Lake Superior, Rocks, My Soul: The wonder of the agate
The watercolor paintings by Peg Sandin on display in the Upper Gallery of the Bonifas Arts Center are not to be missed. These paintings are the result of Sandin’s prolonged, intense study of the patterns to be found in Lake Superior agates.
It is hard to know whether to be more impressed by the quality or the quantity of the body of work shown here. This is a “series” of paintings carried out over years of close observation and with the highest level of artistic execution.
Seeing these paintings may make the viewer rethink their definitions of realism and abstraction. The designs shown here are drawn directly and accurately from nature, yet emerge as unique abstract compositions.
Are these personal statements by Sandin of her reaction to nature “realistic” or are they “abstract?” Can they be both? Is there a line to be drawn between these types of painting or are they two ways of thinking and seeing the same thing?
Any exhibit of work which makes us examine our preconceptions of art to this extent is truly exceptional.
When you go to see this exhibit, it is tempting to tour the gallery walls at close range, taking in details of technique and reading titles. Certainly do this, but then step back and view the paintings that you see across the room. (We are fortunate to have at the Bonifas a space large enough in which to do this.) These paintings need to be viewed at a proper distance for the patterns to fall into place and the full beauty of design, composition, and color to emerge.
Through these “abstractions” we are reintroduced to the wonder of the real world. Perhaps we will be encouraged to go out and look more closely at nature for ourselves.
Even if we are unable to express our reactions as eloquently as Peg Sandin has done, we will be richer for the experience both of nature and of her art.
Gallery Review by Clara Mosenfelder, Escanaba artist and retired art teacher