Hanging on the Shoreline of Omena, Tamarack Gallery Houses Fine, Quirky Art and the Shrine of a Sacred Dog.


Accipere Dives Du Pauperibus by Jesse Hickman

Bouquet Day, oil on linen, 48 x 34

Bouquet Day, oil on linen, 48 x 34 inches, by Mary Hatch

Shadows, 24 x 36,oil on linen

Shadows, 24 x 36 inches, oil on linen by Mary Hatch

The shrine of the sacred dog gives an idea how long Tamarack Gallery has stood on the edge of Omena Bay. It’s a year short of four decades, the gallery opening doors in 1976. Go up to the second floor and pay respects to the beloved dog of David Viskochil, Eugene. Akin to the ofrenda to Marie Leveau in the New Orleans voodoo store that bears her name, the shrine to Dave’s dog, Eugene, has been honored with gifts on money, wine and prayers. Locals returning with the sun to Leelanau Peninsula have taken to paying visits before opening up their cottages for the season. Plenty of fine furnishings await to go along to those cottages, from wooden bowls turned from cherry wood by David Lory to the dresser drawer assemblages of Matt Voight.

Oddly enough, in the furnace room across the hall, the two walls are given to the paintings of Reb Roberts of Sanctuary Folk Art, all around the theme of chickens. Chickens make great pets, too? One is left to ponder that selection in a quizzical silence. There’s no chestnut to describe how Tamarack Gallery selects art and artists. However, even the fine art has a high quirk factor.

Jesse Hickman captures quirk in a quintessential way. Most know Hickman from his series of Great Lakes watershed saints, once on exhibit at Michigan Artist Gallery. Driving into Traverse City, I was shocked by real estate signs on the windows of the familiar mustard and eggplant painted farmhouse in Suttons Bay. However, Traverse City seems to have lured the gallery into its successful Front Street arts district. Apparently, Michigan Artist Gallery had followed the lead of Suttons Bay original, Brilliant Books, now close to the City Opera House on Front.

Hickman as sculptor of Laurentian saints had one representative work, Accipere Dives Du Pauperibus, who reminded of Robin Hood if Robin Hood had laissez les bons temps rouler in Montreal. Tamarack Gallery gave him August to show a side unknown to some, Hickman as a creator of whimsical sculptures out of notion and found materials. Given plenty of gallery space to play, we discover the minimalist behind the mask of folklorist. However, he rarely lost the theme of freighters and skiffs.

Paired with Hickman, a collection of Stephen Duren paintings suffered from their framing, making it difficult to tune into the landscapes, unidentifiable as the forests and fields of Leelanau Peninsula. Suffering from smaller size, the landscapes hung salon style hit a faint note of pandering, selling to make the gallery’s monthly nut, not given the breathing room granted to Hickman. It came as a surprise that Duren had equal billing with Hickman. Tamarack Gallery has never pandered. It was necessary to consult Duren’s web site to engage what he had lent to the show.

“My American influences include Albert P. Ryder, Milton Avery, George Inness and the mystical, tonal California paintings of Gottardo Piazzoni, and his grandson, Russell Chatham.  I am also especially drawn to the California light, compositions and searching, palimpsest painting surfaces of Richard Diebenkorn”.

I have need to take a second look to pick up these influences. However, August moves towards Labor Day and Duren’s show calls for a reboot.

The gallery could charge admission to see the extensive holdings of Lew Cowgill, who draws small portraits on fields of handwritten words. Half comic and half in the style of currency, Cowgill often drops his portraits into bottles suitable for cordials. How the works on paper arrive in the bottle without a hint of a fold or curve is part of his artistry. Elizabeth DeLyria delivered shock, rather a shock to the Great Lakes poor rather than a shock to the bourgeoisie. Mimicking the patterns of drift wood and sand, her exquisite ceramic environments  for skipping stones and Lake Michigan found objects alerted to a continuing trend. The inland seas have become desirable and protected. Gathering drift wood on a national seashore has become prohibited. Compared to the Hamptons, the bays of Leelanau and Grand Traverse counties might soon be inaccessible to all but the wealthy. Skipping Stones are rendered symbolic and inadvertently monetized.

Hopeful brides to be and brides on the way to reception halls have brought an excitement this August Saturday to Front Street, the funky riverside street of Traverse City. Mary Hatch of Kalamazoo makes required viewing for brides and all who love them. Jack Vettriano works the beaches and outdoor social scene too. Yet, despite his polish and experience and sheer bankability, Vettriano can never achieve the sheer psychological window opened by Hatch’s three or four works on display. I have no idea why Bouquet Day or Shadow find their wall behind the front counter.

In a final note, where are all the tom duismtra items I had expected to see? The Corner Crew has to be dispatched to Omena before Labor Day.

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