Plein Air Painters of the U.P. exhibit to showcase local landscapes illuminated

December 23, 2015  |  by Bonifas Arts Center


Residents longing for more sunlight this winter can view the Out of the Studio en Plein Air exhibit, paintings that capture the feeling of natural light, Jan. 7 through Feb. 18 at the Bonifas Arts Center's Powers gallery.

For three years, the Plein Air Painters of the Upper Peninsula, inspired by the plein air tradition of painting outside “in the open air” to depict the effects of natural light, have traveled to sites across the U.P. and northern Wisconsin, said Pasqua Warstler, Bonifas executive and gallery director.

Their works present different features of this region as illuminated by varied levels of sunlight from bright to hazy.

EVENT: Out of the Studio en Plein Air reception

The natural world is always changing and moving, so “every plein air painting has a story,” said Melisse Carr, one of the featured artists. This makes plein air painting an adventure, said Darlene Strand, whose art also will be on display.

“We have to contend with insects, intense heat, freezing cold, wind, and changing light,” said Gail Stanek, another artist with work in the exhibit. There are “distractions, like the day a whole herd of cows came to watch us paint. … (We) encounter wildlife, and moments of natural beauty never before seen and never to be seen again.”

Working to depict even the transformations of a single river can be a joy, said Strand. “Trying to capture it on canvas makes one see more than you can imagine … you can’t believe how many colors are reflected in water, lights and darks, shapes to be recognized and captured,” she said.

Since each site within “this beautiful North” contains a wealth of inspiring elements, painters must decide which to include, said Strand. She struggled with this at first, wanting to paint everything, but learned to narrow and shift her focus, at times not including much sky and other times painting more sky and less land.

Five artists’ work will be showcased (watercolors, oils, and pastels) as will their sketches and journals so viewers can better understand the process of painting outdoors. Gallery viewing is open to the public at no charge.

Residents can learn more about plein air painting at the meet-the-artists reception kicking off the exhibit’s opening Jan. 14 at 7 p.m. at the Bonifas.

The Bonifas also will offer a series of educational “brown bag” lunchtime plein air presentations, free and open to all, on four consecutive Tuesdays starting Jan. 19 from noon to 1 p.m. in the Bonifas studio.

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