anything like this in northern Michigan before in small art councils or associations," Robb said. "It is and would be something that the museums would like, it's that good."

The show represents the first close-up look many in the area have had at works by renowned artists like Whistler or Pablo Picasso, whose iconic sketch, "Don Quixote," is featured in print form. For others, it's an introduction to artists like Martinez — not household names yet, but whose work is significant in the international art world.

A Native American artist known for her black-on-black pottery from New Mexico red clay, Martinez experimented with traditional techniques to create pieces in the style of ancient Pueblo pottery and to help preserve the dying cultural art.

"She had a very unique process for making clay and glazing it," Brown said. "The effect is they're pitch-black and captivating."

From a different mold, Aminah Robinson is similarly respected. As a child growing up in an African-American neighborhood, the Columbus, Ohio, folk artist was influenced by the vibrant family, community and commercial life around her.

Her mixed media works, including books from homemade paper and "hogmawg," a collection of mud, clay, twigs, leaves, lime, animal grease and glue, often reflect those scenes, as well as stories told by her elders. Her art also is inspired by the lives of abolitionists, civil rights leaders, musicians and writers.

Brown said Chihuly's glass chalices and sculpture pieces are among the show's most popular works.

"It's very, very beautiful. It's simply displayed in a case and almost glows under the lights," he said.

A gallery video demonstrates the artist's creative process.

Other featured artists include Alice Baber, John Glick, Gwen Frostic, Dominick Labino, Elijah Pierce and Christopher Ries.

The show runs concurrently with "Spirituality Expressed," an exhibition of works by more than 40 area artists. Gallery hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday and noon-4 p.m. Saturday.

For more information, see www.OliverArtCenterFrankfort.org or call (231) 352-4151.