Artists ‘seas’ the moment for Our Rivers, Our Lakes

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published July 30, 2014

 Peter Tkacz, of LaSalle, Ontario, received Best in Show in the Grosse Pointe Art Center’s 2014 Our Rivers, Our Lakes exhibition for his panoramic photograph, “Zug Island.”

Peter Tkacz, of LaSalle, Ontario, received Best in Show in the Grosse Pointe Art Center’s 2014 Our Rivers, Our Lakes exhibition for his panoramic photograph, “Zug Island.”

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

GROSSE POINTE CITY — Growing up in Grosse Pointe Woods, Martine MacDonald said she used to ride her bike down to Lake St. Clair.

So it was fitting that the artist — who now lives in Allen Park — would have been tapped to be the juror for the Grosse Pointe Art Center’s Our Rivers, Our Lakes show this year.

“Little did I know (as a child) that I’d be jurying a show about the water,” MacDonald joked during an opening reception for Our Rivers, Our Lakes July 25.

From swimmers and boaters to the wildlife that calls the waterways and shorelines home, the 12th annual Our Rivers, Our Lakes exhibition is brimming with artworks that explore and celebrate Michigan’s natural surroundings.

There are 86 artworks in the show, created by 67 artists, Interim GPAC Director/Gallery Coordinator Katy Wereley said. After talking about the nature of the show with GPAC leaders, MacDonald said she opted to include at least one work by every artist who submitted something for consideration.

“Because it’s a community show and it’s very much about our state, I thought it was very important to be democratic (in my selections),” MacDonald said.

Still, the juror doesn’t feel any of the artworks don’t deserve to be there, noting, “You can see the quality of the work” in each piece.

MacDonald’s choices for the award winners reflect a variety of styles and media, and Wereley said there’s a lot more photography than in past Our Rivers, Our Lakes.

“It’s the first salon-style show we’ve had in a long time,” Wereley said. “The caliber of the artwork in this show is just phenomenal, and I think the juror saw that.”

Although he did recently purchase a digital camera, GPAC newcomer Peter Tkacz, of LaSalle, Ontario, went old school for his Best in Show-winning photograph, “Zug Island.” To create the lengthy shot of the massive, historical waterfront U.S. Steel plant, he said he used computer software to stitch together a series of 10 35mm film photographs he shot of the factory from Windsor.

“Unless you’re really familiar with industry or the Great Lakes … it’s quite a sight to see,” he said of the steel processing facility, which includes coke and iron ore piles, crane elevators and other equipment associated with producing steel. “It’s pretty amazing to see how long it is.”

Roselyn Rhodes, of Grosse Pointe Park, was honored with second place for her vibrant oil diptych, “Rhythm on the Pond.” She said it arose from a series of plein air studies she did at her husband’s aunt’s home, which has a koi pond.

“I love impressionist paintings,” Rhodes said. “My painting has become more impressionistic as I’ve done more plein air. Being out in nature inspires colors much more than just being inside.”

Lulu Zheng, of Birmingham, received third place for her oil painting titled “Moonlight.” Honorable mentions went to Barbara Carr, of Grosse Pointe Woods; Jack Frakes, of Grosse Pointe Park; Dennis Montville, of Sterling Heights; and Chris Wardwell, of Grosse Pointe Farms.

George Bay, of Grosse Pointe Farms, recreated a Chippewa Indian tomahawk using an authentic blade from an East Coast Chippewa tribe. His mixed media work, “Chippewa Hawk,” has several inlaid icons including a silver buffalo nickel, a crescent moon to represent cosmic forces, the sun as a symbol of the giver of life, and a turtle to represent Mackinac Island, he said.

His wife, fellow artist Rosemary Bay, has two works in the show, including the porcelain mixed media work “Water Spirit Fetish.” Like her husband, Rosemary Bay’s art draws from local history and environmental concerns. Central to “Water Spirit Fetish” is a porcelain frog; the piece also incorporates natural elements such as mother of pearl from shells and copper from the Upper Penninsula.

“A frog is really a barometer for the health of any river or lake,” she said, noting that a healthy frog population around water is a good sign, while the lack or loss of frogs suggests something is amiss in the environment.

Many local residents look forward to the annual Port Huron to Mackinac race each year, and Scott Brown’s pastel, “Race to Mackinac,” captures that exciting annual tradition. Brown, of Grosse Pointe Woods, is also the promotions and marketing chair for the GPAC. Although he said the idea behind his painting was to create “an amalgamation of different photographs of different boats I’ve seen,” the image ended up being of the Colt 45 out of Alpena, a boat on which Brown and his college roommate, Peter Richards, once sailed. The boat belonged to his friend’s uncle, Al Fletcher, and while the specific Colt 45 vessel has changed over the decades, members of the Fletcher family have sailed on it in the Mackinac race for most of the last 35 years, Brown said.

“Our Rivers, Our Lakes” is one of the most anticipated shows each year at the GPAC.

“I love this show,” Rosemary Bay said. “I like the fact that it showcases the need for keeping our rivers and our lakes clean. All of the artworks show the beauty of our area and our waterways. We are so blessed.”

The juror also thinks audiences relate to it.

“I just think the reason the show is so popular is that connection we all have to the water,” MacDonald said.

Brown said this show is consistently “one of our best and most eclectic.

“This has always been a local favorite,” he continued. “There’s so many different styles (of art). It just makes it fun to walk around.”

“Our Rivers, Our Lakes” is on view through Aug. 16. The GPAC is located at 17118 Kercheval in the Village. Hours are noon-6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, call (313) 881-3454, email or visit