Objects of Beauty, Subjects of Splendor

The Frankenmuth Fine Arts Council's 5th Annual Art Fair

Posted In:   From Issue 729   By: Robert E Martin

21st July, 2011     0

The Frankenmuth Area Fine Arts Council is hosting its 5th Annual Summer Art Fair on Main Street in Downtown Frankenmuth on Saturday, August 13th from 10 AM to 7 PM and on Sunday, August 14th from 10 AM – 4 PM. In addition to showcasing over 50 artists in this juried exhibition, local musicians will supply their talents and the Lagermill will be serving micro-brewed beer.

According to Council organizer Calista Hecht, the Frankenmuth Area Fine Arts Council hosted its first Art Fair on Main Street in 2007, which consisted of approximately two dozen artists situated in the downtown area on business owners’ porches and along the street between buildings. Eventually, they were approached by Al Zehnder of Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth, who suggested the event move to Zehnder’s Park on Main Street.

“Since the inception of this event it has doubled in size and grew from a one-day to a two-day event,” explains Calista. “The positive impact on the community has been an awareness of the importance of Art within the community, coupled with a growing awareness of the art already here in terms of murals, sculptures, and the creative arts.”

“One of the things that we as an Art Council felt very important was that artists were interacting with the patrons of the art fair,” she continues. “The best way to do that is by demonstrating and creating a curiosity in people. So we encourage demonstration and have had many artists demonstrating their talents. In the past these have included blacksmithing, hot glass, felting, weaving, carving, pottery, and many more.”

Each year Zehnder’s sponsors several fine artists for this event, so as a detailed preview into what patrons can expect at this year’s event, here is an insightful look into the myriad of creative talents, and processes employed, by artists Anne O’Connor, Dawn Soltysiak, and Chris & Mari Z. Thompson.
Anne O’Connor
Fused Glass Artist • Okemos, Mi.

As owner of pottery, mosaic and glass fusing studio, Anne O’Connor has spent several years helping customers create small glass fusing pieces in her studio. One particular customer requested that she create fused glass awards for their organization – something she had never done before.  “I agreed and produced some really neat pieces, like the Mackinaw Bridge in glass,” she explains, “and then had another customer who wanted some pieces for their medical building, which was an awesome installation.”

“My staff encouraged me to produce my own creations and start doing art fairs,” she continues. “I was a watercolor painter, so feel like I paint my scenes with the glass. I’m also from the Upper Peninsula originally, so my work reflects the absolutely beautiful state that we live in. I want my pieces to make a person feel good and appreciate nature, as the more I travel the state the more I believe we live in a gorgeous place and it influences my work.”

Stylistically, Anne feels her work is distinguished from other glass fusers because of her attention to texture. “I want the customer to touch the piece so I almost never do a full fuse. This gives the pieces depth. Also, a lot of glass fusers I have seen make bowls and such, but I prefer to make a scene in glass that you can put on your wall or in a window, much like a painting. I also attach my work to vases and nightlights so they are functional pieces of artwork.  I first started using old windows and putting my scenes in those, so I was recycling some nice wood windows, which is something different.”

For Anne the most challenging component of her art is to keep up with new ideas. “I also love the challenge to produce a piece of artwork that a customer wants from a picture they have given me. To produce a piece from someone else’s mind and meet or exceed their expectations is always a challenge, but rewarding when you do.”

Are there any insights Anne has gleaned during the evolution of her involvement with this medium that give her a deeper appreciation towards her pursuit? “I believe the whole process has its rewards and challenges,” she reflects. “I have worked in many different mediums in my life and working in the glass satisfies me the most. I feel very comfortable with it and feel I’ve only tipped the iceberg in terms of where I can go with it. My biggest problem is balancing my studio, my kids, and finding time to create in glass.”

Chris Thompson

Photography • Saginaw, Mi

Chris Thompson’s interest in photography began in the early 1950s in Tiffin, Ohio, when his parents bestowed him with his first Kodak ‘Brownie’ – the first of a long succession of cameras that opened a door of constant entertainment. This led to the setup of his first darkroom, which in turn led to a photo-processing job in a camera shop and a stint in high school as the sideline photographer at local football games for the school newspaper.

“In the early 1960s during summers away from studies at MSU, I worked on a Grand Canyon National Park road crew and photographed hiking experiences from rim to rim on weekend trail hikes. Later in the 1980s, I returned to the inner gorge with my family and the first of my three Nikons and recorded the Colorado River Rapids experience.”

After graduation, Chris was a first lieutenant on the Cold War’s Czechoslovakian border and used an Army post darkroom to process numerous photos of European scenes. Since then he’s been back to the Continent five times, filming more images from Ireland to Italy.  Since retiring from a 40-year journalism career at The Saginaw News, Chris switched to digital Canon cameras and now uses an Adobe processing program called Lightroom, which he says symbolizes how his photographic journey has evolved. “The chemicals are gone, but not the fun. The pursuit of new images of life through the camera lens is an everlasting, challenging adventure.”

“I look for interesting angles, perspectives and situations to convey a sense of spirit in an image, striving to capture an essence that viewers can interpret, based on individual experiences,” he explains. “A strong sense of composition is crucial to capturing their attention and drawing them into a photo, so they contemplate what is happening.”

In terms of the most challenging component of his art, Chris points to “avoiding the temptation to settle for familiar, tourist-type images and taking the time to find something unique about a subject that others might have missed.”

“Photography should be a process of discovery,” he concludes. “When considering a potential shot, I must ask: What does – or can – this particular image mean? My goal is to capture the essence of each subject.  Photography is an art form that reflects physical reality – the photographer’s challenge is to capture images that create mental reflection.”
Mari Zimmerman-Thompson
Photography & Watercolors • Saginaw, Mi

Mari received her first watercolor paint box as a young child and since then has found water-media to be fun and constantly challenging. “Transparent watercolor is the most difficult of painting medium,” she explains. “It’s freshness, marvelous transparencies, and variety of techniques lead to constant reinterpretation of subject matter and challenge to completion.”

“I have added an opaque watercolor to my palette, a white gouache, which I mix with the transparent to give soft, seductive coloration to the painting’s surface. It leads me to new interpretation of the medium and subject matter. At times I combine all with acrylics to be able to work in a mixed media to open more possibilities for interesting surface treatments and expressive results.”

“Many artists get so caught up in their subject matter, they forget they are creating an object that needs to work the same as any craftsman,” she continues. “For example, a potter is creating a vase and the vase must hold water to hold flowers; it has to be constructed properly. Once the form is complete, then the painter adds to the beauty of his piece with the placement of color and what subject matter he decided upon – all must work together to be a successful piece.”

“While subject matter is important to me, my primary concern is first that the composition works because the piece needs to hold together. There can be no empty spaces. That doesn’t mean if a space, which might appear to be empty is not needed for the composition to work. A finished work must possess balance, contrast, variety, and a rhythm of the whole or it fails, no matter how technically well the medium has been handled. Then the subject must speak to the viewer. To be able to handle the medium well technically, to have a composition that is interesting and that works, tied to being able to move the viewer is always challenging.”

“Many times artists become disgusted with what they are doing,” she concludes. “Their art is ‘just not working’ as they would like, so they become discourage and feel they are down. Often artists stop dead in their tracks. I have done that. But what I have found is that often this happens right before I break through to a better work, so I need to force myself to continue and not give up. I love for my work to maintain a sense of mystery of the unknown, which will lead the viewer deeper into their own world.”

Dawn Soltysiak
Pottery • Fennville, Mi

Dawn has been surrounding herself with ceramics since she was two-years old. Her mother owned a slip cast ceramics studio and would engage her in this world of surfaces, shapes, and color. “But I never wanted to continue pursuing this type of ceramics,” she explains, “because I wanted to create and decorate my own. So 15 years ago I learned to throw on the potters’ wheel and was hooked. I am fascinated by the skill it takes to master the potter’s wheel and the science behind making glazes. I always say the more I know about pottery, the more I know I have to learn. Ten years ago I walked away from my ‘real job’ to pursue my love.”

“My work is organic with sinuous lines. It usually has a flavor of Art Nouveau and I like to take the feeling of a previous era and create something new from it that is all my own style. Glazing is most challenging to me. You work so hard to create something beautiful and the glazes can ‘make or break’ a piece of work. Often what you see in your head is not what the ‘Kiln Gods’ give you. The kiln has the final voice in the process.”

“I think potters are the biggest collectors of pottery,” concludes Dawn. “We gain deeper appreciation for the work of other potters because we know the journey it takes to achieve success. The longer I pursue this medium the more I respect my fellow potter friends. The other thing I have realized is that I am never bored, even after 10 years of working full time in clay.”


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